Pupils visit France to honour Sunderland’s First World War dead

Pupils from Springwell Dene Academy look at war graves at the Somme in France
Pupils from Springwell Dene Academy look at war graves at the Somme in France
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YOUNGSTERS at a Wearside school are heading across the Channel to commemorate the city’s war dead – and they need your help.

Next month will be the fifth time that pupils at Springwell Dene Academy have journeyed to First World War battlefield the Somme in France.

Once there, the group of seven will set about locating the graves before taking a picture of each one they managed to track down.

A cross will then be left on each memorial to commemorate the visit.

The project was in doubt because of fears over a possible lack of funding, but £3,800 has been secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund which means it will run this year and in 2015.

As well as visiting the graves the group are also set to have a look around London and the French capital Paris.

“We’re really pleased that we’ve got the funding to allow us to do this again, because it is expensive,” said assistant headteacher at the school, Alan Douglas.

“The project links in with the national curriculum, which focuses very much on the causes of the war on a national scale.”

More than one million people on both sides of the conflict are believed to have died at the battle of the Somme, which took place from July to November 1916.

“We’ve taken between 25 and 30 pupils over the years and it’s always been a great success,” said Mr Douglas.

“They enjoy the trip and understand the significance of what they are doing for people in our area.

“If even just one or two of the pupils in the future talk about it to their own children, it helps to perpetuate that memory of what was sacrificed.”

The graves of almost 40 servicemen with Wearside roots have been found since the annual trips began.

Those interested in asking the youngsters to locate fallen soldiers can contact the school with any information they have regarding the deceased.

“Other than a name, it is helpful to us if they have medals with service numbers on, or if the person knows the regiment which they served in,” added Mr Douglas.

Staff and pupils from Springwell Dene begin their trip on June 20, with a night presenting their findings set to take place before the climax of the summer term.

Readers wanting to contact the school so that pupils can locate their relative’s graves should call Mr Douglas on 553 6067 or email him at adouglas@ascenttrust.org.