Ex Wipers Eagle - Remembrance in France and Belgium

5 November 2018

Between 27 and 31 October 2018, 36 Derbyshire Army Cadet Force cadets and accompanying adults took part in Exercise Wipers Eagle, a five-day battlefield tour created and led by adults of the county. The exercise took in The Somme battlefields of Northern France and the Ypres area of northern Belgium.

The aim of the exercise was to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One, with the intention of improving the cadets’ knowledge of the conflict and the part played by local men within The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment).

On The Somme, the group learnt about the attack of 5th. Foresters at Gommecourt, Sgt William Gregg VC, The Thiepval Memorial and those “shot at dawn’. In the Ypres area they visited Langemarck German Cemetery, Sanctuary Wood and experienced life in the trenches care of the Passchendaele Memorial Museum in Zonnebeke. The true destructive horror of the war was seen at Spanbroekmolen Crater and a commemorative service to the men of The Sherwood Foresters was held at Tyne Cot Cemetery before visiting the Ypres town ramparts where The Wipers Times, a satirical publication by soldiers of The Sherwood Foresters, was printed.

The group also learnt of the significance of The Menin Gate, which records the names of over 54,000 men killed on the Ypres salient whose bodies were never recovered. The visit concluded with the cadets and adults taking part in The Last Post ceremony at which the Commandant, Colonel Chris Doyle laid a wreath on behalf of the County.

A number of the cadets had carried out research in advance about relations who were involved in The Great War, some of whom are buried in the area or remembered at Tyne Cot and The Menin Gate. Cadet Sergeant Milligan Montgomery said: “The trip was a great learning experience as well as a memorable time finding my lost relative that fought in The Great War. I was able to locate Stephen Cummings of 8th. Yorkshire Regiment, who died on 21 September 1916 and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.”

Cadet Corporal Emily Smith was also touched by the significance of what she saw: “we learnt about how people were affected by war and what trench warfare was like. It was also an eye opener when we went to the Commonwealth cemeteries and saw all of the unnamed graves, knowing someone is in that grave but we will never know who it was apart from the fact that they fought for our country to keep us safe.”

Derbyshire Army Cadet Force is proud to be part of the Armistice commemorations of 2018. We are currently recruiting for cadets and adults in your area.