Cadets take in history as they visit First World War battlefields in France and Belgium

South Tyneside army cadets at Menin Gate in Belgium.
South Tyneside army cadets at Menin Gate in Belgium.

Army cadets from South Tyneside learned more about their armed forces predecessors when they visited First World War battlefields.

Fifty of the A Company troops travelled to France and Belgium to find out more about life during the Great War.

The cadets outside Talbot House and Gardens, a resting place away from the front line for the troops during war time.

The cadets outside Talbot House and Gardens, a resting place away from the front line for the troops during war time.

The cadets travelled through the trenches, paid their respects to fallen soldiers at graveyards and saw Talbot House & Gardens, in Belgium, where troops would take a break from the frontline.

The trip was organised as part of a programme of visits by Durham Army Cadet Force and comes ahead of Armed Forces Day, which will be commemorated in South Tyneside on Sunday.

Captain Amanda Wardman, who helped put it together, said: “The trip was a fun, interesting but mainly a thought-provoking and emotional experience. Many of those who fought and died were very young. Their sacrifice touched the hearts of our cadets and instructors alike.”

The cadets visited a number of different sites including the Lochnagar Crater, Flanders and Ypres, Tyne Cot Memorial and other cemeteries, plus Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial and the Thievpal Memorial in the area of the Somme.

Cadets visit the trenches.

Cadets visit the trenches.

It is not the first time Army cadets have visited the area.

The first record of cadets visiting Ypres from the area was in 1926.

To make the trip more meaningful, before they left the UK, the cadets decorated crosses with messages of thanks that they could leave wherever they felt most connected or moved during the visit.

Attending the Last Post remembrance ceremony of the Menin Gate was among the most emotional moments of the trip for the cadets, who listened to the buglers play and a had a moment of silence before a wreath was laid by Lt Ian Crammond on behalf of the Army Cadet Force.

Cadets visit the trenches.

Cadets visit the trenches.

Another wreath was left at the Thiepval Somme Memorial to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, where cadets found it hard to take in the amount of names of soldiers that were never found following the Somme.

Cadet Rubie Henderson said: “It was an emotional week which opened the eyes of us all, I feel it was an amazing experience that I would love to take part in again. Being able to pay our respects was definitely the best part of the trip for me, just knowing that they will never be forgotten.”

Captain Wardman added: “It is so important to remember such events and the sacrifices made to preserve democracy and our way of life. Although our cadets participate in the Remembrance Day parades and sell poppies every year, this was the ideal opportunity for them to see first-hand the horrors of war, the sacrifices the soldiers made, and enable the cadets understand exactly why we should continue to commemorate these young men and women in the hope it will never happen again.”

The Armed Forces Day Parade and Fun Day kicks off at 10am on Sunday.

The cadets visit Ypres, in Belgium.

The cadets visit Ypres, in Belgium.

The day will start with a motorbike cavalcade along the seafront, followed by the troops marching to pipes and drums from Gypsies Green to Bents Park at 10.15am.

A family fun day will then be on offer at the park, in Sea Road, including live music, a classic car display, street entertainers, stalls and refreshments.

The cadets visit a graveyard in Picardy, France.

The cadets visit a graveyard in Picardy, France.