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History students visit Belgium to pay tribute to WWI fallen

30 June 2016

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A student who runs battlefield tours in France paid a special tribute to the fallen of World War One.

Simon Birch, chairman of Glyndwr Historical Society, was joined by fellow History student Rhys Knowles in laying a wreath at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

The Menin Gate Memorial is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown.

“It was an honour to lay a wreath on behalf of the University as we approach what will be the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme,” said Simon (pictured left).

“The Menin Gate remembers the 54,398 missing in the Ypres sector up to 16 August 1917 and it was haunting to hear the bugles play as they have done almost continually since the end of the war.”

Rhys, who studied the Accrington Pals as part of his degree – the most famous of the battalions raised in the early months of the First World War in response to Kitchener's call for a volunteer army – also took the opportunity to visit the site.

The legion lost 584 out of 720 of their regiment on the first day at the Battle of the Somme, which took place from July to November 1916.

Dr Kathryn Ellis, Programme Leader for History at Wrexham Glyndwr, said the passion and love of the subject is what inspires students like Simon and Rhys to pay such tributes.

“We are pleased that they have been able to represent the University during this visit,” said Dr Ellis.

“As historians it is our duty to remember the human impact of war, which is as important today as it has ever been.”

History at Wrexham Glyndwr University was ranked second in the UK for student satisfaction in the 2017 Complete University Guide.

Dr Ellis and fellow lecturer Peter Bolton have enhanced the degree with regular field trips, educational visits and interactive seminars.

“History is growing in popularity because I think people now realise that it provides so many essential skills,” Peter said.

“Employability is key, which is why we concentrate on communication, critical thinking and practical sessions alongside specific subject knowledge.  We try to produce well-rounded characters and our positive student satisfaction scores are testament to that.”

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