A SCHOOL trip to see the battlefields of World War One proved to be the journey of a lifetime for a Birchensale Middle School teacher when she was able to find a memorial commemorating her great uncle.
Melanie Vaughan accompanied two of her year eight students, Jodie Lewis and Megan Garrat, on the WWI Battlefield Tour trip to France and Belgium on what she describes as the ‘trip of a lifetime’.
During the visit Melanie and her students visited memorials to fallen German and allied forces soldiers from which they were able to take away experiences to relate to their fellow pupils as part of Birchensale’s British Values programme.
“It really was the trip of a lifetime,” Melanie said. “Visiting sites such as the Ulster Memorial Tower hit me really hard.
“The girls said they couldn’t get their heads around how many soldiers had died – it blew their minds.”
During the visit, Jodie and Megan were honoured to be able to lay a wreath at Tyne Cot Cemetery in remembrance.
“Out of 60 children they were quite thrilled to be chosen,” Melanie added.
But it was at the Thiepval Memorial that Melanie was able to connect with her family history as they searched for her grand uncle’s name, Charles James Vaughan.
“We were able to lay a wreath as commemoration – it was quite emotional,” Melanie said.
The site is a memorial to the Missing of the Somme which commemorates the 72,195 missing Commonwealth who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave.
Melanie’s great uncle Charles, who was in the First Battalion Leicester Regiment, was killed on September 15, 1916 when the first tanks were used in battle.
“One of the tanks got lost on the battlefield and began to fire on the allied troops – it was this fire that killed him,” she said.