Tumut High School hosted a ‘reflections of Europe’ evening on Wednesday night, where staff and students took turns speaking about their experiences on their 2017 overseas trip.
Parents and friends attended the event in the Tumut library, where students told them all about their adventures exploring places like Florence, Paris, and Chamonix.
However, it was clear the part of the trip that had the biggest impact on the students was the extensive focus on World War One and the Australian soldiers who fought and died there.
World War One has a deserved place in our national psyche. In 1914 the population of Australia was less than five million. Out of those five million, 416,809 men enlisted. 156,000 were wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner, and 60,000 didn’t come home.
Jarrod Casey was one of the students who shared his reflections on the WWI aspect of the trip.
“Personally, during our travels to France and Belgium, experiencing the extremity and importance of the war and our involvement really opened my eyes to the subject,” he said.
“Villers-Bretonneux and the dawn service at Polygon Wood were places that really affected me emotionally, and caught me by surprise.
“Hearing about it, watching it in documentaries or reading it in a book is nothing like experiencing it in real life. Being right there where it all happened and coming to the realisation of the extremity of human sacrifice that happened there really changed my perspective on the war, and I hope it had the same effect on many people as well.
“I hope people are now able to appreciate even more how much Australia as a nation, and the hundreds of thousands of brave soldiers, gave to protect the countries they fought for.”
Staff member Malcolm Wray, who lead the battlefield tours on the trip, also shared that the group was lucky enough to meet a Victoria Cross recipient at the Last Post ceremony they participated in, Afghanistan war veteran Daniel Keighran.
“To have Dan Keighran there was fairly significant and special. Afterwards I went for a bit of a walk with him and he was asking where our students were from and how we came to be taking part in the Last Post ceremony, and he was impressed by the respect that they showed, which I thought was fantastic,” he said.
“When you saw this guy and realised what he’d done it was pretty impressive. He was a very humble, friendly fellow, so I’m really glad that we got to meet him and that some of the kids got a photo with him. When you look at Victoria Cross recipients most of them died in the course of what they’re doing, so to meet a living one I thought was pretty cool.”
Students also received fun awards based on their experiences from trip co-ordinator Anna Whyte.
Clarification: In the article ‘Europe experience for THS students’ in the Tuesday, May 16, newspaper, it was stated that the trip is funded by the Blakeney Millar Foundation. However, only a portion of the trip is funded by Blakeney Millar, primarily for staff and any students requiring financial assistance. The rest of the trip is funded by the students themselves.