Army Cadets Discover WWI History During French Battlefields Visit

It is one of the largest events of its kind in recent years with more than 3,500 travelling

Thousands of Army cadets have been learning about the history of World War One's battlefields during a visit to France.

It is one of the largest events of its kind in recent years with more than 3,500 travelling, with Northumbria Army Cadet Force among those involved.

The Battle of the Somme lasted for 141 days and claimed more than a million lives.

On the Western Front in northern France, cadets were learning about the history associated with the First World War battlefield sites.

“Everyone suffered in some way,” said Second Lieutenant Clare Lomas, who brought her group of cadets from Northumbria to the Somme.

“Whether it was people fighting or people back home. So it’s really about raising awareness and it’s part of the cadets' development."

Cadets at the Ulster Tower, France
The cadets paid a visit to the Ulster Memorial Tower – built in tribute to the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division who sustained heavy losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Many cadets have already carried out extensive research into their own family’s histories.

One cadet, Erin, knows her ancestor was a conscientious objector opposed to conflict.

He enlisted in a noncombat role but was awarded a medal after dashing to help a wounded comrade, despite being injured himself.

“It feels like I could have known so much more if I’d known about it so much sooner,” she said.

"And it just kind of feels like my family name’s got respect to it. Like we’ve got some kind of pride."

 Some have relatives who never returned home and made a point of combing the graveyard, keeping a beady eye out for familiar names:  

“I’ve been trying all day to find a grave of Armstrong but haven’t quite found one yet,” said one cadet.

Over a million men were killed or injured during the Battle of the Somme.

"It’s very emotional but obviously, it’s also personal to me because my grandad’s relatives were involved in the World War," said another, Jessica.

The hope is the cadets will develop a greater understanding of the Great War’s history.

"I think that if we can achieve some sort commemoration, we can achieve some learning, picking up the history and… a connection between the past and today, then we’ll have done something worthwhile,” said the event’s organiser Colonel Mark Nash.

The culmination of the battlefield tour is a commemorative parade at the Thiepval Memorial - a monument to the thousands who went missing during the Battle of the Somme.