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South Ribble students journey to Belgium to honour war heroes

Posted on - 14th August, 2018 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Bamber Bridge, History, Preston News, Schools
The grave of Corporal John McNamara VC
The students laid a wreath at the grave of Corporal John McNamara VC

A group of South Ribble students have journeyed to Belgium’s battlefields to honour local World War I soldiers.

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Students from Brownedge St Mary’s Catholic High in Bamber Bridge made the three-night pilgrimage to Ypres and the surrounding areas in July.

Head of History Sophie Smith led the trip. She said: “The first day took us to Poperinge, where we visited Talbot House, which was a place of respite for the British soldiers fighting in Ypres.

“Moving on to Heuvelland, we visited exhibitions on how the area’s landscape impacted on the fighting that took place there in World War I. This was the location of the Battle of the Mines, which was fought as a prelude to the Third Battle of Ypres, Passendale.

“The students were able to learn about how fierce the battle was – both above and below ground – by seeing first-hand the traces that it left behind in the landscape, from bunkers and craters to trenches and tunnels.

German Front December 1914
A sign marks the German Front in December 1914

“Day one finished with trips to Hill 60 and Caterpillar Crater, Hill 62 and the British trenches of Sanctuary Wood, and finally the German trenches in Bayernwald.

“On the second morning we visited Essex Farm Cemetery and the Advance Dressing Station. This was where John McCrae wrote the famous poem In Flanders Field. One of our students read the poem as we paid our respects.

“We visited the Yorkshire Trenches, which were only discovered in 1996, and are now in the middle of an industrial estate. We then made a respectful visit to the German soldiers at Langemark German Cemetery.

Read more: Pictures show proud Preston on Armed Forces Day

“The next stop was at Tyne Cot British Cemetery and the memorial for the Commonwealth Soldiers who fought in the Third Battle of Ypres, Passendale. We spent some time finding the World War I soldiers from South Ribble who are remembered there.

“Most of these soldiers were killed in 1917. Those whose ages we know were between 20 and 25 when they were killed. The men we remembered here were Private John Platt Bateson, Private Robert Darwen, Private John Harrison, Lance Corporal Andrew Hatt, Private Elijah Holden, Private Robert Jackson, Trooper Bartholomew Lucas, and Private Horace Pemberton.

Poppy and cross memorial
A handwritten note on the cross reads, “For all the brave boys and horses, thank you”

“We rounded off the day with a visit to the Flanders Field Museum and by attending the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.

“The youngest soldier we remembered here, Lance Corporal William Marsden, was just 19 when he died. Again, most of these men were killed in action in 1917. Their names were Private Thomas Alty, Private Richard Banister, Private William Barker, Private Robert Beardsworth, Lance Corporal Albert Beckett, Corporal Richard Henry Beesley, Private John Bennett, and Sergeant Charles Naylor.

“The next morning we went to our last stop, Romeries Cemetery, to visit the grave of Corporal John McNamara, a Victoria Cross recipient from Walton-le-Dale, who was killed in action in 1918 aged 29. While here we also remembered Sergeant William Joseph Daley and Private James France. The students made me incredibly proud, showing their respect by laying our wreath and reading a poem they had written.”

Do you recognise any of the names here? Do you know another war hero who you would like to recognise? Let us know in the comments below.

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