Cadets honour the fallen at First World War battlefields

35 Cadets from Durham Army Cadet Force visit the battlefields.
35 Cadets from Durham Army Cadet Force visit the battlefields.
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Cadets from across Sunderland and Durham have taken part in a visit to the First World War battlefields.

A total of 35 cadets from Durham Army Cadet Force, ranging from 12-17-years-old, took part in the Whiz Bang exercise, a battlefield tour of the Somme and Passchendaele.

Corporal Kayleigh Craik from Ryhope detatchment with a female veteran.

Corporal Kayleigh Craik from Ryhope detatchment with a female veteran.

Cadets from Seaham, Horden, Houghton, Durham, Ushaw Moor, Ryhope and Chester-le-Street detachments joined the week-long trip, visitng key battle sites and Commonwealth War Graves.

While visiting cemeteries, cadets placed decorated stones upon the graves of soldiers from Durham so that there will always be a piece of home with them.

The company paraded through Ypres to the Menin Gate where cadets laid wreaths in memory of soldiers that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

One of the cadets, Corporal Kayleigh Craik, from Ryhope, was asked to present the wreath for a female Second World War veteran, who was physically unable to do so, and the veteran then gave Corporal Craik the cap badge she had worn throughout the war.

The whole week was more emotional than I can say

Cadet Cpl Kayleigh Craik

Cadet Corporal Craik, 16 said: “The whole week was more emotional than I can say, but the best and most emotional part was being personally asked by a woman veteran to lay her wreath in honour of all fallen girls in the army.

“Often this isn’t recognised and this is why, while saluting these brave heroes, I couldn’t help myself from crying. The part that touched me most was the lady’s smile as I marched back and her son reaching out to hand me her cap badge, something she’s had her entire life and entrusted me with.

“I’d like to say a massive thank you for this opportunity and a big thank you to all those fallen.”

Colonel Brian Kitching, Commandant Durham ACF added, “With Durham ACF we give young people – from all walks of life - access to fun, friendship, action and adventure.

Durham cadets on a battlefields tour.

Durham cadets on a battlefields tour.

“We challenge young people to learn more, do more and try more. When in life, no matter what they aim to do.

“The week long battlefield tour was an emotional experience for everyone that took part. All of the cadets have returned with a renewed respect for those soldiers that took part in the First World War and the impact it had upon the French and Belgian cities we visited. Many cadets have said that this was the best experience they have ever had.”

Cadets will now be preparing presentations from their experiences in Belgium for their detachments and will be following up the visit to Belgium with a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum later this month.

35 Cadets from Durham Army Cadet Force on a battlefields tour.

35 Cadets from Durham Army Cadet Force on a battlefields tour.