Returning to the trenches

This Is Wiltshire: Scouts at the Menin Gate war memorial in Ypres Scouts at the Menin Gate war memorial in Ypres

Scouts experienced an emotional trip to Belgium as they remembered relatives lost during the war.

Twelve members of the 10th Chippenham Air Scouts travelled to Ypres, a town that has become synonymous with the First World War.

Oliver and Toby Stanford were able to visit the grave of their great great uncle Fred Stanford, a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

He was killed in action on November 7, 1917 and this was the first time members of his family had been able to pay their respects to him.

On Saturday the Scouts, who are all aged between 10 and 14, went out onto the battlefields. They had the opportunity to visit British and German graves, as well as a section of preserved trench and bunkers.

They linked with the past by researching a relative or a local man and set out to find them to pay their respects.

One of the most poignant moments of the weekend was when they found the graves of two 15-year-olds who had been killed in the fighting.

On Saturday evening the boys sold poppies at the Menin Gate and were asked to form a Guard of Honour along the path to where the wreaths were to be laid that night at the memorial.

On Sunday they attended the church service at St George’s Church followed by a parade to the Menin Gate watched by up to 10,000 people and covered by Belgian national TV.

Three of the boys were asked to carry and lay the Royal British Legion wreaths at the act of remembrance in the presence of HRH Prince Philippe of Belgium. Scout leader Chris Jones said: “I thought it was a moving trip for all the boys on the visit.

“For the four of the lads who lost relatives during the war it was the first time they could visit, and I think has given their families some closure.

“We also visited the grave of Lt Will Granger who was born in Chippenham and had been a Scout, so that was relevant and poignant.

“It had been wet, there was mud and it stank of stagnant water. Pretty much the conditions in 1917 when the boys’ relatives were killed.

“You could see the looks on their faces as comprehension dawned on them just what fighting in these conditions meant.

“It was all set up thanks to the British Legion and the Belgian Army who put us up, without them it wouldn’t have happened.”

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