Pupils from Mullion School have returned from a visit to the battlefields and cemeteries of World War I, where they saw the sites and landscapes of historic battles from the 1914-18 conflict.
The 44 year nine and ten pupils spent two days visiting the area around Ypres in Belgium and sight of the battle of The Somme in France.
Sticking to a tight itinerary, which began with wellies for paddling through the trenches that remain at Sanctuary Wood in Belgium, the group took in the Hill 62 Canadian monument and Tyne Cot Cemetery. There they paid a personal tribute to a relative of one of the year nine students, Billy Jane, whose great-great grandfather, William Legg, is commemorated on the wall.
A special harmony, composed and arranged by year ten GCSE music pupils Laura Williams and Abbey Mitten, set to the words of the poem For the Fallen, and known by the Royal British Legion as We Will Remember, had been practised by a small ensemble, and this was sung as the rest of the group fell silent in memory.
The echoing voices attracted many other visitors to the cemetery to listen.
A visit to the dressing station where Dr John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields allowed pupils to see the emergency medical facilities, built into the side of a canal bank. McCrae wrote his poem after his friend’s death, when he saw how quickly poppies grew on new graves.
In the spirit of commemoration, the students visited a German cemetery at Langemark. There they saw the mass graves of unknown German soldiers who are remembered with dark plaques, which contrasted with the crisp, white British headstones and the bright French crosses of Allied graves.
The day in Belgium ended at the Menin Gate, observing The Last Post ceremony, where the traffic stops and the Fire Brigade play the well-known commemoration.
Pupils laid a wreath to relatives of Jake Welling and Bradley Hunt, soldiers Patrick Clark and Francis Skuse, as their ancestors fell in battle nearby. Bradley made a heartfelt statement about the legacy and freedoms young people have because of the sacrifices made by such men.
The second day took the pupils to the Somme area of France where, in 1916, British forces experienced their worst losses – 60,000 casualties, in one day.
The huge Lutyens-designed Thiepval monument remembers thousands of British men who were missing in action and were never identified.
John Gilbert, a year nine pupil, was able to lay a wreath to the memory of his relative, James Maunder, and the ensemble sang again to remember him.
The pupils expressed awe and shock at the size of the Lochnagar crater, which formed when the largest explosion in the war detonated two minutes before the attack on German lines on July 1, 1916.
In the afternoon the students saw the sites and commemorations of Canadian men. Their sacrifice is forever remembered by the French, with the bronze caribou, the emblem of the Newfoundland regiment placed at Beaumont-Hamel and the huge structure at Vimy Ridge, where the Canadians dug chalk tunnels to attack uphill against German lines in 1917.
A school spokesperson told the Packet: “The trip brought pupils much nearer to the war. It was a sobering experience which brings home the importance of history, and the necessity to remember the bravery of those who fought for freedoms we enjoy today.”