Recently Year 9 embarked with Mrs Nicholas and Mrs Harker on our annual trip to Belgium and Northern France to visit Battlefield sites, memorials, cemeteries and museums. Our first visit was to Tyne Cot cemetery which contains the graves and memorial wall of fallen soldiers of Britain and the British Empire. This was a very moving place to start and the sun was bright on the flowers, lawns and white marble headstones. We remembered the soldiers at the Cross of Remembrance and came away with memories of a calm, dignified and peaceful site.
In stark contrast was our next visit to Langemeark and the mass graves of more than 40,000 German soldiers, surrounded by imposing oak trees, the national tree of Germany and a symbol of mourning. This connected to our GCSE topic spurring a discussion about the nature of defeat, the ‘slaughter of the innocents’ and the causes of WW2.
We enjoyed ourselves at Sanctuary Wood, which is a system of preserved trenches. There was plenty of fun running through the tunnels, but also time to reflect on the terrible conditions that were faced by the young men fighting on the front line. Our day ended in Ypres where we went to the interesting Passchendaele Memorial Museum and the even more interesting Chocolate Shop! We had dinner followed by the very moving and emotional Menin Gate Ceremony where members of the local fire brigade play the Last Post every night of the year to remember and give thanks to the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for Belgium’s freedom.
“The trip was a fabulous experience and I learnt a lot about the war. My favourite part was when we visited the trenches and ran around inside! We had a great time and really understood more about the events of the war and how people contributed to it.”
Day Two saw a visit to the ‘Circuit of Remembrance’ on the Somme. We marveled at the size of Lochnagar Crater and learnt that the explosion was allegedly heard in London. We saw the Thiepval memorial to the missing and walked through the preserved trenches of the Newfoundland Memorial park. We had a picnic lunch in Albert, gathered around the statue of an Indian soldier, placed there to remember and give thanks to the 4,700 Indian soldiers and labourers who lost their lives fighting for the Empire in World War One.
“An amazing experience which made us all view the war from the perspective of a soldier rather than just an event in history”
I would like to thank the girls for their good behaviour and good humour. They hit the right balance between learning, remembering and having fun and they were a pleasure to travel with – as always.