Sunderland students set to turn detective on war graves visit

Pupils from Springwell Dene Academy look at Somme war graves on a previous visit.

Pupils from Springwell Dene Academy look at Somme war graves on a previous visit.

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Students are once again preparing to play history detectives and track down Wearside’s war heroes.

Pupils from New Bridge Academy, formed through the amalgamation of former Springwell Dene School and Castlegreen School, will this summer be heading to the Somme battlefields of northern France.

Over the years the trip has developed from a purely historical visit into a service for the community.

Allan Douglas

There, they will be hoping to locate the grave or memorial to soldiers from Sunderland who died fighting for their country in the First World War.

During the last six years, the school has tracked down more than 35 soldiers and have never failed to find a grave or memorial.

The students tour the area over a period of one week and visit the many historical sites in the area, particularly those where men from the North East regiments saw action.

Those who asked to find their relatives are then presented with the findings.

Both Springwell Dene and Castlegreen were special schools for students who have statements for social, emotional and mental health issues.

Assistant headteacher at New Bridges Academy, Allan Douglas, told the Echo is delighted the trip is going ahead again for the next two years thanks to a further funding award from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

He said: “It brings home to the students the history of the war and the impact it had, and continues to have, on families in the area.

“Over the years the trip has developed from a purely historical visit into a service for the community.

“We locate and photograph the graves or memorials of local men killed in action in the area and possibly leave a message from the family.

“Last year, a student found someone who had lived in the next street to where he lives in Hendon. It changes things from being just a list of names on a wall.”

Students from the school will embark on their journey on June 18.

Anyone wishing for the pupils to try to locate the grave or memorial of a family member should contact the school on 553 5335 with any information they may have about their relative, such as their name, service number, rank and regiment served.