STUDENTS from St Patrick's Academy and Lisnagarvey High School recently took part in the nineteenth annual visit to the First World War battlefields in Belgium and France.
The visit by pupils from the two schools took place from the April 18-23 and as usual, it was a very useful and interesting trip for both pupils and teachers and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Visits took place to Tyne Cot and Langemarck, Ypres, Albert, Thiepval, the Ulster Tower, where a wreath is always laid, 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 fascinating In Flanders Field' museum housed in the Cloth Hall, Ypres. 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 group in Bruges.
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 the 'divided communities' in Northern Ireland have a common heritage which they share and 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 20th anniversary trip next year to celebrate 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.