Poignant visit to battlefields for local schools

PUPILS from St Patrick’s Academy and Lisnagarvey High School paid a poignant visit to the First World War battlefields in Belgium and France recently, as the two schools took part in the twenty-first annual visit.

As usual, it was a very useful and interesting trip for both pupils and teachers and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

This year’s trip, which took place from April 29 to May 4, attracted attention everywhere the group went because of its ‘Two Giants Awakening’ vinyl-covered coach advertising the Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Belfast.

Sign up to our daily NorthernIrelandWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Visits took place to Tyne Cot, Langemarck, Ypres, Albert, Thiepval, the Ulster Tower, where a wreath is always laid by pupils, and other sites in the Somme valley and the Ypres Salient.

The group joined a very large crowd of visitors to listen to the ‘Last Post’ being played at the Menin Gate ceremony, as it has been nearly every evening since 1927.

Other highlights of the visit included the chance for the pupils to experience the actual trenches of Hill 62 and the visit to the underground tunnels at Vimy Ridge. The pupils also visited the beautiful medieval city of Bruges and spent a very enjoyable day at Asterix Park, followed by a visit to Paris and a trip on the River Seine.

The teachers involved are satisfied that the pupils who participated in the visit have learnt a number of important lessons. Firstly, that war is horrific and that in a war situation many die in vain. Secondly, that they share a common heritage in which we can all take pride. They also had a chance to practise their French, hone their geographical skills and make new friends.

Preparations are already underway for the next year’s visit which will continue the close collaboration on joint classroom activities and field trips which the history departments of the two schools have conducted for over two decades. Over the years many pupils have been introduced to the battlefields and, no doubt, some will have returned there in later life. The teachers themselves have seen many new sites and facilities opened in the area as the centenary of the First World War approaches.