Vandyke Students visit WW1 Battlefields

Published on 11 April 2016

Vandyke Students visit WW1 Battlefields

To mark the centenary of the First World War, the First World War Centenary Battlefields Tours  Programme offered the chance for three students from every secondary school in the UK to participate in a tour of the battlefields of Belgium and France. 

Over the weekend of 11-14th March, Vandyke  students, Callum Betley, Aaron O’Neill and Natalie Odeh, accompanied by Mrs Akers-Jarvis, travelled to the Somme region with several other school groups. Accompanying the tour were active-service soldiers, press officers and members of   the Commonwealth Graves Commission. Their knowledge and expertise proved to be invaluable during visits to the various locations.

Over the four day trip, they visited many sites    including Langemark Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel Memorial Park, the Passchendaele Museum, In Flanders Field Museum and Tyne Cot Cemetery. They also attended the traditional Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres, where Callum was chosen to lay a commemorative wreath in front of thousands of people: “It was a once in a lifetime, eye-opening experience that really helped me to empathise with the thousands of men who sacrificed their lives to defend others”.

The students researched the story of a local soldier who lived in Leighton Buzzard and died during the Battle of the Somme.  All three students commented on what a fascinating, yet sobering experience this had been. “It’s impossible to imagine what he went through, and I’m so glad that we got the chance to follow his story and remember him at his gravesite”, explained Aaron. For Natalie, it was an incredibly valuable and moving experience: “I felt a huge sense of pride in these young men who died in such tragic circumstances.”

All three of the Vandyke students impressed tour organisers with their ability to empathise and connect with the experiences, and scale of loss, at the Battle of the Somme – over a century ago.