The reality of what WWI soldiers went through has hit home for a group of Rotorua secondary school students this week.

In preparation for Armistice Day on Sunday, students from a range of Rotorua secondary schools spent time cleaning WWI soldiers' headstones in the historic section of the Sala St cemetery as part of Rotorua Museum's WWI Beyond the Grave Project.

John Paul College careers adviser Sheryl Hewitson said the project was a valuable opportunity for the students to learn about what the soldiers went through while also giving back to the community.

"The kids really enjoyed it. There was a representative from the RSA who gave the kids an overview of why the graves are where they are and how when they came back from the war a lot of them were brought to Rotorua.


"Seeing the ages of some of the soldiers - many were not much older than some of these students - and how a lot of them died not long after returning from war gave them a real reality of what it must've been like for those young men coming back from war."

She said the feedback from the students was positive.

"They were very respectful while we were there and they said things like 'wow, we didn't realise they were so young' and 'it must've been really tough coming back and being so sick and suffering'.

"We talked about how if it happened now, a lot of them would've lived, because medicine and things have improved so much. It really taught them about what conditions were like at that time.

"Those young soldiers went away thinking it would be an adventure, when really it was like hell."

Armistice Day
After four terrible years, WWI finally came to a close with the signing of an armistice between Germany and the Allied Powers on November 11, 1918. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns famously fell silent.