‘Harrowing’ trip to battlefields for Keighley pupils

students at Tyne Cot, the world’s largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces

students at Tyne Cot, the world’s largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces

First published in Keighley by

Keighley year nine school pupils experienced a moving trip to some of the most harrowing battlefields of the First World War.

More than 20 students from Holy Family Catholic School saw some of the mass war graves of France and Belgium’s infamous Western Front.

Youngsters and accompanying staff visited lines of preserved trenches, cemeteries and memorials for the thousands of troops whose bodies were never found.

Among those taking part in the four-day trip were Antonia Dunbar, 14, and 13-year-old Connor McGarry.

Antonia said: “Quite a few of my friends almost started crying.

“It was sad to see just how many people died or went missing, and if they found people’s bodies they couldn’t tell who they were.”

Connor added: “It was sad to see what the soldiers had to deal with.

“On one of the memorials, there were so many thousands of names high up on the stone you couldn’t even see them.”

Head of history, Samantha Bennett, who led the group, said the trip included visits to Tyne Cot, a burial ground for Commonwealth troops killed in the Ypres Salient, and Langemark, a cemetery for more than 44,000 German soldiers.

She said the pupils were also taken to the Thiepval Memorial, which commemorates more than 72,000 missing British and South African soldiers, and had a chance to attend the daily Menin Gate Ceremony.

“It was extra-special this year because it’s the centenary of the start of the First World War,” she added. “It was a privilege to be able to make the trip at this time.

“We were able to find the graves of students’ family members, who had died in the war, which helped them empathise with what happened.

“It was good to be able to take them in winter, because that gave them an idea of how bad conditions were for the soldiers, who were living outside in the wind, mud and rain.”

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