AT THE age of just 13, an Alva Academy piper was enlisted to lead tributes to the fallen at a war memorial in Belgium earlier this month.

Archie Baxter was one of around 40 students to benefit from life-changing experiences during an annual Remembrance school trip to mainland Europe.

Instilling values of respect, service, determination and creativity, each year the trip takes in famous WWI battlefields as well as memorials and graveyards of Belgium and France, often with a family connection for the pupils.

It helps contextualise learning in not just history but modern languages and even music. It is also an experience away from home, but more importantly it leaves a strong and lasting impression on the young people.

During the school trip, which was loaded with experiences and visits, Archie had the chance to play his pipes at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing.

He joined three regular buglers who play the Last Post at 8pm – a daily ceremony that has carried on uninterrupted since July 2, 1928.

Music teacher David Clifford said: "We were fortunate and very honoured this year to actually take part in that.

"As a school, we were able to lay a wreath as part of the procession and then Archie played a piece a music that he found and prepared himself, called Fingal's Weeping and it was lovely."

Archie was "quite nervous" according to the teacher with cameras, members of the public and different schools from various countries often present.

Mr Clifford added: "When he played, it was just incredible.

"They do have a resident piper from Ypres [the town where the memorial is] who happened to actually be there, he has played numerous times at ceremonies and he was so impressed."

It is not often pupils are allowed to play at such a prominent ceremony and the teacher said Archie was "honoured" to be given the opportunity.

And he could not have been more impressed.

The teacher said: "He played with such aplomb, he was so professional and as a musician I couldn't have been more proud of the musicality as well as to have the courage to do that, at something so meaningful and prestigious.

"And I know how much he got out of that as a person as well as a musician.

"It was like he was playing to the 50-odd thousand names written at the Menin Gate."

Earlier during the trip, Archie played Flowers of the Forrest at the bottom of the Somme at a war memorial, said to have been another "incredible" moment with a live piper, as opposed to the usual recorded version.