Battlefields trip leaves lasting impression on pupils
MEMORIAL stones dedicated to the memory of three relatives of teachers at Fearns who died in the First World War were found by pupils.
Year 9 pupils Rosie Ashworth and Ryan Lewis, both 13, accompanied Humanities Co-ordinator Mrs Cheshire on a government-funded trip to the First World War battlefields.
On the four-day tour they visited Belgium and France, walked on battlefields and in a trench, paid their respects at cemeteries, observed the Last Post at the Menin Gate and visited Flanders Field Museum.
While at Tyne Cot Cemetery they located a memorial headstone to Mrs Cheshire’s great-great uncle who fought and died at the Battle of Passchendale in 1917.
There they also found relatives of humanities teacher Mrs Ashworth and Modern Foreign Languages Co-ordinator Mrs Hopkins, who both fought in the same regiment and died on the same day in the Battle of Passchendale remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
Ryan said: “The whole experience was overwhelming. I had no idea how big the British and Commonwealth cemeteries would be. The graves were lined up just like soldiers.
“When we went into a German cemetery it was as if very few people ever visited. There were a couple Sergeant Majors buried in individual graves and then there was just a huge plot with a series of numbers relating to the many soldiers who had been buried. Along with them were two English soldiers who had been buried there by mistake.”
Rosie said: “In the British and Commonwealth cemeteries there were gardeners cutting the grass and it was beautifully maintained, but the German cemetery the stones were overgrown.
“The first cemetery we visited was Lijssenthoek, which was when we first saw all the white graves. There was also a listening wall in the visitor centre when you could hear soldiers’ stories.
“It was big but not as big as Tyne Cot. It made us appreciate the enormity of what happened. All of those graves were people and each had their own story. They went to war and never returned leaving their family and friends behind.
“At Menin Gate soldiers representing the British army laid a wreath in respect and remembrance and there were lots of people watching and this happens every night.”
Both were incredibly moved by the experience and now plan to take GCSE history.
Mrs Cheshire said: “The whole experience was one of a rollercoaster journey – ranging from humorous moments of being decorated in camouflage paint to the humbling moments of listening to recent war veterans describe their experiences on the more modern day battlefields of the Falkland’s and Afghanistan.
“Both pupils were an absolute credit to the school. They contributed to discussions and were the perfect ambassadors for Fearns.
“The whole trip was a lifetime experience but the work doesn’t end there. Following on from this trip, both pupils will become responsible for passing on their experience, so that as many people as possible benefit from their involvement and learn the importance and relevance of remembrance.”