For decades, Oundle has taken pupils to visit the battlefields of the Western Front in northern France to pay tribute to Oundle’s fallen and also to study the maps and politics of a cataclysmic event that was a turning point in modern history. After a three year hiatus, the CCF, History department and the Chaplaincy jointly led Fourth Form pupils on a return trip, visiting Loos (1915), the Somme (1916) and Vimy Ridge (1917).
The focus of the trip was a tour of the Somme, where we know of thirty-two Oundelians who died, representing some twelve percent of those from Oundle School who fell during the Great War.
The pupils visited memorials and cemeteries that were erected along the British line from Serre in the north, the Sunken Lane, Newfoundland Memorial Park and the German Cemetery at Fricourt to Mametz in the south, where a cross at the Mansell Copse Cemetery is inscribed in tribute to the 163 men who fell in action in no-mans-land, “The Devonshires held this trench, the Devonshires hold it still”.
Department historians took small groups of pupils to lay wreaths at the graves of nine Old Oundelians buried at different sites.
The centrepiece of the trip was a sunset service at the Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. Led by the Lay Chaplain, Flying Officer William Gunson, the Contingent Commander and CCF staff gave readings and addresses, and were accompanied by musicians of the CCF Band who played the Cadets on as they marched into the Memorial. Pupils Elliot (Sch) and Luca (L) laid a wreath and the Oundle Roll of Honour at the Memorial; a poignant end to a thought-provoking and moving trip.