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Yorkshire Air Cadets visit WW1 battlefields

First published on: 1st November 2023

A visit to First World War battlefields in France and Belgium by a contingent of Yorkshire Air Cadets culminated in them taking part in the traditional Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres, in Belgium.

It was an emotional but memorable four days for the officers and cadets who had the honour of taking part in the Ceremony on the final night of their visit, when they joined buglers of The Last Post Association who have maintained the  Remembrance Service for the fallen every evening since 1928.

The Cadets’ Wing Chaplain, Father Darren Percival, BEM, was chosen from the crowd to read The Exhortation during the service, becoming number 30332 to do so and joining a list of world renowned figures who have also read it, including Pope John Paul ll and Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  

The Cadets visited Messines, in Belgium, where the Christmas Day truce football match took place in 1914, and also learned about the origins of the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian surgeon Lt. Col. John D. McCrae, on May 3, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres.

During their visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery, an Act of Dedication was led by Fr Darren amongst the graves of those who lost their lives at the Ypres Salient.

In France they went to Newfoundland Park, dedicated to Dominion of Newfoundland forces, and to the Thiepval Memorial commemorating 72,337 missing British and South African servicemen who died in the Battles of the Somme between 1915 and 1918, and have no known grave.

The Cadets and Officers, who were under the Command of Pilot Officer Malcolm Titley, were from 1053 Armthorpe Squadron, 208 Barnsley Squadron, 103 City of Doncaster Squadron, and 208 North Leeds Squadron.  

Fr Darren said: “It has been a hard and emotional week.  

“When you look at the graves upon graves of men who gave their lives for God and the King, we are reminded of the situation in the Holy Land that the gift of peace is a fragile gift which needs to be loved and protected at all times”.

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