Remembering the fallen
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)