On Friday 3 March 40 Year 9 pupils and four teachers found themselves awake and at school at the unusual hour of 3:45 am. Equipped with overnight bags and a good sense of adventure, they were ready for their enlightening trip to the First World War battlefields of Ypres and the Somme. After a long, but easy, coach ride, the first stop was the Passchendale museum, with its First World War collection and mock trenches, which gave the students a great introduction to both the war and the region. Following that, we visited the smaller Essex Farm cemetery, before making our way to the German cemetery of Langemark by way of comparison, and the largest British cemetery Tyne Cot, all the while being expertly informed by our guide. In the evening, the boys attended the daily Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, and three boys – William Mackean, James Bowie, and James Le Fleming – laid a wreath on behalf of the school.
Day Two saw us drive from Belgium to the Somme region in France. We visited the Newfoundland memorial at Beaumont-Hamel, learning of their courageous – and disastrous – advance on 1 July 1916. The boys were then stunned by the sight of the Lochnagar Crater. We made our way to the iconic Thiepval Memorial, learning about the sad fate of a particular regiment, but also the successes after 1 July. Our final stop was the Canadian site at Vimy Ridge. A tour above ground, as well as through the tunnels, provided the students with even greater insight into the lives of the soldiers. Another easy bus ride and we were back at school, bodies tired, but brains full of sights and information to process and reflect upon.
Thank you to all theYear 9 boys that came on the trip, as well as their parents for their support, including getting them to, and collecting them from, school. Thank you to Mr Johnson, Mr Oldfield, and Mr Gilbertson for accompanying us on the trip.
Mr Taylor, History teacher