THE sight of war graves, stretching miles and miles, brought the real impact of war home to Swinton students.
Among the mass of fallen soldiers from the World War I, were lads from Kilnhurst and across South Yorkshire.
This knowledge, in particular, contributed to the pupils’ “sad, moving experience” when witnessing the graves.
The Community School pupils were in France and Belgium as part of a GCSE course annual visit to battlefield sites.
The trip centred on the Ypres area of Flanders, said teacher Dave Kelly, and included visits to the largest British war cemetery at Tyne Cot, and to Sanctuary Wood where trenches remain intact.
At Flanders Field Museum pupils saw artefacts and heard oral testimonies of many aspects of the Great War.
They moved on to Essex Farm, where “In Flanders Fields” – the famous poem by John Macrae, which is a symbol of the war – was written, and then to Langemarck German Cemetery as a reminder of others who fell during the conflict.
All were affected by the Menin Gate Memorial, where the Last Post Ceremony takes place every evening at 8pm to remember the dead without known graves, but whose names remain etched on a standing memorial.
At the Somme, the Lochnager Crater gave students some insight into the scale of devastation and destruction involved during that bloody battle, and they saw the Thiepval Memorial – a huge monument to honour missing British soldiers who fell on the Somme, whose names are inscribed on the giant arch.
At Newfoundland Park, they saw the Canadian trench system, and the Caribou Memorial in remembrance of the Newfoundland regiment, massacred on the opening days of the Somme offensive, in July 1916.
Sheffield Park Cemetery marked the spot where the Barnsley Pals fell, along with the Sheffield Pals regiment, that included many local men.
Following the trip, Mr Kelly said: “Students thoroughly enjoyed the visit and will always remember the experience.
“They were respectful and conducted themselves impeccably. This trip is a part of the History syllabus, but is also an important part of students’ over all education, and personal development.
“History, as a subject, is vitally important in helping students understand the world we live in today, and helps to shape our future”.
He continued: “Learning becomes tangible for students when they visit these sites; the extent of the destruction, suffering and death has a major impact on them and helps to reinforce what has been taught in the classroom”.
In previous years, students have researched family members who fought or died in World War I, before visiting their burial sites.