ONE hundred years since the start of the Great War, two students and a teacher from Cullompton Community College made the pilgrimage to the Western front, in a trip as much about commemoration as education.
Liam Upham and Will Clark, both in year nine, were chosen for the trip due to their outstanding work around the topic including their 'letters from the trench' project.
Based in Ypres in Belgium, the trio spent three days visiting battlefields, preserved trenches, museums and cemeteries - learning along the way of the horrors of war as well as the narrative of the battles that took place there.
The sheer scale of the devastation, something that even adults find difficult to comprehend, hit the students very hard.
Liam said: “Our visits to the Thiepval memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Menin Gate made me realise the severity and scale of the Great War.
“It has made me realise how easily you can forget these men and the trenches, but having been there and had these experiences, I won't forget their sacrifices, those of the men with headstones and those with no known graves.”
The two students also found great interest in searching for the graves of local soldiers.
The boys researched one such soldier, William Holmden from Cullompton, before the tour began and finding his name on a plaque in Tyne Cot Cemetery (meaning the soldier had no known grave) became a very poignant moment for the boys.
Will said: “The silence that followed was not asked for but showed everyone's thoughts and feelings for this one soldier and the millions like him that have lost their lives in warfare since 1914 and the supposed war to end all wars.
“It was clear to everyone the pain that this soldier felt for his fallen comrade, and got us to thinking how much pain the families of the 11,000 around us must have felt.
“When we think of multiplying that thought to 600,000 for the soldiers that died in Belgium, or the 9 million that died in the whole conflict, we realise that it could make any man cry.”