Belper student pays her respects at the Somme

Beth Silvester and Joel Francis, both 13 from Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy paying their respects to those who died at the battle of the Somme, 1916.
Beth Silvester and Joel Francis, both 13 from Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy paying their respects to those who died at the battle of the Somme, 1916.

A secondary school student has fulfilled her grandad’s wish to pay her respects to his uncle who died during the Battle of the Somme.

Beth Silvester, 13, of Belper, who attends Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy in Derby, found her grandad’s uncle’s name on a war memorial and laid a poppy in his honour while she was on a school-organised tour of First World War battlefields.

She was selected by the school for the four-day trip to Belgium and France along with fellow student Joel Francis, also 13.

She said: “My grandad told me about his uncle who died in the Battle of the Somme when he was 17 as he joined the Army very early. My granddad helped me to do some research and he’s never been able to go to the memorial and he thought it would be good if I could go.

“We didn’t know where his name would be other than at the Menin Gates so I looked and eventually found it in the archway at the bottom of a list of names and laid a poppy there.

“I haven’t seen my granddad yet but I have talked to him on the phone about it and I want to go to see him and show him the photos we took.”

The battlefield trips are part of a national Government programme to involve students in commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

Joel and Beth were chosen from 40 students at Saint Benedict’s who applied to take part. Beth’s granddad John Silvester, 70, of Duffield, urged her to apply as he wanted her to honour his uncle, Sidney Cooper, as he has never been able to make it to France to see the memorial.

Joel and Beth also visited war trenches, Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium and archaeological sites.

Beth said the whole experience was ‘overwhelming’.

She said: “It makes you realise the scale of it all and how many people died. When we went to the cemeteries all you could see was white because of all the rows of headstones. It makes you think of all of these people as individuals who had families and the fact that they died so we could be here today.”

The pair were accompanied on the trip by Adam Tomlinson, a history teacher at Saint Benedict.

He said: “It was a great experience and one I’m sure that they will never forget.

“We are now looking forward to continuing the legacy by sharing our experience with other Saint Benedict students and primary school pupils.”