09 February 2015
Students from Jersey secondary schools will be following in the footsteps of the Jersey soldiers who left to fight in the First World War during specially arranged battlefield tours that start in June.
As part of its commemorations marking the centenaries of the First World War, the States agreed to fund a programme of visits by Jersey school children to former battlefields in France and Belgium.
Menin Gate ceremony
Starting in 2015, students and teachers from each of the Island’s secondary schools will tour key sites on the old Western Front, with a special focus on locations where Jersey soldiers fought and died. The culmination is attendance at the nightly Menin Gate ceremony, where the group will lay a wreath in remembrance of Islanders who lost their lives in the conflict.
The tours, which will take place annually until 2018, are organised and led by local historian and WWI expert Ian Ronayne and provided by Jersey-based travel specialists Go Tours.
The trip will include a visit to the Somme village of Guillemont, where the Jersey Contingent suffered heavy losses in September 1916, and Vimy Ridge where a number of Jersey-Canadians fought and died in April 1917. The tour will also visit the French National Cemetery on Notre Dame de Lorette, which contains the graves of Jersey soldiers serving in the French Army, and the Indian Memorial at Neuve-Chapelle, which has the name of Jersey Victoria Cross winner William Bruce inscribed.
Footsteps of Jersey soldiers
Mr Ronayne said “I was thrilled when the States agreed to the proposed battlefield tours. The UK government had already announced plans to send pupils from every one of its secondary schools, so it meant Jersey students will have the same opportunity. Most importantly, they will be following in the footsteps of Jersey soldiers who fought and died in the First World War, visiting battlefields, cemeteries and memorials still strongly connected to our Island. I think it’s a fitting way to remember the sacrifices and achievements of 100 years ago.”
In preparation for this 2015 tour, Ian is working with secondary schools and the Education, Sport and Culture Department to arrange pre- and post-tour workshops for the participants and to increase understanding of Jersey’s role in the First World War among local history teachers.
Education, Sport and Culture Minister Deputy Rod Bryans said “This is an excellent project and one that the students who take part will never forget. Experiencing the battlefields first-hand will help them appreciate what the soldiers had to face every day in the trenches and will bring the history to life. It promises be an enormously valuable experience for these young people. I would like to thank everyone involved for their input, particularly Mr Ronayne.”
Funding for the tours, the workshops and associated materials has been made available as part of the wider WWI Centenary Anniversary arrangements supported by the States and forms part of the Island’s planned commemorations.
The 2015 tour will take place between 22 June and 25 June, with fully-funded places for four pupils and one teacher per school. Between now and Easter, individual schools will decide which of their students will take part.