NORTH YORKSHIRE schoolchildren turned their thoughts to the war in Iraq when they took part in a poignant trip to some of Europe's battlefields.

Upper school pupils from Ryedale School spent a week in Belgium, visiting battlefields as part of a tour organised by history and RE teacher Carolyn Read.

Mrs Read, who ran a similar trip for the first time last year, said: "I always say that it is not just a history lesson.

"Going to the battlefields means you find out a lot about yourself."

The 47 pupils, from Year 9 , Year 10 and Year 11 visited Ypres, only days before war broke out in Iraq.

Pupils and staff took part in a special ceremony under the Menin Gate, built after the First World War and inscribed with the names of almost 55,000 men from the British Empire who went missing in the area and have no known grave.

"Every night at 8pm the traffic stops and the Last Post is played on bugles by three local firemen," said Mrs Read.

"Last year I noticed that pupils were reading a poem by Laurence Binyon called For The Fallen, and I contacted the organising committee on the internet and arranged for two of our students to read the poem on our visit this year."

Jonathan Dowson, aged 16, from Harome, and 15-year-old Daniel Castle, from Newton-on-Rawcliffe, learned the poem by heart for the ceremony, laying a wreath from the school at the gate.

The poem, which begins "They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old", was recited in front of about 200 onlookers, said Mrs Read.

"There were quite a lot of tears there as people listened to the poem," she said.

"People came up to me and asked how I had got them to do it, but they wanted to. They volunteered.

"It was certainly an important part of the visit this year to reflect on other events in British history, at a time when more forces personnel are going to be committed to military action."

TRIBUTE: Year 11 pupils Daniel Castle, 15, right, and Jonathan Dowson, 16, from Ryedale School, with the wreath they laid at the Menin Gate, Ypres