Battlefields 2012

Melissa Kerr, one of our S2 pupils has written an account of the 2012 trip to the Normandy Battlefields of World War II.

On Monday 10th October at 8:45pm twenty five Bishopbriggs Academy pupils and staff stood at the opening ceremony to their battlefields experience. They were about to leave for Normandy. It would be a long journey overnight down to the south of England and over to Caen in Normandy. During the week they would document the trip in their diaries.

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Day 1

First of all the group went to Pegasus Bridge. Here they visited a memorial for Major John Howard and his team whose task was to take over Pegasus Bridge. Pegasus Bridge was important because if it was not captured the allies would not have been able to advance into France. The pupils then went to the Pegasus Bridge Museum where the original Pegasus Bridge still stands and they got to walk on it. They stood on the spot where the first death of D-Day took place. Lt. Brotheridge was killed in the attack and never got to meet his baby daughter.

Next to be visited was Lt. Brotheridge’s grave in Ranville Cemetery. The pupils saw many other graves in the cemetery including a parachutist who dropped with his dog. One thing that is unique about Ranville Cemetery is the fact that there is a memorial for the airborne troops.

At Merville Battery the pupils learned how Terence Otway captured this battery with only a fraction of the men he was meant to have. It did not go according to plan but afterwards Otway said, “No one told us it was impossible so we did it.”

One pupil said “I thought it was a genius idea when they divided up the soldiers into two groups. One checking for mines, and the other taking over Merville. I thought it was brilliant.”

On Sword Beach the pupils learned about Ben Millen who played his pipes while the troops landed on the beach. They heard about the midget submarines and how courageous the men on board were.

Day 2

At Juno Beach pupils learned about how De Gaulle had landed in this simple fishing village. In contrast, at the Cross of Lorraine they imagined what it would be like to be a child under Nazi rule and how the cross was a symbol of hope.Next they visited Gold Beach and Arromanches and saw the Mulberry Harbour, went to the 360˚ cinema and admired the view across the steep cliffs.

There was some time to relax in the pretty town of Bayeux and see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Finally the group went to visit one pupil relative’s grave. They laid a poppy cross at his gravestone.

Euan wrote “I found it the best day so far because we saw my relative in the war who died. It was so emotional. I have never felt like that in my life ever before.”

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Day 3

At St Mere Eglise pupils heard about John Steel and how when he parachuted into the town he got stuck on the church tower. They were able to go inside the church and saw the commemoration windows before visiting the museum.

La Cambe German cemetery was an astonishing site. There was a mass grave in the middle of the cemetery and there were stairs you could climb so that you could see the whole cemetery from above.

At Pointe Du Hoc you are able to imagine the rangers climbing up the cliffs in appalling conditions. The space at the top of the cliff is kept exactly the way it was so it still looks like a battlefield with massive craters in it.

One pupil wrote “I found it astounding literally seeing the battlefield like it was. Seeing the bunkers and craters really helped put it into perspective.”

Omaha beach was the next destination. After walking along the beach the pupils climbed the bluffs and entered the massive cemetery. The whole place was really clean. They were shown the grave of the Roosevelts and the Nilands.

One of the children said “I had been excited for this moment for ages. The beach was very peaceful and was absolutely stunning. Was a great moment. It was fantastic to walk along it. There are just no words to explain the U.S cemetery. Speechless!”

To end the visit the staff and pupils had a private ceremony in Ranville Cemetery. They laid a wreath in remembrance of those who died and wrote a message to go with it saying,

“In remembrance of all the fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their families and our futures. People may die but memories live on. We cannot repay the debt that you are due, but we have one thing to say, thank you.” One pupil then read the epitaph.

Battlefields 6Some of the comments read:

“It was brilliant. So proud to be a part of it and so respectful. I was glad we did it, really did means something and the words said were not empty words, they had meaning and it was easy to see everyone felt it.”

“Overwhelmed at how emotional it was. Being given the privilege of reading the epitaph was just, wow. I felt truly honoured:

 

When you go home

Tell them of us and say,

“We gave our tomorrow

For your today”

Went the day well?

We died and never knew

But, well or ill,

Freedom,

We died for you”

“I was very, very proud of our school. Our ceremony made me realise how much I take for granted at times.”

Altogether everyone thoroughly enjoyed the week and said it was an amazing experience that they would never forget.

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These are some diary extracts that were written down about the whole week.

“This experience has been absolutely amazing...I am very sad that this is my last experience but I do know that it is now other people’s turn to feel how I have felt. I may be saying goodbye to the battlefields experience but I will never say goodbye to what I have learned, experienced and felt, and that I thanks to these trips.”

“Very happy and satisfied that I chose this trip. Changed my perspective on life completely, never will I just ignore the fact that a soldier in the current war died. I will always have my Normandy necklace and poppy on”.

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