Three Brooke Weston students visited the monuments and cemeteries of France and Belgium as part of a Government-funded project to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The trip, run by World War 1 Centenary Battlefields Tours Company, educates young people about the war. They are running a ‘Legacy 110’ project which means that every student that takes part has to do a project to share with 110 other people, meaning that in total at least 888,246 people will be impacted, the same as the number of British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during the First World War.
Ethan Loveridge from Year 10 and Sixth Formers Isabella Aves and Shannon Clarke visited famous memorials, such as the Menin Gate and Thiepval Memorial as well as the Flanders Field museum and Tyne Cot cemetery. About 120 students from schools across the region went on the four-day trip.
Ethan said: ‘During the first day we visited a cemetery, it was a huge sea of white and that struck a chord. You see crosses for Christians and the Star of David so you realise that this was a multi-national battle, which is so important to remember. We went to the world’s largest English cemetery and the Menin Gate. There were 75,000 names on one of the memorial so you get an idea of the scale of it all. We also visited a Canadian cemetery, where the original shell holes were left as a reminder of the battles in the area. I enjoyed getting to know the other people on the trip they were amazing and we became a close-knit group.’
Shannon said: ‘I am studying history but I didn’t know a great amount about World War One so I thought it would be good to go and learn about it. It was more emotional than I expected with the headstones and hearing the accounts of what happened. We will put together an informative video with the pictures that we took when we were there as part of the Legacy 110 project. I am considering doing English and history at university so this was an amazing experience, both in terms of learning but also for meeting new people.’
Isabella said: ‘We went to Flanders Field museum and you could put your surname to search for the soldiers that died in the war and see if you had family links to them. A lot of the trip was quite specific to 1916. Then we went to the Menin Gate and we saw the Last Post ceremony that they do every night where they lay down a wreath in silence. We had a focus question for each day and the last day was about when is it appropriate to stop remembering? Even though it is 100 years since these events took place I think it is still very important to keep remembering what happened. if we want to progress and don’t want wars we have to look back and see where things went wrong and learn from that.’
Mrs Coombe said: 'Following the impact of the poppy installation at the Tower of London a second installation is going to be on display in the fields around Ypres. Over 600,000 sculptures are going to be made representing all those who died in the area. The sculptures represent a bowed figure with a strong and prominent backbone, this represents that out of sorrow and pain resilience can emerge. All students and teachers on these trips had an opportunity to go to the sculpture studio and make one (or more!) of these sculptures. Once the installation has opened in 2018, which is the centenary of the end of World War One, every sculptor will be given a dog tag with the name of one of those who died and, of course, we can then visit the display.'