Year 9 WW1 Battlefields Experience - June 2013
One hundred and twenty one Year 9 students and twelve staff recently spent three memorable days in Belgium and France visiting some of the battlefield sites of the First World War. This linked closely with the areas of work they had covered earlier in the year during History lessons, but was also a trip which was hugely relevant to the wider issues of the social, moral, spiritual and cultural education of our students.
Day one was spent travelling to Belgium and visiting areas around the battle of Ypres, including British cemeteries and front line first aid posts, in addition to a reconstructed German trench system.
Visiting the German cemetery at Langemark allowed us to compare and contrast those cemeteries of the British and Commonwealth. We enjoyed an evening meal in Ypres before witnessing the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. Evening accommodation was in the Messines Peace Hostel which provided modern mezzanine rooms which always seem to go down well with the students, even if they do often find the task of putting pillows in a pillow case something of a challenge!
The next day we travelled into France to visit the area of the Somme which provided a very different perspective of the war compared to the fighting around Ypres. The battlefields of Serre, involving the ‘Pals’ battalions were particularly moving. We also saw the impressive ‘Lochnagar’ mine crater before finishing the day at Thiepval where more than 76,000 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. This was also where we gathered as a group to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, read some poetry and to lay a wreath of remembrance from our school. We returned to the hostel in time for a couple of hours of relaxation – football and basketball were both played well into the evening until bad light eventually stopped play! The final day started back in Belgium where we had the chance to visit the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres. This was also an opportunity for students to sample and purchase some famous Belgian chocolate! Our final stop in Belgium was to visit Tyne Cot – the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world. We then travelled back down to the Somme to visit Vimy Ridge and the amazing underground network at Wellington Quarry before returning home.Several students and staff had the opportunity to visit and remember the graves or memorials of lost relatives – always a moving and memorable experience.We were blessed with much better weather than was forecast for the three days, only got wet once and even saw the sun on several occasions. The guides provided by Anglia Tours were outstanding as ever. Their intimate knowledge and engaging manner was inspirational for all of us and I am sure that all students will have found the trip to be a moving and thought provoking experience. I must commend all of our students for their excellent behaviour throughout the three days and thank my colleagues for all their work in making the 2013 trip such a success.
If you wish to get a real feel of the trip, please log on to our Facebook page – listed as ‘Calthorpe Park School WW1 Battlefields Trip 2013’. This was updated ‘live’, includes both photos and videos, and provides an excellent record of the trip.
Mr P Edwards (WW1 Battlefields Experience Co-ordinator)