South Cheshire College students came through a test of stamina and endurance with flying colours when they took part in a Great War Trail.
Public and Community Services and Coaching and Sports Development Foundation degree students showed off their battling qualities as they trekked across Staffordshire to commemorate World War 1.
Nine students travelled from the RAF Museum Cosford and headed to the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield on Tuesday 6th May and Wednesday 7th May 2014.
Their two day journey involved cycling on roads and rowing along canals as they headed for the Arboretum, the UK’s year-round Centre of Remembrance.
The Centre is a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice and fosters pride in our country as a living and lasting memorial.
It commemorates and celebrates those who have given their lives in service of their country, all who have served and suffered as a result of conflict, and others who, for specific or appropriate reasons, are commemorated here.
The enterprising group stopped off at the Cannock Chase War Cemetery Cross of Sacrifice before camping out overnight on Cannock Chase.
Cannock Chase housed the largest army camp in the world during World War 1 and the War Cemetery contains 97 Commonwealth burials from the First World War and 286 German burials.
A second group of four students also dropped into primary schools along the route to deliver World War 1 awareness sessions based on the experiences of Kevin Furniss.
Schools who were involved in the project included Albrighton Primary School, Anson Primary School, Church Eaton Primary School and Pirehill Primary School.
Born near Wolverhampton, Furniss was an ex Staffordshire Yeomanry attached to the Royal flying Corps who was shot down during his second time over the lines and died as a Prisoner of War on April 29th, 1917, aged 19.
Items used by students during the Great War Challenge school tour formed part of a specially commissioned World War One exhibition which will go on display at the RAF Museum Cosford later this year.
World War 1 was a global war which took place between 1914 and 1918 where more than nine million combatants were killed making it the fifth deadliest conflict in world history.
The Great War trail campaign was supported by the Army, RAF Museum Cosford, Edgbaston Watersports and the National Memorial Arboretum.
Bank Top Garage in Gnosall also supplied students with T-shirts to wear during the promotional campaign.
Members of the army led by Trevor Barrow, Warrant Officer for the Army Outreach Team North West, accompanied students for the whole of the two days.
College Public and Community Services Lecturer Chris Hollinshead, Phil Farrington, Head of Faculty for Creative and Service Industries and Faculty Administrator Julie Taylor accompanied students on the trail.
Public and Community Services Foundation degree student Rob Ellis was one of the students who was thrilled with the Great War Trail experience.
Rob, 19, of Sandbach, said:
“It has been a really positive experience which has included physical endurance, teamwork and World War 1 contemplation.
“We all realised the importance of the event when a passing biker asked us what we were cycling for and he explained how his relatives had fought in the war and had recently refurbished their medals.
“It was also great to be part of a team of people and the camaraderie of the team was superb throughout the two days with the army team having a laugh and motivating us throughout.
“Myself and the other students who took part are very proud of our achievement and I’d like to say a big thank-you to everyone who helped to organise and run this truly awesome event.
“I’m now thinking of doing a similar canoeing and biking event with the scouts in the future.”
South Cheshire College has developed strong links with RAF Museum Cosford and students played a big part in the Olympics 2012 Inspire to Aim Higher Event at the venue that year.
The event aimed to promote participation, inclusion and competition and highlighted the values of the Olympic and Paralympic movement.
Chris Hollinshead, Public and Community Services Lecturer, was delighted with the success of the two day campaign which he felt was a wonderful experience for the students.
“This was a really worthwhile activity for the students to get involved in and they all thoroughly enjoyed taking part.
“We have an excellent relationship with RAF Museum Cosford and this was a great opportunity for the group to get involved in a campaign which gave them the chance to keep fit and show off their employability skills at the same time.
“We are very grateful to all the different organisations that backed the campaign, particularly Trevor Barrow and his team from the army who supported our students every step of the way and were a real credit to themselves and the army.”
The event culminated with students dedicating a hardwood bench to the National Memorial Arboretum.
Students funded the bench through a series of college fundraising activities and from a sponsored football shirt which was kindly donated and raffled off by Crewe Alexandra Football Club.”
For more information about Foundation degree programmes and Public Services and Sports courses at South Cheshire College, please call 01270 654654 or visit www.scc.ac.uk