Schoolchildren will visit First World War battlefields to commemorate centenary

British infantrymen occupy a shallow trench on the Western Front in France in 1916
British infantrymen occupy a shallow trench on the Western Front in France in 1916
Forest School Leaders Dawn White and Sue Evans with their pupils outside the school

Picture: Habibur Rahman (180146-338)

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TWO children from every state-run secondary school in the Portsmouth area will get the chance to visit battlefields as part of marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Today the government has announced a four-year plan to commemorate the centenary of The Great War.

Jointly funded by the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government, one project will provide opportunities for two pupils from every state-funded secondary school in England to take part in battlefield tours of the Western Front from spring 2014 to 2019.

Pupils will get the chance to research local soldiers, who fought in the war, and learn more about the war.

Education secretary Michael Gove said: ‘The First World War touched every village and town in Britain. Millions served and almost 900,000 United Kingdom subjects died in action.

‘The loss to this country and to countless families was unimaginable and must not be forgotten. That is why it is important that a new generation should be encouraged to remember the sacrifice of so many.’

A grant of up to £1m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund to support HMS Caroline – the last surviving warship from the First World War fleet – has also been announced.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is based in Portsmouth and owns HMS Caroline, did have plans to move her to Portsmouth.

But she will stay in Belfast, where she is set to have the grant.

The opening day of the centenary takes place on August 4, 2014, and will focus on three events:

A wreath-laying service at Glasgow’s Cenotaph, following a special service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow Cathedral.

An event at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium, where the first and last Commonwealth casualties of the war are believed to be buried.

A candlelit vigil of prayer and penitence at Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm – the moment war was declared.

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