Two Cowes Enterprise College students have recently returned from a unique visit to the First World War battlefields of northern France & Belgium as part of the ‘Legacy 110’ project, a student-led, teacher-supported, post-tour community-based project.
The aim of the project, which is jointly funded by the Department for Education & the Department for Communities & Local Government, is for participating pupils to act as ‘student ambassadors’ within their local communities by delivering projects which deepen understanding of the First World War and its impact.
Cowes students Sophie Downton (Year 10) and Treeve White (Year 8) were able to join students from other Ormiston Academies Trust academies for the visit, which took place between the 22nd and 25th March. Prior to the visit, the Sophie & Treeve developed and researched ideas for their individual projects, including looking at the stories of individual Cowes & East Cowes residents who left to fight in the Great War and never returned and the stories of boy soldiers, many of whom lied about their age in order to serve their king & country.
During the visit, the students visited sites such as Tyne Cot & Lijssenthoek cemeteries and the spectacular Thiepval memorial. Other highlights included visiting the archaeological dig of World War One trenches in Thiepval Wood, scene of some of the heaviest fighting during the battle of the Somme during 1916, as well as taking part in the ‘Coming World Remember Me’ workshop in Ypres where each student had the opportunity to create a clay figure, each representing a life lost during the war.
These will form part of a large public art installation to commemorate the end of the First World War in the city in 2018. Treeve was also chosen as one of two students to represent Ormiston Academies Trust during the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres where he placed a wreath at the memorial.
Reflecting on the trip, Sophie explained:
“It was incredible and very enlightening to take part in a visit like this, particularly to see how many different nationalities fought, and died, in the First World War. Visiting the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle really brought this home to me and the other students”.
“I really enjoyed this visit. It really gave me an understanding of what happened in World War One and why it was known as ‘the war to end all wars’. The visit to Tyne Cot cemetery was particularly special for me, as I’d done lots of research on some of the people buried there beforehand. It was really emotional and intense.
“Taking part in the wreath laying at the Menin Gate was also very special and moving and something which I’ll remember for the rest of my life”.
Cowes Enterprise College teacher Nick Wiltshire, who accompanied Sophie and Treeve, agreed the visit was special:
“I’d never been to the battlefields before and the scale of the loss of human life is something you can’t understand from reading about it in a book or teaching about it in the classroom. It was incredibly moving to find the names of local Cowes & East Cowes residents on headstones or on memorial walls. I’m really excited to see how Sophie & Treeve’s Legacy 110 projects will help tell the stories of these very brave individuals to the local community”.