Foyle and Lisneal cadets visit WW1 sites

From left are David Donnell (16), Jack McQuillan (16), Lewis Logan (16), Matthew Walker (17) and Hannah Keys (17).
From left are David Donnell (16), Jack McQuillan (16), Lewis Logan (16), Matthew Walker (17) and Hannah Keys (17).

The past came powerfully and poignantly to life for Foyle College students recently as they made a pilgrimage to the World War 1 battlefields of Belgium and France.

Hundred years after the guns fell silent, the young people, members of Foyle College Combined Cadet Force and Lisneal Detachment Army Cadet Force, learned about the unprecedented loss of life in ‘the war to end all wars’.

Accompanied by expert guides, the Cadets toured museums and cemeteries and explored the trench and tunnel systems where so many fought and died, and discovered that many of those who sacrificed their lives were themselves little more than teenagers.

It was an emotional, and occasionally overwhelming, experience for the young visitors, as well as an opportunity to deepen their understanding, as Colonel David McCleery OBE from Army Cadet Force Association Northern Ireland explained: “Our Cadets learn about World War 1 at school, but nothing quite prepares you for the impact of visiting the region. Our young people were deeply moved by everything they saw and learned during their visit and, in particular, none of us will ever forget the sad sight of landscapes filled with row upon row of carefully-tended military graves..

“The Cadet movement is well known for providing its members with fun-filled outdoor adventure, sociability and sport, but there is also a more serious side to what we do, as this tour demonstrates. The Battlefield Tour was an enriching and maturing experience for our Cadets and I believe they have returned with memories which will stay with them for ever.”