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Video: Islington students visit First World War battlefields to keep soldiers’ stories alive

PUBLISHED: 12:34 17 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:34 17 February 2015

The group at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park in the Somme. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

The group at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park in the Somme. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

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.

Teacher Juliette Henry and pupils Christina Price, 15, and Dana Bell, 15, from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, in Islington, at Lijssenthoek Cemetery, in Poperinge. Picture: Erica Spurrier/EquityTeacher Juliette Henry and pupils Christina Price, 15, and Dana Bell, 15, from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, in Islington, at Lijssenthoek Cemetery, in Poperinge. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

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.

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.”

Pupils Joy Sustituya and Mary Karayel, 16, from Our Lady's Convent High School, in Hackney, making clay figures with Ghazi Raja, 15, from Oaks Park High School, Newbury Park. Picture: Erica Spurrier/EquityPupils Joy Sustituya and Mary Karayel, 16, from Our Lady's Convent High School, in Hackney, making clay figures with Ghazi Raja, 15, from Oaks Park High School, Newbury Park. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

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.”

(Left to right): Maj Chris Ormond-King TD HAC, Dana Bell, 15, from Islington'’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, WO2 Mick Sharman-Davies RLC, Leon Cresto-Dina, 15, from Highgate'’s St Aloysius'’ College and Cpl John Morley-Clarke RLC at the Menin Gate prior to the ceremony. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity(Left to right): Maj Chris Ormond-King TD HAC, Dana Bell, 15, from Islington'’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, WO2 Mick Sharman-Davies RLC, Leon Cresto-Dina, 15, from Highgate'’s St Aloysius'’ College and Cpl John Morley-Clarke RLC at the Menin Gate prior to the ceremony. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

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.”

Pupils and a soldier after having their faces camouflaged. Picture: Erica Spurrier/EquityPupils and a soldier after having their faces camouflaged. Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

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.

Teacher Geraldine Rimmer, from St Aloysius' College, in Highgate, with Cpl Lee Phillips, at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park, in the Somme, Picture: Erica Spurrier/EquityTeacher Geraldine Rimmer, from St Aloysius' College, in Highgate, with Cpl Lee Phillips, at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park, in the Somme, Picture: Erica Spurrier/Equity

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.


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