Ilkley Grammar School students' emotional visit to First World War battlefields

Wharfedale Observer: Georgia Coates and Finelay Robertson by the grave of the 15-year-old boy at Essex Farm Advanced Dressing Station Georgia Coates and Finelay Robertson by the grave of the 15-year-old boy at Essex Farm Advanced Dressing Station

Students from Ilkley Grammar School walked in the footsteps of soldiers who fought and died in the First World War during a half-term trip to Belgium.

A group of 115 students from the Cowpasture Road school made the journey to Belgium for an emotional visit to battlefields, memorials and museums linked to the bloody conflict.

Their three-day trip took them to original trenches where soldiers fought and died, as well as reconstructed examples in a museum, supplying the teenagers with a vivid picture of the conditions these young men had to cope with.

The itinerary took in the town of Ypres, which sustained enormous damage during the war, the Menin Gate memorial to missing British and Commonwealth soldiers, and both German and Allied cemeteries.

The trip was led by teacher Jeff Pancott, who has been taking parties of students to the battlefields each autumn for 11 years.

Mr Pancott said: “On the first day we were driving through the battlefields, the students started to see the graves in the distance and by the roadside – there were quite a few people who found it very emotional.”

The trip took place as part of First World War studies, working to the National Curriculum. It was made all the more poignant coming, as it did, only a few weeks before Remembrance Sunday.

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Some of the sites put into perspective the scale of the fighting. One of the original trenches they visited – more than a third of a mile long – was held by the Belgians despite them being attacked on three sides.

They also went to the Vimy Ridge, a walk of just 15 minutes but the scene of a four-day advance in which Canadian soldiers took a German position through a hard-fought push.

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