Pupils track down Sunderland war heroes’ graves in France

Pupils from Springwell Dene Academy look at the Etaples Cemetery, the Somme, France
Pupils from Springwell Dene Academy look at the Etaples Cemetery, the Somme, France
Have your say

STUDENTS from a Sunderland school have once again tracked down Wearside’s war heroes.

Earlier this year, youngsters from Springwell Dene Academy took part in their annual trip to the First World War Somme battlefields in France.

Over the last five years, teachers say the trip has enabled pupils to make further links to the community as a result of students locating the graves and memorials of those who died in the conflict.

This year, following an article in the Echo, five members of the community contacted the school asking them to try to locate and photograph the graves of family members killed in France.

This week, at a special presentation evening, the students spoke about their journey to France and also gave the relatives of each fallen soldier a framed memorial.

Deputy headteacher at the school, which is just off Springwell Road, Alan Douglas, said: “The whole project has been a huge success over the past five years.

“Making the links with the local community has brought great benefits to the running of our trip.

“The realities of war are brought home to the students as they come to understand the impact of the loss of family members has on a family, even 100 years after the tragic events.

“Students are very keen to go on next year’s trip and being selected to go depends upon the students consistent good behaviour and attitude in school over the year.” As well as being presented with photographs of the memorials and graves of their relatives together with a certificate produced from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, they also get certificates prepared by the school.

The event was attended by over 30 people and all were moved by the students’ work and on listening to short talks given by one of the students reflecting on the impact the trip had made on them.

Alison Allison, 54, of Houghton, whose great uncle Lewis Peck died at the Somme aged just 20 in 1916, said: “It’s been a fantastic evening and we want to say a big thank you to the students and staff for what they have done.

“Our family are all very grateful to them for tracking down our relation.”

This year’s trip was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Mr Douglas added that the school has also secured funding for next year’s project.