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Visit to Battlefields of First World War

In October, 36 students from Y9 made the voyage across the channel for a three day trip to visit the battlefields of First World War in Belgium and Northern France.

The visit coincided with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and was designed to bring the history, which the students had learnt in the classroom, to life in a real and tangible way.

One of the first stops was the Menin Gate, where we were able to experience the Last Post ceremony. The ceremony has taken place here at 8pm every night since 1928 and it commemorates the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died defending Ypres, but have no known grave. The names of these men adorn the walls of the Menin Gate. By the time the ceremony stops being performed it will have happened 89,879 times, once for every soldier whose name is on the walls. During the ceremony we joined the large crowd that congregates each evening and the students stood in silent contemplation while the busy road through the Menin Gate was closed and the volunteers from the Ypres Fire Brigade played ‘The Last Post’ on their shiny silver bugles.

We got the chance to wade through original mud-filled trenches, which had been preserved since the First World War, and also to visit museums; such as the Passchendaele museum, where students were given a real feel for what it must have been like to live through the horror of the First World War, through powerful displays and interactive exhibits.

Perhaps the visit that affected the students most was the visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery. The biggest British and Commonwealth war graves cemetery in the world. Tyne Cot really brings home the enormity of the war, with rows and rows of pearl white gravestones stretching into the distance; many simply bearing the words ‘Known unto God’ because the body buried beneath could not be recognised. The students seemed deeply affected by the scale of sacrifice which Tyne Cot made clear. We laid a wreath of poppies at the centre of the cemetery, bearing a message which the students composed themselves.

This, and many more visits, really brought the First World War to life. It is a trip that I am sure the students will never forget. But don’t take my word for it, take theirs:

‘The battlefields trip to Belgium was very interesting and memorable. The place that had the biggest impact on me was the Menin Gate …. This had the biggest impact on me because of the amount of names written on the wall … instead of numbers there are names and it showed they were real people and that really hit me hard’ – (Phoebe White 9Ag)

‘The place that had the biggest effect on me was going to Tyne Cot Cemetery as it made me realise the massive amount of loss of life during World War One. I was really shocked when I saw the amount of graves in the cemetery …. The experience will stay with me forever’ – (Lewis Duffin 9Gn)

Their behaviour was excellent whilst visiting these very poignant and significant sites and they were a credit to the school and their families. Furthermore, they have ensured that the sacrifice made by a generation of Briton’s during the First World War will live on in their memory, as the message the students wrote on the wreath they laid at Tyne Cot said … ‘Your efforts were not in vain, we will remember – Hinde House, Sheffield’.

(Mr Jones)

Article Published : 31/10/2014