On the 3 July 2016, myself and 3 other Sullivan students were at the Thiepval Memorial in France dedicated to the dead and missing of the Battle of the Somme. We were part of a 30 person contingent of Explorer Scouts from Northern Ireland who were completing the Explorer Belt. The Explorer Belt is a 10 day hike across a foreign country completing projects and providing service along the way. Organised in teams of 4-5 we had to be self sufficient on a minimum budget, camping where we could.
As a group, we were selected to represent the whole of the UK Scout Association and to take part in the series of memorial services held at Theipval marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. As part of this service, selected groups from various organisations, were allowed to lay wreaths at the monument’s altar in honour of the fallen. Our Explorer Belt group was the only Scouting group granted permission to take part in this momentous occasion.
I was chosen not only to be a part of the 3 person Scout Colour Party but to be the Scout to lay the only wreath to be laid to represent the UK Scouting Association. It was an incredible event and a great honour to be a part of it. The whole way up the steps to the alter was flanked by my Explorer Belt colleagues. It was an amazing experience.
The 3 July 2016 held a special significance to my family. In 1916 on that day my Great Grandfather was found alive, lying in the mud, two days after being shot by a sniper on the first day of the battle. He had lain there presumed dead.
Being at the Somme on the Centenary of not only the Battle but also of my Great Grandfather being found, moved me and filled me with pride and gratitude. I felt so honoured to take my Great Grandfather’s medals back to where he earned them and in being chosen to lay the wreath at the altar on such a momentous occasion. It’s an experience I know I will never forget.
David R Cunningham (Year 14)