Northern Ireland

World War One battlefields: £500,000 plan for student visits

Image caption War graves close to the Ulster memorial tower, Thiepval, on the battlefields of the Somme

Some £500,000 is to be used to enable hundreds of school pupils to visit World War One battlefields.

The money will cover a visit for at least two Year 10 pupils and a teacher from each post-primary school in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Education and Department for Communities are jointly funding "the battlefields project."

Education Minister Peter Weir said the scheme would help young people learn more about "the realities of war."

The project is now open for schools to express an interest in, with the first trips to take place in June 2017.

Mr Weir said that he hoped schools from all sectors would apply to take part.

"This scheme will be open to children from all backgrounds and is a unique opportunity to learn about our past," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The scene in one of the German trenches in Guillemont

"Millions of people lost their lives during the First World War and that must never be forgotten."

"That is why I believe it is so important that our young people should be encouraged to remember those who died."

Pupils will visit battlefields in Belgium and France like the Somme, where thousands of soldiers from Ireland died.

The battle of the Somme lasted from July to November 1916 and cost more than a million casualties on all sides.

Image caption A Celtic cross outside the Catholic church in Guillemont commemorates those who fought

Communities Minister Paul Givan said that the scheme would give pupils a better understanding of the sacrifice that so many men made.

"They will be able to visit places of significance to our community memory including cemeteries, memorials, battle remains and museums.

"It also gives young people in Northern Ireland the same opportunity as schools in England who are already receiving financial support to visit the battlefields."

The scheme will be administered by the Education Authority, who have written to all schools inviting them to express an interest in taking part.

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