Battlefields Trip

Adapted by Mrs Millar from pupil diaries.

For more information and photos from the 5th Our Lady’s Pals Battalion, please see Mr Smith’s website and Twitter @OLHSSocSubjects.

The 5th Our Lady’s High School Pals Battalion, led by Mr Smith and Kat Brogan of Mercat Tours, and accompanied by Mr Donnachie, Miss McGhee and Mrs Millar, set off for Belgium and France on Monday 20th June. We travelled by ferry from Hull and had a comfortable crossing to Zeebrugge – great food and accommodation onboard! Our first stop in Belgium was at the Pool of Peace, followed by Messines Church, then Hooge Crater museum where we had lunch, then onwards to Sanctuary wood where we donned wellies in order to experience life in the trenches. We reached Munchenhof around 5 and checked in to our very welcoming hotel where we were again well fed!


On Tuesday we set off to France.  Our first visit was to Newfoundland Park, a beautiful, tranquil place dedicated to the Canadian soldiers who fought in the war.  We were privileged to walk across the battlefield and witness where the soldiers fought the Battle of the Somme: tragically, 91% of them did not make it back home. They are also remembered at Vimy Ridge, with an awe inspiring monument showing Mother Canada weeping for her lost children. We also visited Poiziers cemetery, where 14000 soldiers “Known Unto God” are remembered. This is the inscription carved on the memorial stones when soldiers who died could not be identified – or in some cases, even found. We were also proud to share a special moment with Robyn Leach, as she laid a wreath at the grave of her great great grandfather.2016_0622_093954

Thursday began at Essex Farm to visit the advanced dressing station where Lieutenant John McCrae wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”. Next stop was Polkapelle Cemetery, where over 6000 of the 7400 men who lie there are only “Known Unto God”. We then visited Passchaendale, where half a million men died in 1917. We visited Tyne Cot Cemetery, the biggest Commonwealth cemetery in the world with 12,000 graves. Here, too, the lost men are remembered:  35,000 men – whose bodies were never found – are commemorated on the walls. Our next stop was at one of only four German cemeteries at Langemarck, resting place of over 40,000 German soldiers. After lunch we set foot in the Sacred City of Ypres for the first time, to visit the graves of two British soldiers shot at dawn by their own side. Lastly, we attended the Menin Gate ceremony in Ypres, where once again we were able to share the experience of finding a relative’s resting place with Lauren McCann. Our last official duty of the trip was when we then went on to Poelkapelle Cemetery to conduct our own memorial service.

Each evening, before dinner, Kat Brogan, our Tour Guide with Mercat International Tours, worked with the young people as they reflected on their experiences, writing in their daily diaries. Later, everyone enjoyed some down time, playing pool, bowling, watching TV or just chatting.

Our last day in Brugge saw a raiding of the chocolate shops and a scoffing of ice cream and delicious Belgian waffles before heading back to Scotland from Rotterdam on our second ferry – which was even more luxurious than the first one! After a fantastic meal,  everyone took to the floor – even the oldies – and danced the night away, finishing the night with a rendition of “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary” which brought the house down and made us many new friends!

The trip was both a lot of fun and very thought provoking – a real life changing experience for staff and pupils. Thanks to Mr Smith for organising a truly memorable time for us!

News from Social Subjects

Report from Mr Smith

S4 Geography pupils visited New Lanark on Thursday 2nd June to find out about how the facilities there are powered exclusively by water power. We hiked up to the Falls of Clyde and admired the view, and we had guided tours of the living and working conditions when New Lanark was a functioning cotton mill.


Pupils are enhancing their political literacy knowledge and skills by learning about the European Union. They are developing their understanding of the arguments for and against EU membership and will take part in a whole school mock referendum next week.

S5/6 are preparing for taking part in the International Conference. Our Lady’s team will represent Syria this year and are very much looking forward to this event.

Final preparations are underway for the battlefields trip on June 20th when Our Lady’s High School’s 5th Pals Battalion will fall in for duty and head off to Belgium and France.

