News and Events
Ypres Battlefield Trip
World War One Battlefield Trip to Belgium
On Monday 27th February, 40 students from year 8 had the opportunity to go to Belgium. They were accompanied by Humanities Teachers: Mr Lowe, Ms Vivier, Ms Highmore and Miss Peach. They were there to visit the many tourist sites, cemeteries and museums, all to do with WWI, not forgetting of course the amazing chocolate shops!
Following report written by students, Elizabeth and Robert
It was an early start for everybody on Monday morning, as we had to be at school by 5.30am! It was surprisingly quiet on the coach until everybody had woken up, then it was buzzing. When we arrived in Belgium at 1.30pm (local time), we had about two hours of looking around the shops for gifts for family and friends. The majority of the students went to buy Belgian chocolate and souvenirs. There was one chocolate shop that did a special deal for us, so most of us went there. Some of the main tourist sites were Menin Gate and St Georges Church. Ypres is a medieval town that was built during the Belgium invasion, the Germans bombed it and it was destroyed, however it was later rebuilt in the 1940’s.
The first stop for the educational part of the trip was Tyne Cot British Cemetery, which was created for the allied forces (France, England and the British Empire). In this cemetery, there are over 39,000 graves. It is a massive cemetery, everywhere we looked there were graves or names of all the people who died. There were rows and rows of graves. When you think of the 37 or 39 thousand people that died, it just puts it into perspective what it was like just to survive the first day of this battle (The Somme). You could never imagine what the conditions were like during the First and Second World Wars.
Once we were finished at Tyne Cot Cemetery, we travelled to the hotel where we were staying, we unpacked and had dinner, the rest of the time was for our own leisure. There was a pool table, table tennis or you could just sit and watch TV, some decided to hang out in their rooms for the evening. When it was time for bed, everybody was talking for quite a while after we were supposed to be asleep!
Tuesday was quite an action packed day for us. The first stop of the day was to Lochnagar crater. It is a massive crater and is what remains of a massive explosion that was heard as far as London - pretty impressive. The Lochnagar crater was where the British dug a tunnel underneath the German trench, and planted 1000 tons of explosives underneath and when it was detonated it left a huge crater, it is one of the things the Allies have kept from the war as a memorial.
Next stop was the Thiepval Memorial and Visitors Centre. Although it was raining it didn’t dampen our spirits. At the Memorial, Elizabeth, managed to find one of her relatives, her great-great grandfather who was a Private soldier. It was unbelievable just how many names were on the memorial, because they couldn’t be identified. It was very touching and emotional for some.
We then set off and went to Newfoundland Memorial Park for a feel of what the trenches felt like during WWI. Whilst we were there we saw the danger tree. The Danger Tree had been part of a clump of trees located about halfway into No Man's Land and had originally been used as a landmark by a Newfoundland Regiment trench raiding party in the days before the Battle of the Somme. At the highest point there is a caribou (reindeer) to remember all the Canadians who died during the Great War and is the emblem of the Newfoundland Regiment.
After lunch, we travelled to Wellington Quarry, an underground museum. This is a quarry which miners used to create a new network of tunnels underground. This quarry was where the New Zealand miners came into France and helped expand the network of tunnels. The quarry was used during the battle of Arras.
The Tommies (soldiers) spent eight days in the quarry waiting for the right time to attack the Germans as a side attack, so the French could hopefully win their battle against the Germans a lot easier. The British then blew up the exits to the tunnel to make a surprise attack on the Germans. In the tunnel there was accommodation, electricity and water and even a hospital for the wounded. We had a tour of the quarry, it was cold underground and we all looked ridiculous with our WWI hats and audio guides on!
Finally we travelled back to the hotel for dinner, which was definitely better than the previous night. We set back off out again to go and listen to ‘The Last Post Ceremony’ which is held at 8.00pm every evening at the Menin Gate. They lay wreaths, and play the bugle. We looked around and everywhere you looked there were names of people who had passed away. We had a final look at the chocolate shop we visited the afternoon before. Once we got back to the hotel, we had to go to our rooms and settle down, no matter how much sugar we had had. It was definitely quieter than the previous night.
Wednesday morning was a late breakfast since we had to pack. When we left the hotel our first stop was Passchendaele Memorial Museum where there were life-like trenches. It was interesting to see how heavy some particular weapons were. We also saw a massive, very early version of the tank, around the tank there were lots of empty shell canisters that may have had explosives in. We also saw a lot of handguns, some very early machine guns and rifles. In the dugouts, there were many rooms. In the trenches, we could see both an adaptation of a German trench, and a British trench too, you could tell which one was German as the duckboards were very close to the ground and were very wide, and in the British trench, the duckboards were easily slotted together and that made drainage better. There were some little passageways downstairs, we didn’t get scared, but Ms Highmore freaked out when Vincent scared her downstairs, this then scared the rest of her group. It was hilarious!! When we were walking through the life-like trenches you could imagine what the conditions were like. There were sandbags, mud and wooden platforms but you still couldn’t have imagined what it was like to live in the trenches during the war. The mud was sometimes so deep that people drowned!
Our final historical place for the Belgium trip was Langemark German Cemetery. It was important we went here as we needed to respect everyone who died not only the allies. What really made that trip heart-warming was that someone had lain a photo of the family whose grave it was. It was very emotional.
On the journey back everybody was tired but still much alive and talking. Most of us fell asleep for a little bit but not for too long, as there was too much going on!
“The highlight of the trip for me was looking at the trenches on the last day” – Natalie Matthews