A THOUGHT-provoking and emotional trip to the First World War Battlefields reunited students with their loved ones’ graves and memorials.
Forty students from Haslingden High School’s Year 10 and four staff had a 3.30am start from school as they travelled by coach to their accommodation at Peace Village Hostel in Belgium.
On the first full day they first went to Hill 60, a First World War battlefield memorial site south of Ypres and then on to Tyne Cot Cemetery where nearly 12,000 fallen are buried or remembered on huge memorial plaques.
Elsie Haygarth, 15, recalled: “Tyne Cot Cemetery was really breathtaking. I knew I had one great-great uncle at Thiepval and my grandmother is Scottish and in the museum I saw a swatch of tartan and a badge and I knew it was my grandmother’s Gordon tartan.
“On the plaque at Thiepval I found my great-great uncle John Dalkin and opposite him on another wall was a John Gordon whom my grandmother said could be a relative.
“It was very emotional and it took my breath away. The trip was really educational and meaningful for everyone.”
For Harry Davis, 15, the trip was a chance to pay his respects to his namesake great-great-great uncle Harry Vasey.
He said: “My grandad was named after him, and I was named after my grandad. I had previously been to his grave with my grandad last year, but he passed away three months ago.
“I put a cross on his grave. My grandfather was my father figure and it was really emotional to make the trip.”
For Logan Paul, 15, he knew his relative had been buried in Munich Trench Cemetery, on the Somme, but the road was unsuitable for to coach to take the students.
Learning Support Teaching Assistant Lee Trickett accompanied Logan the extra two miles to the smaller hilltop cemeteries so he could find his relative’s grave and pay his respects.
He said: “I took a moment. I prayed a bit because I am a Christian and I reflected. I am proud of him serving for his country, he died for his country. It may be a career opportunity I take in the future – the army.”
The students said the large Commonwealth cemeteries were really well kept and they also visited a German Military Cemetery Langemark
Logan said: “Visiting the German Cemetery was also upsetting to see how many people had to sacrifice their lives for their country. I still hold respect for the courage that they had.”
Isobel Bond, 15, found her great-great-great-uncle’s name William Robert Metcalfe on the huge plaque at Tyne Cot.
She said: “My grandmother gave me his army number, but accidentally one of the digits was wrong, then I spotted his name. I felt sad when I found his name just on the large plaque and that he didn’t have a grave where he was remembered.”
The students said they were very grateful to the staff who helped them find their relatives, especially History Teacher Martin Cook who never got time to locate his own family members because he was so busy assisting the students.
They all attended the daily ceremony at Menin Gate when students Nell Walker and Fred Hardwick laid two wreaths on behalf of the school.