Battlefields of World War I

Four senior pupils volunteered their time to talk to S3 English about their experiences on the Battlefields Trip. Philip Quither, Ross Walker, Liam McCafferty and Grant Mackin provided an excellent illustrated guide through the life of a soldier on the Western Front, with photographs of France and Belgium both now and during the First World War.

This talk will be of enormous benefit to 3rd year pupils when they begin studying poetry of World War I.

Race Night Fundraiser – Friday 18th September 2015

From Mr Smith

In June of next year current S3 and S4 pupils will travel to the First World War battlefields in Belgium and France in commemoration of those who served during the conflict.

In order to raise funds to go towards the fieldtrip there will be a race night in St Bride’s Hall, Coursington Road, Motherwell on Friday 18th September. Doors open 7pm with a 7.30pm start. The bar will be open so the event is for over 18s only.

There will be 8 races in total, with the opportunity to place bets on the races. You also have the opportunity to “buy” a horse in advance for £10. You can name the horse yourself. If your horse wins the race, you will receive a star prize. There will also be a raffle, and all donations to that will be gratefully received.

Tickets are priced at £3 and are available from Mr Smith.

Please complete the tear off form below and return this with the money as soon as possible to Andrew Smith, Social Subjects, Our Lady’s High School

Copies of this letter have been distributed to all pupils today.


Name of pupil:  


Number of tickets required @ £3 each:  


Number of horses I wish to buy @ £10 each:  


Name(s) for horse(s):  






3rd Our Lady’s Pals Battalion visit to the Battlefields 9th -14th June

2013_0614_1623Report by Major Letham

On the 9th of June the 3rd Our Lady’s Pals Battalion led by Colonel Smith, Major Letham,  Lieutenant Pegard and Captain Halket left Motherwell to visit the Western Front.  We followed in the footsteps of those men who fought at Loos and the Somme in France and Ypres in Belgium.

 Experiences which stood out

  • The atmosphere on the bus when singing the First World War songs.  The 3rd Our Lady’s Pals were outstanding.
  • British and German graveyards where we heard amazing stories about individual men
  • The monuments at Thiepval and the Menin Gate which are dedicated to the missing in battle.
  • Our remembrance ceremony at Poelkapelle Cemetery  Calum Wilson read out the poem “In Flanders Field”;  Hannah Coakely lit a candle and placed it on the altar;  Ryan Harbinson and Kieran Cubis placed a wreath of poppies on the altar with a message from the 3rd Pals
  • We visited the grave of one of our own from the Motherwell/Wishaw district.  In a very moving ceremony we placed a cross and a poppy on the grave of Private Peter Lynch from Cleland.  Peter was the great-great-uncle of Daniel Leonard and this was the first time someone had paid a visit to his grave.

Down Time

We had a great time on the Ferry.  We all loved the food and the disco.  Members of the public on the ship were so impressed with our dancing and singing that we received standing ovations.  Corey Slavin’s dancing in particular was amazing.  In the beautiful medieval city of Bruges we went sightseeing on the canal boats and on the horse and carriages.  There were so many souvenirs to choose from and most of us brought back masses of Belgian chocolate.

We were promised before we left on the trip that we would return to Motherwell as changed people.  This has undoubtedly been the case.

For more information and pictures, check out this site.

Coffee morning

Report by Mr Smith

S3 pupils ran a successful coffee morning to raise funds for their school trip to France and Belgium next month.

Pupils from S3 and S4 will form the Our Lady’s High School 3rd Pals Battalion (two groups from the school went on tour in 2009 and 2011) and will visit some of the battlefields, memorials and cemeteries of the First World War. There will also be a visit to Bruges.

Many thanks to The Bentley Hotel, Ossam Beauty Therapies and Toni Macaroni’s for donating raffle prizes. Photos and stories from the trip will follow when we return!

News round-up 20th March

Report by Mrs Sinclair

Lenten Charities
All RE classes are involved in fund raising for a numbers of very important charities.  The projects vary from raffles, ‘soak the teacher’, non uniform day,  coffee mornings, football tournaments.  Pupils are encouraged to donate to the SCIAF wee boxes as often as possible.  Pupils in the school are hoping to top the £2500 raised during Lent last year.

