12 November 2018

Priory’s regular trip to Belgium, our 40th year, turned out to also be a special event for Learning Support Assistant Mrs Whalley.

Geography teacher Mr Watters took over running the trip from the now retired PE teacher Mr Rhodes who started it 40 years ago, with a mixture of football and education. 

Mr Watters said, “In essence it’s a group of Years 8-11 who go on an educational trip and play football against schools and clubs in Belgium, watch a game and also visit the memorials from World War I and II.  

He continued, “The key learning is amazing as each pupil gets their own special moment.  We took 45 boys and girls on a six day trip this year and played football against teams we have forged strong links with over the years. We also watched FC Brugge play in the Champions League.

“We actually had success on the field as it’s the first time we have beaten all of the Belgium teams; their standard is very high, even local sides have semi-professional players.

“All of us also attended the remembrance service at Menin Gate which was extremely emotional.  Six of the group presented a wreath for the Preston Pals as we have done for 40 years.”

Learning Support Assistant, Mrs Whalley (pictured below), had a special connection at Vimy Ridge as her great grandfather died there in 1916.  “It was moving for me. My great grandfather was James Milne and he was a coal miner in Scotland but moved to Canada in the 1913 for a better life.

“He enlisted in 1915 as part of the Commonwealth but was killed in action in 1916. The pupils were keen to find his name on the Vimy Ridge memorial and it was moving to see his name there.”

Year 10 pupil, James A-W, was on the trip for the second time.  “I went as a Year 8 but this was different. The football was amazing, I was captain and I had a Preston North End flag which I took out there. I also got to play alongside my brother Harrison which was a great experience.

“I found a grave of a Lancashire Fusilier James Harrison, which was both our names and memories like that stick with you. We both laid wreaths at the Menin Gate which was emotional. When they play the Last Post it really gets to you.”

Harrison A-W, Year 9, said: “When you look at the ages of the people who died, they were so young and it makes you think that they had such bravery at such a young age. It was an eye opener.

“I loved the football but I enjoyed visiting the World War sites more and learning more about them. It was emotional at the Menin Gate, laying the wreath as the Last Post is played.”

The trip was also dedicated to former pupil Daniel Appleby who passed away last year. His parents, Julie and Mick, have dedicated an annual ‘Friendship’ award in his memory. 

“Daniel was an ex-pupil who went on the Belgium trip in his time at Priory,” said Mr Watters.  “He was friendly and gave a lot to Priory. We brought back some poppy seeds from the trip for our gardener Mr Farron to plant in the Priory gardens, in his memory.”