Teens pay respects to the fallen on battlefields visit

Ponteland High School students Tom Swatridge and Jess Lee at the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.
Ponteland High School students Tom Swatridge and Jess Lee at the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.
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A small group from Ponteland High School travelled to some First World War sites to find out more about the lost generation of men who died in battle.

Concentrating on the Ypres and Somme areas in Belgium and France respectively, the three-day trip for selected representatives from a number of North East schools started at the Flanders Field Museum and it included a visit to Tyne Cot – the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials.

The excursion forms part of the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, jointly funded by the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government to commemorate the centenary of the conflict.

The Ponteland High representatives were Sixth Form students Jess Lee and Tom Swatridge and along with accompanying teacher David Bartlett, head of history, they created ‘New Generation’ pottery figures that will form part of a land art installation in West Flanders.

More than 600,000 of these figures will be created over the next four years – each one representing one of the lives lost in Belgium in the First World War.

In addition, the highly moving Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing provided a suitable opportunity to pay respect to the fallen.

Mr Bartlett said: ““Whilst I expected the Battlefields trip to be a learning experience about death, it has in fact been one about life.

“The cemeteries, ceremonies, memorials and medals are all highly significant, but what is truly important is remembering the men behind the medals and the extraordinary lives that they led.”

The Tyne Cot cemetery was given its name by the Northumberland Fusiliers. There are 11,956 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated at the site, located near Zonnebeke in Belgium.

Tom said that it “truly conveyed the scale of the loss of life and brought home how a lost generation of men died on the battlefields”.