Patron’s Day Mass
All staff and pupils as well as a large number of invited guests celebrated the annual Patron’s Day Mass on Friday 22nd March.  Bishop Devine, Father Frank King and a number of priests from local Parishes concelebrated the Mass.  The school band and choir were at their best as they led the hymns and performed beautiful reflections.

Easter Egg Appeal
During this season of Lent Miss McGinness and CARITAS pupils have been collecting Easter eggs and small creme eggs. These eggs will be passed the residents of Park Springs  Nursing home when a group from the school visit for an Easter service.   The collection has been going very well and lots of Easter eggs have been handed in from pupils, staff and parents. Miss McGinness,  Mrs Mulholland and the CARITAS group would like to thank everyone for their kind donations and hope to continue their appeal until the Easter holidays.

Motherwell v Hibs on Friday Night
The school was given 30 juvenile and 4 adult tickets for Friday Night’s Game.  These were donated by Motherwell FC and were in great demand.  The football was enjoyed by all who attended.

Ben Nevis Challenge for St Andrew’s Hospice
A number of pupils and staff have registered for the Nevis Challenge in April.  Watch this space for further information and photographs.

SCIAF 24 Hour Fast
Our annual SCIAF 24 Hour Fast took place on Thursday 21st March.  Thanks to all staff and pupils who fasted and also to all who sponsored them.

Station of the Cross
Stations of Cross for each House were held last week. Father King prepared and led the services.

  • Andrew House – Monday 18th March
  • Sinclair House – Tuesday 19th March
  • Margaret House – Wednesday 20th March
  • Columba House – Monday 25th March

France/ Belgium Trip
There was an information evening in the school last Tuesday night for pupils going to France and Belgium in June. The meeting in the school theatre was very well attended. Parents, pupils and staff were very impressed by the presentation by Mr Des Brogan, the of director of Mercat Tours. He explained that WW1 Cemeteries and Battlefields Tour is a moving experience and it has a profound effect on pupils, as it does with most visitors. Such a visit is highly recommended. The scale of slaughter becomes very real when you are confronted with huge war cemeteries around every corner, plus large monuments containing thousands upon thousands of names of young men whose bodies were never recovered. The words ‘lest we forget’ and ‘we will remember them’ will take on a new meaning to our young people.  He told them that they would return changed people.  Staff and pupils are very much looking forward to the trip in June.

Hollywood comes to Our Lady’s High
A film crew and some very good ‘actors’ and guides were involved in the filming of a transition DVD to be used with all of the primary seven classes.  Filming went very smoothly and it is hoped that the primary seven classes from our associated primary schools will enjoy what they see and it will reassure them about coming to Our Lady’s in August. Thanks to Marc Hobson, Aaron Fisher and Julia Stachuska

Adele Graham from Motherwell Women’s Aid is working this month and next with S2 pupils to support their Domestic Abuse topic. The Samaritans have been in to deliver a presentation to fifth and sixth year students about positive mental health issues and  Self Harming.

Work Experience
We are appealing for any one who can offer the school work experience places for the new session in August.  If you can, could you please contact Mrs Lyn Zambonini on 274925

Any old Knitting Needles?  We are appealing  for knitting needles – any size and any unused chunky or double knitting wool to be handed into school for a knitting group who are making a blanket for St. Andrew’s Hospice.

Coffee Morning
S3 Skills for Work, Health class held a fund raising coffee morning last Wednesday to raise funds for their trip and a charity of their choice.  They prepared a selection of cakes and served the tea and coffee like true professionals.  A large number of staff enjoyed the spread and attention.

The School will close on Thursday 28th March for the Easter Holidays.  Parents/carers will receive a letter and text giving further details.

Battlefields 2011

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Report from Mrs Letham and Mrs Fitzpatrick, with additional [more interesting] contributions from Ms O’Neill, Ms Broughton and Ms Togneri

Our Battalion was dispatched from the military base in Motherwell at precisely 2100 hours, accompanied by General Sam. After a few days capturing reconnaissance intelligence in German Occupied France, we reached our destination: Belgium.

Ms O’Neill: On the 4th June two bus loads of over-excited pupils and already tired teachers left Our Lady’s High departing for France and Belgium.

