Pupils make poignant visit to France

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YOUNGSTERS took time out from a visit to France to remember soldiers and former pupils at their school who were killed in the First World War.

Pupils from St Aidan’s Primary School and Fens Primary School, in Hartlepool, spent a long weekend in Hardelot, a small seaside town in the North of France.

During their stay they made a poignant trip to the Etaples Military Cemetery to pay a visit to the graves of three soldiers – and former pupils at St Aidan’s – killed in the conflict and buried at the cemetery.

A total of 100 former pupils from St Aidan’s Primary School lost their lives between 1914 and 1918 as well as former teacher Theo Jones, of the 18th Durham Light Infantry, who was from West Hartlepool and was the first British soldier to be killed on home soil in the Great War.

Mr Jones was based at the Heugh Gun Battery, on the Headland, and was killed during the Bombardment of Hartlepool on December 16, 1914 and is buried in Stranton Cemetery.

During their visit to Etaples, the schoolchildren laid flowers and said a prayer in their memory of the former pupils who lost their lives.

Ian Railton, headteacher at St. Aidan’s School, said: “The purpose of the visit is to give the children a new experience, for them to discover a new culture and also for them to test out their French.

“But a key part of the trip is to visit the military cemetery and visit the graves of the old boys who sadly lost their lives in the war.

“We took flowers from the local market, said a prayer and held a minute’s silence.

“It is really important for the children to know the school’s history.”

The three soldiers buried at the military cemetery are David Jenkins, Charles Desborough and Wilfred Berry.

Etaples Military Cemetery holds over 11,500 dead from both the First and Second World Wars.

The current St Aidan’s School was a memorial school built in memory of those that were killed in the First World War and there is a wooden board with all the names on inside the school.

During their stay, the 43 children plus staff from both schools also visited a bakery and a chocolatier where they got to try out the products and a French market where they got the chance to test their French and barter for goods.

The youngsters travelled by coach and ferry and the base in Hardelot was around an hour from Calais.

It is the third time pupils from St Aidan’s School, in Loyalty Road, have visited France.