WWI Battlefields Tour
On Sunday 9 February, some of our students headed to Belgium for a tour of the WWI Battlefields. Read about what they got up to on the trip below!
After a long journey to Belgium we started off the trip by getting to have a look and feel the equipment of a world war one soldier! We got to look at weapons such as actual replica guns, a real World War One helmet and actual medals from World War One soldiers. This was all before getting ready for an early night before a big day tomorrow.
We started off our first full day in Belgium by visiting the Memorial Museum in Passchendaele. This allowed us to have a look at a massive variety of World War One artefacts as well as get to go in a replica dug out and trench - so we got to really imagine the poor and scary conditions that they experienced during the war.
After our visit to the museum we went to see our first military war museum at Lijssenthoek Cemetery, which was at the site of a medical centre during the war. Unlike most of the war cemeteries for the First World War nearly all the graves here are identified and out of over 10,000 (making it the second biggest war cemetery in Belgium!) only 35 are unidentified. They had metal posts leading into the cemetery where each notch represented a soldier who died in the war.
The next place we visited was a German Cemetery called Langemark. This is the site of over 45,000 buried soldiers, many of which are still unidentified. Each headstone is the site of 6 soldiers and the cemetery houses a massive crypt for over 20,000 soldiers. This really showed the difference between who won the war due to the small nature of the site for such a large amount of soldiers.
Despite the bad weather we finished the day at the Tyne Cot British and Commonwealth Military Cemetery where we found the grave of a soldier who lived in Brighton before the war. He lived just a couple of roads away from one of our pupils!
To finish the day we headed down to the Menin Gate. Here we attended the daily act of remembrance where the last post was played and two students lay a wreath. This ceremony has taken place every night since the end of the First World War, with the exception of during World War Two. Each ceremony is to represent one unidentified soldier lost to the war.
On our second day we left Belgium and headed straight to France. We started our day at Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park. This park had a monument to honour the Newfoundlanders who fought in the war alongside the British. We also had the chance to see real preserved trenches from the First World War where we could see the front line.
Not too far from this we then visited the Sunken Lane and walked up to the edge of the Hawthorn Crater. This was one of the significant sights of the Battle of the Somme as this is where the British blew up a mine in German territory.
For the remainder of the day we visited the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, a cemetery mainly honouring New Zealand soldiers lost in the war, as well as the Theipval Memorial. At this memorial we again found the name of an unidentified soldier who had fought in the First World War. This soldier was only 20 years old but lived in Brighton with his family before the war began.
Later that evening two soldiers who are currently in the army outlined the differences to us in the equipment of a soldier today compared to in the 20th century and how they have become much more advanced.
The next day before starting our journey home we visited Le Hamel, a final monument honouring those lost in the war. This was at the site of The Battle for Le Hamel which was mainly orchestrated by the Australian and US armies.
The last site we had a chance to visit was The Armistice Clearing and Museum, this had a fantastic monument, a museum full of First World War artefacts and a replica railway carriage at the secret location where the armistice was agreed. It was a great way to finish our trip seeing where the war officially ended having started our trip at areas close to the front line.
Overall, we had a fantastic trip and it was a wonderful opportunity to see some of these sites of the First World War.