Ms Broughton: On arriving at the school, we were told that this wasn’t a holiday, it was a life changing experience. We were no longer a group of pupils, we were the 2nd Our Lady’s High School Pals Battalion. We were going to relive the tragedy of World War I. We waved goodbye to our families just the same way the soldiers of 1914 did and then we were off. We travelled during the night to Dover where we got the ferry to Calais.

Ms Togneri: Thinking back, the journey was long and excruciating, but of course no-one noticed: we were all too busy singing, laughing and generally causing  a riot due to our excitement. We arrived in Paris the following day, and spent the next two days there.

Ms Broughton: As soon as we arrived in Paris we were given a moment to change and then we were off to the phenomenal Eiffel Tower.

Ms Togneri: During our time there, we visited the Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower, took a boat trip down the River Seine and went shopping to buy souvenirs for loved ones. Personally going to the top of the Eiffel Tower was without a doubt my favourite. I was so scared yet fascinated.

Ms Broughton: On the same night, we were caught in a rainstorm and had to go in an underground for shelter. Eventually we arrived back at the hotel wet and cold but laughing at the experience

Ms O’Neill: On our last night in Paris we were given free time to visit some shops. They sold lots of little souvenirs and ‘I Love Paris’ memorabilia. Each shop you entered swore they could offer you the best deal, and if brave enough, you were able to haggle with the shop owner to try and get an even cheaper price. Out on the streets, artists with their canvases approach you ready to draw you your very own portrait. Each street has another handful of cafes with pastries smelling yummy.

With great honour and respect, we passed into the battlefield linked with the blackest day in British military history, The Somme. Our Company was inspired  by the bravery, courage and honour of those soldiers, over 400,00 of them, who died during that battle.

Ms Togneri: It seemed like no time at all until we were on our travels to Belgium. During this bus journey we prepared ourselves for the emotional next few days we knew we had to face before us.

Ms Broughton: In Belgium, we saw many war memorials that I will never forget and had opportunities to walk through trenches that have been in the exact same condition that they were in during the War.

We saw cemeteries of British, French and German soldiers. There were many differences between the two enemies resting places.

Ms Togneri: France and Belgium, or as we called it Frelgium was an unforgettable experience for my classmates and I. Singing war songs on our travels, getting a taste of the French lifestyle, visiting cemeteries and memorials of those who fought in World War I, I will not forget any of it.

Ms Broughton: eventually our journey came to an end and we were home with our families. However, our thoughts went to the people that never returned: the dead and missing of the Somme.

Trip to the Trenches

Report by Mr Smith

35 pupils from Our Lady’s High School travelled to Belgium and France during the final week of term to take part in a memorable World War One Battlefields Experience led by an excellent guide from Mercat Tours.

After an overnight ferry crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge, the group travelled to the southern lip of the Ypres Salient, visiting the small Belgian town of Messines and standing in the very room in which an injured Adolf Hitler was treated during the First World War. That afternoon the group donned their wellies to stand up to their knees in the mud of the trenches at Sanctuary Wood, and listened in awe to stories at the Pool of Peace, Hooge Crater and Hill 60, before travelling along the Menin Road, the scene of such bitter fighting as both sides battled for control of Ypres.

Day 3 was a full day visit to France and the Somme battlefields where drama and roleplay brought the horrors of the battles to life as the group toured Beaumont Hamel Ulster Tower, La Boiselle, Pozieres Ridge, Vimy Ridge and the Thiepval Memorial where two pupils laid poppies in memory of relatives who had been killed in action.

On Day 4 the group journeyed to the northern lip of the Ypres Salient to visit the Allied cemeteries at Essex Farm, Poelkapelle, Passchendaele and Tyne Cot, and the German cemetery at Langemarck before holding their own memorial service at the Menin Gate in Ypres. Here another pupil was able to leave a poppy as a mark of respect to a relative killed in action.

The final day was devoted to sightseeing and souvenir shopping in Bruges before the journey back to Motherwell. Throughout the week pupils also read poetry and sang songs from the period, climbed in and out of German pill-boxes and marched as soldiers, but most importantly were challenged to think, discuss and reflect on their experiences of an unforgettable week.