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Wallace High School student, 16-year-old Caroline, has been stepping into the past with a journey of discovery around some of the World War I battlefields of Belgium and France.

History came starkly to life for the Lisburn Air Cadet as, together with cadets from across the region, she visited landmarks along what was once The Western Front, the principal theatre of war from 1914-18, and learned about the unprecedented loss of life in ‘the war to end all wars’. There were more than 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, making this one of the deadliest conflicts in human history – and, as the Cadets discovered, many of those who sacrificed their lives were themselves little more than teenagers.

It was an intensely moving learning experience, as Colonel David McCleery from the Army Cadet Force Association explains. He says, “Many of our Cadets have studied World War I at school so they were already quite knowledgeable, but it’s one thing reading about World War I in a history book but quite another to make the Battlefield Tour pilgrimage. I think we were all rather overwhelmed as we visited the trenches where so many men fought and died, then saw the sombre rows of headstones in the region’s many military cemeteries. Our Cadets were genuinely affected by all that they saw and heard during our visit and I know they were particularly moved when our Padre, Rev Jack Moore, officiated at brief acts of remembrance. “The Cadet movement is well known for the fun and excitement it offers its members in terms of outdoor adventure, sociability and sport, but there is also a more serious side to the benefits we offer our young people, as this tour demonstrates. The visit was an enriching experience and I know it will stay with them for many years to come.”

Wallace High School student Caroline, who is a member of the Ballynahinch Squadron Air Training Corps, is pictured pausing for a moment’s reflection at the German war cemetery of Langemark where more than 44,000 soldiers are buried.

Last modified: May 8, 2017