During the Centenary of Remembrance Day last year, 10 air cadets and 3 staff members were privileged to lay wreaths and pay their respects to the Fallen at the great Thiepval Memorial on the Somme, which commemorates the 74,000 dead of WWI who have no known grave.
The wreath laying at Thiepval marked the most solemn moment in a week of discovering the sites and events of the Battle of the Somme. This is the 12th year in which the air cadets have been involved.
During the week, the cadets were able to visit many of the battlefield sites of the Somme, such as Wellington Quarries, Auchonvillers, Lochnagar mine crater, Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy Ridge. Our final day was spent visiting the great Tyne Cot cemetery where 11,000 of the fallen lie. We also visited the Essex Farm Cemetery at Boezinge where Col John McCrae wrote the beautifully tragic poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Finally, we visited Ypres where we took part in the 8pm Last Post Ceremony, and the cadets were again privileged to lay a wreath.
This week made a great impression on the minds of all who attended; of the futility and cruelty of WWI ; of the great acts of bravery carried out by men and women – and children – of all ranks; of the beauty and reverence in which their memory is held and finally as a lesson to all of us that, as Churchill said ‘Jaw Jaw is better than War War!’.
‘The highlight of the trip was laying a wreath on the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day at Thiepval. I’ve never had such an amazing experience and it was only made possible by the Air Cadets who give us amazing opportunities like this.’
Cpl Nile Austin
Padre Bernard Rumbold