Re­mem­ber­ing the fallen

Rutherglen Reformer - - Trinity Reformer - Matthew Szafranek

It has been over 100 years since the Great War of 1914- 1918 took place on the West­ern Front in France and Bel­gium. When the op­por­tu­nity arose to at­tend Lon­don and the his­toric bat­tle­fields, I could not refuse.

Or­gan­ised by the his­tory depart­ment, the trip in­cluded vis­its to the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum and Houses of Par­lia­ment in Lon­don, Thiep­val Mon­u­ment and Ceme­tery in France and Tyne Cot Ceme­tery, Lochna­gar Crater and Last Post Cer­e­mony in Bel­gium.

Hav­ing re­cently stud­ied World War I in his­tory, I had a great un­der­stand­ing of the sig­nif­i­cance and im­por­tance of the places I would be vis­it­ing. The trip was in­tended to deepen our un­der­stand­ing of the war, show­ing the ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and weaponry used at the time and the dev­as­tat­ing num­ber of peo­ple who lost their lives. The jour­ney lasted four days and I can hon­estly say it was an ex­pe­ri­ence I’ll never for­get.

Af­ter the long trip down, the first stop was meant to be the Houses of Par­lia­ment, how­ever lo­cal politi­cian Lord McAvoy man­aged to get us ac­cess to visit 10 Down­ing Street. Un­like a lot of vis­i­tors that try to see this fa­mous house, we man­aged to get right out­side the door. It was a great start to the trip.

We also vis­ited the Houses of Par­lia­ment. Out­side this his­toric build­ing was a hive of ac­tiv­ity. The de­tail of the ar­chi­tec­ture was as­tound­ingly beau­ti­ful. Even though I do not have much of an in­ter­est in pol­i­tics, I found the tour very in­ter­est­ing.

We man­aged to get to watch live de­bates in the House of Com­mons and the House of Lords and go into the rooms that are usu­ally closed to the public such as the Chapel of St Mary Un­der­croft.

It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence and I am lucky to have had the op­por­tu­nity to go there.The next part of the trip was the tour of the bat­tle­fields in France and Bel­gium. This was the main thing I was look­ing for­ward to be­cause I had no idea what to ex­pect.

We first vis­ited the Thiep­val Me­mo­rial. The mon­u­ment and ceme­tery com­mem­o­rates, by name, some 72,000 men who fell in the Somme - a fas­ci­nat­ing yet dis­turb­ing num­ber. We were in­formed that it is the largest of the Com­mon­wealth memo­ri­als across the West­ern Front, hous­ing the names of many Bri­tish and French ca­su­al­ties.

Walk­ing up to the huge struc­ture was over­whelm­ing. The num­bers of in­di­vid­ual names writ­ten on the me­mo­rial was un­be­liev­able. It put in the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties of the war into per­spec­tive. There were also hun­dreds of named grave­stones, with even more un­named ones.

There was an omi­nous, eerie si­lence across the grave­yard. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing there to be so many graves and it took me com­pletely by sur­prise.

Walk­ing back to the bus there was a strange lack of con­ver­sa­tion; it seemed that the me­mo­rial hadn’t just af­fected me, but ev­ery­one else also.

Over the two days which fol­lowed, we vis­ited the D’Al­bert Mu­seum, Lochna­gar Crater, Tyne Cot ceme­tery, Lange­mark Ger­man ceme­tery, and saw the Last Post Cer­e­mony at the Menin Gate in Bel­gium. Our school had been cho­sen to lay a wreath at this cer­e­mony which has taken place over 29,000 times since the end of World War 1.

Luck­ily, I had been cho­sen along with fel­low pupil, Rachel Kelly, to lay this wreath. Stand­ing there at the Menin Gate, I was ner­vous and anx­ious. The crowd had gath­ered into the hun­dreds and I felt so much pres­sure to not mess any­thing up.

As the sym­bolic bu­gle played, we slowly walked up and placed the wreath on be­half of our school. It was a very hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence and one I am not likely to for­get.

To sum up our ex­pe­ri­ence, this trip re­ally made our group as a whole ap­pre­ci­ate the long last­ing and dam­ag­ing ef­fects of war.

I was shocked to see the count­less names in the memo­ri­als and ceme­ter­ies and was priv­i­leged to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate as part of the Last Post cer­e­mony. It was a very hum­bling and un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence and I am very lucky to had had the op­por­tu­nity to go.

Trib­ute Trinity High’s Matthew Szafranek and Rachel Kelly lay a wreath

Visit Trinty pupils vis­ited 10 Down­ing Street, with Lord McAvoy (left)

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