Students travel to France to commemorate the Somme

Students from North Lakes School in Penrith are in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Credit: North Lakes School

Tomorrow pupils from the North Lakes School in Penrith will be taking part in a moment of history. They'll be among members of the royal family, dignitaries and guests gathering on the Somme exactly 100 years after the battle which left more than 1 million people dead or wounded on both sides.

The commemorations are taking place at the memorial to the missing at Thiepval in northern France. It's in one of the areas that saw some of the heaviest fighting and commemorates more than 70 thousand men whose bodies were never found after the Battle of the Somme.

At school the children have been learning all about the battle and the stories of local soldiers who took part. They applied for and were chosen to represent the UK in a special education programme designed by the British Council. The only school from North West England, they're developing links with schools in the Somme area.

"The 28 children that go are going to have a once in a lifetime experience really to be part of an event like that," the headteacher, Mike Pincombe, told us. "To be on the site of a battle 100 years to the day since so many were involved and so many died. Quite a remarkable thing to be part of and hopefully they'll remember that for a long, long time. I know the adults will."

Students pay their respects at the Lonsdale Cemetery on the Somme. Credit: ITV Border

The children may be young but for them it is exciting to be part of such a major event in the nation's history. Here are just some of the comments they told us.

"It's important to us because England fought and also because we're going to France to celebrate 100 years of the Battle of the Somme and it's an important part of our history because it changed our lives."

"We'll be meeting children from Rene Gerard School," says Beth "and we will be representing the UK and we will be learning how to speak more French."

"When we go to France I hope I am going to meet lots of new people from Rene Gerard School," says Anya. "I want to learn more about France and eat some French food."

Kofi added, "We've been making poppies out of bottles. As well we've done lots of philosophy sessions and we've been making collages and lots of art work."

The Lonsdale Cemetery on the Somme Credit: ITV Border

The children set off for France at the start of In France and have been visiting the Lonsdale Cemetery on the Somme, where many men from Cumbria are buried. The Lonsdale Battalion of the Border Regiment lost more than 500 of its 800 men on the first day of the battle.

A hundred years on from the conflict the children are helping to build new friendships and on the anniversary tomorrow will be among the thousands commemorating those who were lost.