Between Friday 6th and Saturday 7th October, over 40 Year 8-12 students visited Northern France and Ypres as part of a poignant tour of the World War One battlefields. During the course of our visit students were able to reflect on the causes, course and consequences of the conflict, particularly relevant currently as the country commemorates the centenary anniversary of the Great War.

After our coach ride to Dover and our voyage on Eurotunnel, we first visited the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which is dedicated to 72,246 missing British and South African servicemen who died in the Battles of the Somme, 1915-8, with no known grave. Students were also able to gain an appreciation of the diverse range of soldiers who fought for and on behalf of Britain in the war against Imperial Germany, when they visited the Ulster Tower, Northern Ireland’s national war memorial. After a spot of lunch in the sunshine, students were able to experience life in a trench first-hand at The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, a memorial site to Canadian soldiers and their unsuccessful attack on 1st July 1916 during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Students were then fortunate enough to visit the Menin Gate, Ypres, a memorial dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is located at one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front lines in the surrounding countryside. On arrival, students were able to witness the Last Post ceremony, to pay their respects for all the fallen soldiers during the conflict.

On our second day, we were able to enjoy a 4 hour guided tour from a local historical expert, where we visited the world famous Ypres Cathedral, the St George’s Memorial Church, build to commemorate over 500,000 British and Commonwealth troops, the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war, and the Langemark Cemetery, one of the handful of German memorials in the region. Despite the overcast weather, students were then able to enjoy some local Flemish cuisine in the medieval mark square, along with a visit to a local Belgian chocolate shop. Before our departure back to Calais, students then visited the In Flanders Field museum in the Lakenhalle on the market square.

Students were impeccably behaved throughout, receiving positive feedback regarding their conduct from our guides and other visitors. A sincere thanks must also be passed onto Mrs Stotesburgy, Mrs Jeffrey and Mr Bounty.

Mr B Russell