It may be the height of the summer holidays, but a few Ballymena students have been enjoying a rather unusual history lesson.
Cadets from the 1st (Northern Ireland) Battalion Corps of Drums, based in Ballymena, recently visited the Somme Nursing Home in East Belfast to entertain residents with a Beating The Retreat performance and to find out about the landmark World War One battle which gave the home its name.
Formally marking the anniversary of Somme Day, the teenagers learned more about the offensive in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
In particular they learned of the heavy losses suffered by the 36th (Ulster) Division on July 1. 1916, the first day of the battle.
On that single day, 1,856 from the Division were killed; 213 were missing in action and 165 were taken prisoner.
During the visit by the cadets, Colonel Maurice Warnock, Commandant 2nd (NI) Battalion Army Cadet Force, presented a cheque for £3,000 to the Somme Nursing Home – money which had been raised by all of the cadet detachments within the Battalion through various fund-raising activities.
Colonel Warnock commended the cadets for their fund-raising efforts and also praised Adam and members of the band on their musical performance and also on their eagerness to explore the past.
He said: “The schoolbooks may have been abandoned during the summer holidays, but the appetite for learning clearly isn’t diminished.
“Our Cadets welcomed the opportunity to find out more about this bleak period of our history and were keenly aware that many of the young men who fought at the Battle of the Somme were of similar age and background to themselves.
“As we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Somme Nursing Home residents also shared some stories of their personal war-time experiences with the teenagers.
“While much of Cadet life is about having fun together in sporting and outdoor pursuits challenges, we are also committed to helping Cadets grow and mature by deepening their understanding of history.
“Events such as this support that ambition and next year many of our Cadets will also be involved in commemorations and battlefield tours marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.”