STACKSTEADS students got more than they bargained for on a tour of First World War battlefields - after finding memorial stones dedicated to relatives of three of their teachers.


Year nine pupils Rosie Ashworth and Ryan Lewis, both 13, visited Belgium and France as part of a Government-funded trip with Fearns Community Sport College.

The reality of the conflict was brought home to the youngsters when they uncovered three headstones with links to the Rossendale school.

Their four-day tour took in battlefields, trenches and cemeteries, including an observation of the Last Post at the Menin Gate and a visit to Flanders Field Museum.

While at Tyne Cot Cemetery they located a memorial headstone to humanities co-ordinator Sarah Cheshire’s great-great uncle, who fought and died at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

They also found relatives of humanities teacher Sharon Ashworth and modern foreign languages co-ordinator Julie Hopkins, who fought in the same regiment and died on the same day.

Ryan said: “The whole experience was overwhelming. I had no idea how big the British and Commonwealth cemeteries would be. The graves were lined up just like soldiers.

“When we went into a German cemetery it was as if very few people ever visited. There were a couple of Sergeant Majors buried in individual graves and then there was just a huge plot with a series of numbers relating to the many soldiers who had been buried.

“Along with them were two English soldiers who had been buried there by mistake.”

Both said they were ‘moved’ by the experience and plan to study GCSE history.

Rosie said: “The first cemetery we visited was Lijssenthoek, which was when we first saw all the white graves. There was also a listening wall in the visitor centre when you could hear soldiers’ stories.

“It was big but not as big as Tyne Cot. It made us appreciate the enormity of what happened. All of those graves were people and each had their own story. They went to war and never returned leaving their family and friends behind.”

Mrs Cheshire said: “The whole experience was one of a rollercoaster journey.”