A Day to Remember
Approx. 40 year 8 and 9 students made an early start last Friday 13 May and headed off by coach, via the euro tunnel to Belgium for a WW1 Battlefields trip. Headed up by Mr Barnden student’s first stop in Belgium was The Memorial Museum Passchendaele which presents the historic story of the First World War with a particular emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele. This battle in 1917 is known as one of the most horrific battles from the First World War, with more than half-a-million casualties for a territorial gain of merely eight kilometres.
Students were able to experience both the dugouts and trenches at the museum, in addition to viewing a range of historical objects, authentic letters, posters and other documents, uniforms of the various armies and video clips.
Students got an insight into how life must have been on and around the battlefields before enjoying the grounds of the museum with a lake and themed gardens dedicated to the various nations that fought in the Battle of Passchendaele.
Then less than three kilometres away the group moved on to Tyne Cot, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery overlooks the surrounding countryside with the Cross of Sacrifice in the centre built on top of a German pill box. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces, plus a further 1,176 New Zealanders. Three British Army Victoria Cross recipients are also commemorated there.
On visiting the site in May 1922 King George V commented,
“I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”
Students were given a map of the cemetery and a reference number to a grave which shared their family name. Students took their time to navigate the rows and rows of graves to find their namesakes and lay a cross of remembrance.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Taken from Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen"
The group then made a short stop at a German cemetery to compare the difference between the spacious rows of Tyne Cote and the mass graves preferred by the Germans, before visiting a picturesque ravine created by a mine during the war now a place of tranquillity and calm.
Then it was off to the town of Ypres for some leisure time and shopping. After the war, most of the town's important buildings were reconstructed meticulously, including Gothic-style St. Martin's Cathedral and its soaring spire. Students enjoyed sampling the local ice-cream and waffles before buying gifts to take home of WW1 souvenirs and of course Belgium’s famous chocolates.
Then back on the coach heading for the tunnel and the train ride home.
Our students were amazing - especially in the cemeteries. They really engaged with the environment and took a lot from the experience. The students were having some brilliant conversations about where we were and why we were there – showing real maturity and sincerity. Trip lead Mr Barnden.