Ipswich students see the aftermath of Great War to mark battle centenary
PUBLISHED: 10:44 01 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:44 01 May 2017
A group of students from Ipswich have travelled to its twin town of Arras in northern France to get a feel of the impact of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.
The Battle of Arras was one of the toughest battles of the conflict and lasted for five weeks from 9 April 1917 to 16 May.
The British Army tried to end a stalemate on the Western Front, but although UK and Empire forces made some gains, there was no breakthrough.
The loss of life was massive – an estimated 160,000 died on the allied side and another 125,000 Germans fell in conflict.
The City of Arras suffered serious damage during the war – it was at the centre of this battle and several other offensives during the four years of conflict.
To mark the centenary of the battle, students from St Albans and Stoke Ormiston Academy joined a group from the University of Suffolk on a visit to the battlefield.
The trip was partially funded by the Heritage Lottery Funded who contributed £9,600 as part of its scheme to encourage young people to find out more about the conflict that changed the face of Europe 100 years ago.
They visited Commonwealth War Cemeteries in the Arras area, including at Vimy Ridge just outside the city itself.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the opening salvo in the Battle of Arras – and saw the Canadian divisions distinguish themselves.
It is seen as the birth of a distinct Canadian army and that country built one of the most impressive war memorials in France to recognise its fallen troops.
Robin Vickery, from Suffolk Royal British Legion, said the visit had been very important for the students to understand how the war had affected so many people. The Suffolk Regiment took a significant number of casualties and the students had researched the lives of some of those buried in cemeteries before they travelled.
Mr Vickery said: “It is very important for young people to understand the impact of this – I think the university students were shocked to see many of the soldiers were younger than them when they were killed.”
Their research will form part of an exhibition about the battle to go on show at the University of Suffolk – and a French version of the exhibition is on show at Arras Town Hall over the summer.
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