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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


NEWS

SHAMROCK VENTURE FOR BALLYGOWAN CADETS

03 April 2017

A group of 35 Army Cadets from Ballygowan Detachment recently embarked on an action packed weekend of adventure and reflection as they took a whirlwind tour of London, France and Belgium.

Exercise Shamrock Venture saw the Cadets travel to London to visit the 1St Battalion Irish Guards for their Saint Patricks Day Parade.  On Friday 17th March the Cadets had the privilege of forming up and watching as the Battalion paraded to receive their Shamrocks from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - and for a lucky few, they would get even closer to the Royal Couple.

Having won the annual Irish Guards Cadet Competition back in September, the winning team had the honour of meeting both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who congratulated them on their achievements.  With a bit of Northern Irish charm the Cadets asked if they could have a photograph to mark the occasion to which both the Duke and Duchess were very happy to oblige.



After the celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day, the Cadets packed up as they prepared to move to the next phase of their trip, a two-day battlefield tour of France and Belgium.  After an early start on Saturday morning, the group arrived at the Guards Cemetery in Lesboeufs, France where the group had a very special job to carry out.  In the cemetery are the graves of 42 Irish Guardsmen killed in the Battle of the Somme.  Each Cadet and Adult Instructor had spent the weeks prior to the trip researching an individual Guardsman and on the visit each laid a wooden poppy cross on the grave of his or her Soldier.



The event was made all the more poignant when a couple arrived at the Cemetery and asked if the cadets could help find the grave of the man’s great uncle.  Happy to assist them the group soon discovered the man’s great uncle was an Irish Guard - Guardsman P Lyons, killed in September 1916 on the Somme.  Furthermore, Cadet Sergeant Gemma Pollock was just about to lay a Poppy Cross on the grave of Guardsman Lyons.  The man and his wife were truly humbled that on a cold wet day these Cadets had taken the time to remember his great uncle and his comrades who fell on the Somme.

That evening the Cadets had the honour of paying their respects at the Menin Gate in the town of Ypres, Belgium.  Forming a Guard of Honour the Cadets fell silent with the town at Ypres and the hundreds of bystanders as the Last Post sounded at 8pm as it has done each night since 1928.  A wreath was laid on behalf of the group as Cadet Piper Lance Corporal Dylan Coyle had the honour of playing the Lament.



Sunday saw the group up early once again to visit the Flanders region.  Stopping at the Essex farm Cemetery they learnt about the boy soldiers including Rifleman Valentine Strudwick who died in Flanders at the age of only 15 – younger than most of the Cadets on the trip.  At the next stop, the group saw the war from another perspective at the German Cemetery in Langemark.  The trip finished with a final visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery where the group held a short personal act of remembrance once again placing a wreath as Piper Dylan Coyle played a final lament.

Exercise Shamrock Venture was a great experience for all the Cadets and Adult Instructors who were lucky to take part in it.  After a great time spent with the Irish Guards for Saint Patricks Day, the battlefield tour has left all with a greater sense of the importance of remembrance.  All involved are very grateful to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, Beds and Herts ACF and to the Royal British Legion for the assistance in making the trip possible.