Pupils recount their trip to WWI battlefield sites
Eve Parr and James Hubbersty from Leyland St Mary's Catholic High School were given the opportunity to join the World War One Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme and give a personal perspective of the Great War and experience what the heroes of 1914 to 1918 went through.
The 15-year-olds are completing the Legacy 110 project considering the fallen soldiers of St Mary’s parish Leyland.
They are planning to hold a memorial service in their memory. Any information about these men and the families they left behind would be greatly appreciated.
Here the pair reflect on their journey:
“When I was told about this trip, I couldn’t begin to imagine the emotion that I would feel when visiting the cemeteries. Seeing the rows upon rows of graves, I assumed I just wouldn’t be able to hold anything in.
“However, this somehow wasn’t the case.
“In the first cemetery we visited, the graves went on as far as the eye could see and they were all in immaculate condition.
“I could understand why there were so many graves, as many soldiers died, and thought it was beautiful how well looked after they were, but I never expected there to be so many cemeteries.
“It saddens me to think that cemeteries are so common in Belgium.
“As many of the cemeteries are where the fallen were found, they would just be in random fields on the roadside, and it became strange when you hadn’t seen one for a while.
“The gravestones are visual representations of all the young, naïve men who gave their lives for us, and it is overwhelming to see that number represented in front of you.
“Likewise, we visited memorials, which contain the names of soldiers whose bodies cannot be found.
“We were honoured to be able to lay a wreath in Menin Gate, in memory of all those who had lost their lives.
“There were 54,000 names inscribed on the walls, which were higher than you could imagine.
“Not only were names inside the arch, but on the top too.
“We went up to the top at night, and had a view of the gorgeous city of Ypres.
“The night view was beautiful with all buildings and shop names lit up, and in the day looked as serene as ever with the greenest grass and the sun shining down.
“You forget that it wouldn’t have been like this for those soldiers; it wouldn’t have been peaceful at all.
“But, I think there is no better way to remember the fallen than in tranquil settings such as these, where they can eventually rest in peace/ with their lights shining for evermore.
Throughout the course of our fou- day trip, Eve and I visited a number of different memorials and cemeteries, all dedicated to the fallen soldiers of World War One.
“They were breath taking. Partly, because of the sheer immensity of them, but also because they were spectacular, paying great respect to those who had given their lives to save their countries.
“The same could not be said for Langemark.
“The majority of the cemeteries were dedicated to British and allied troops, except one, - Langemark; a moderately sized cemetery containing the graves of German troops who died during the war.
“For those troops who had no known grave, their names were inscribed on walls within the boundaries of the cemetery.
“Langemark contained one feature not present within the other cemeteries, known as a “mass grave” or “comrade’s grave”, which contained the bodies of 24,917 German soldiers, over a space no bigger than an average -sized garden.
“I believe that all soldiers of The Great War, deserve respect and commemoration, simply for giving their lives for the benefit of others.
“I believe this respect and commemoration is not shown in the Langemark cemetery.
“The headstones were black and dull, unlike the brilliantly white head stones of the British and allied troops.
“They were also laid flat on the ground, in contrast to cemeteries dedicated to the others, containing headstones stood proud, row on row.
“The dull, black, flat headstones had multiple names of German soldiers (one in particular containing 14 names), inconsistent with the cemeteries dedicated to British and allied troops headstones, which contained one headstone for each soldier.
“It seemed to undermine the German soldiers, simply by suggesting they didn’t deserve a headstone each, just. it seems, because they were on the losing side.
“I do not agree with what Germany stood or fought for, at that time, the majority of the soldiers, just like the British soldiers in the war, were forced to go, whether they agreed with what they were fighting for or not.
“For this reason alone, I don’t believe Langemark cemetery pays respect to them in the way they deserve.
Langemark is dark and depressing, almost giving the German troops an evil representation.
Lest we forget… but not just those who won.”