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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



05 November 2018

The past came powerfully and poignantly to life for teenagers from Northern Ireland recently as they made a pilgrimage to the World War 1 battlefields of Belgium and France in May.

A hundred years after the guns fell silent, the local Cadets learned about the unprecedented loss of life in ‘the war to end all wars'. Accompanied by expert guides, the Cadets toured museums and cemeteries and explored the trench and tunnel systems where so many fought and died, and discovered that many of those who sacrificed their lives were themselves little more than teenagers.

It was an emotional, and occasionally overwhelming, experience for the young visitors, as well as an opportunity to deepen their understanding. For Tammie (pictured), a student at Our Lady of Lourdes High School, the visit provided the opportunity to pay personal respects at the grave of her Great Great Great Uncle, Rifleman Samuel Gray and to uncover family stories about his war experiences. She learned about a high-spirited, well-liked and musical young man.  Home on leave from the front, his brother took him to the train station to bid farewell and wish him luck, but Samuel calmly told him he would never see Ballymoney again. Sadly, that was the case. The story handed down through the family over the years is that when Samuel and his comrades heard that the Germans were falling back he gleefully jumped up  and started drumming on a small tin box he’d found in the trenches … and was instantly killed by a German sniper.