At 5:30am on 08 July, 51 bleary-eyed Year 8’s and 5 caffeine-deprived members of staff began the 2023 Battlefields Trip. Travelling to Dover and then taking the ferry crossing to Calais, we made the short journey to our hostel in Ypres, Belgium to prepare for our first day. Guided around the city by our fantastic guide John, students were able to explore the Menin Gate and its surroundings. Students were then able to explore the differences between British and German trenches and weapons at the Hooge Crater Museum, before having the opportunity to travel to Hill 60 to learn about mining and craters during the First World War.
Our next visit to Vancouver Corner was longer than expected, as we eagerly waited and saw a recreation of a Mark 1 tank! During the time, students had the opportunity to explore and get hands on with the evolution of the gas mask. Students then had the pleasure of visiting Tyne Cot, to learn more about the role of the Commonwealth Graves Commission. There was a break from the sightseeing as students were able to visit a Belgian chocolate shop (and spend most of their money!), before we ended the day at a moving Last Post Ceremony back at the Menin Gate. Three of our fabulous students – Jenna, Thomas and Aasha – laid a wreath on behalf of the school as a mark of respect.
The second day saw us cross back over to France to explore the area famous for the Battle of the Somme in 1916. This included a stop at Sunken Lane, so students could gain some sense of what it was like to ‘go over the top’ as well as a visit to Beaumont-Hamel, where students were able to walkthrough what remained of genuine trenches. We then visited where the Battle of the Somme truly began; Lochnager Crater, where the British Army detonated 19 mines placed beneath the German front line at 7:28am on the 1st July 1916. Our final stop was to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. This memorial contains the names of more than 72,000 officers who took died in the battle and have no known grave. This included the name of one of our own students’ ancestors, making it even more poignant for the group.
Students were exemplary throughout the trip, and were a real credit to our school. They demonstrated our school value of respect at every site they visited, and we hope that they were able to take something precious away from their visit.