Video: Islington students visit First World War battlefields to keep soldiers’ stories alive
- Credit: Archant
A curtain was drawn on an era when 111-year-old Harry Patch drew his last breath in 2009.
The veteran had come to represent all his fallen comrades as Britain’s last surviving soldier of the First World War.
His death removed the conflict from living memory, placing the responsibilty of keeping the soldiers’ stories alive firmly on all of our shoulders.
And as part of this act of remembrance, a group of young people travelled to some of the sites where servicemen of all nationalities lost their lives.
Twenty-eight children and 14 teachers visited Ypres and the Somme last week through the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, which is offering every English state-funded secondary school the opportunity to learn about the war first-hand, until March 2019.
Among them were teachers and pupils from Islington schools.
History teacher and head of international links Harold Luchman, from Highbury Grove School, in Highbury Grove, attended with Kevin Jashari and Elliott Green, both 15, while head of citizenship Juliette Henry, 47, represented the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, in Donegal Street, with Dana Bell and Christina Price, both 15.
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Elliott said: “It’s been very memorable, with seeing how many people died whose bodies haven’t been found.
“I learned things I didn’t know before I came.”
The government-funded programme is provided by the UCL Institute of Education and school tour operator Equity, part of Inspiring Learning.
The students took in sights such as the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park.
Christina said: “Seeing the trenches was interesting.
“You almost don’t believe it happened, because you can’t imagine how much pain they in and how scared they were.”
The group were joined on Saturday by Alison Rose, the British Ambassador to Belgium.
She laid a wreath at the Menin Gate with pupils including Dana.
She said: “Both of my grandfathers fought and never talked about their experiences.
“The people who came here were individuals who had stories, families, hopes and dreams; just like these young people.”
Dana said of the ceremony: “I was proud to take part.
“It is important the soldiers are remembered so we know what happened.”
The pupils will share their knowledge through initiative Legacy 110.
Dana and Christina will make a video, while Elliott and Kevin will explore the stories of Highbury Grove pupils who died in the war.
Kevin said: “I enjoyed the fact that remembrance is significant today and we have a connection with people from 100 years ago.”
Visit centenarybattlefieldtours.org for more on the programme.