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Cromer students step into First World War history

Published on 30/11/16

Two students from Cromer Academy have been given a unique insight into the First World War after winning places on a special trip commemorating the centenary of the conflict.

Lulu Wynne and Russell Broughton-Beighley were chosen to visit important sites in Belgium and northern France, including battlefields, cemeteries, and the memorial museum in Passchendaele.

They also found out about the lives of two Cromer soldiers who were killed in the war, and are creating a display in the school to commemorate them.

The trip was part of the Centenary Battlefield Tours programme, organised by the UCL Institute of Education, which is taking two students from every state secondary school in England to visit battlefields on the Western Front.

Lulu, who’s in Year 10, and Russell, who's in Year 9, were selected after writing letters explaining why they should be given places on the tour.

The pair report on their trip:

“On the first day of the tour, we travelled to the Lijssenthoek Cemetery, in West-Vlaanderen. It has 9,877 identified graves, which includes one staff nurse, Nellie Spindler, who died on August 21 1917, aged 26, as one of two women buried in Belgium as casualties of WW1.

“The memorial itself consists of a visitor centre shaped like a medical tent, as Lijssenthoek was the site of a medical unit. There are many different nationalities such as British, French, Indian, Chinese, and Anzac troops (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).

“On the same day we went to the memorial museum in Passchendaele. There were artefacts from the Somme, reconstructed dugouts underneath, and recreated British and German trenches. There was also a shell room, full of artillery from the battlefields.

“Finally, we went to take part in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. Two students were chosen to lay a wreath on behalf of the tour group. The Menin Gate had many names spread along panels on the walls, 54,000 to be exact.

“The next couple of days, we visited six Commonwealth and German cemeteries and important landmarks such as Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park, Lochnagar Crater, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Thiepval Memorial, Langemark Cemetery, and Tyne Cot Cemetery.

“We also became part of the 2018 Memorial by making clay soldiers, each soldier and civilian killed in the First World War having their own individual model.

“Overall the experience was very enlightening, and thought-provoking. We learnt about individual people, who gave their lives, even if they have no known grave.

“We also learnt about two local soldiers, Sydney Isaac Cook and Arthur Benjamin Royall, both of which have no known grave.”