On Friday 1 July, 30 Year 9 girls went to visit the World War I Battlefields around Ypres in Belgium and to pay respect to all those who fell during that conflict. It was an early start, the coach left Abbot’s Hill at 4:45am making its way to Folkstone and the Eurotunnel, finally arriving around 11am.
Our first stop was the area known as ‘Hyde Park Corner’. This area included the grave of someone who died aged 15, one week from his 16th birthday, still 3 years away from being officially able to fight. The guides explained why the site was so close to fighting; we could see the farm where many of those buried had died defending, and why it was laid out as it was.
We then went on the Langermark, a German cemetery, in a space as large as Hyde Park Corner which had 800 British graves, that contained over 36,000 bodies. Where the British cemetery was reflective and celebratory the Germany version was dark and brooding. We then moved on to Bayernwald, series of secondary German trenches which allowed the girls to move around and get a feel for what life would have been like in 1916.
Our biggest stop of the day was at the Passchendale Museum that was a feast of information, models, displays, underground bunkers, trenches, weapons and artefacts. Mariella was used as a human model donning a World War One uniform with all the equipment soldiers had to carry including a rifle and a bayonet! Finally we moved on to Tyne Cot, the largest British military cemetery with nearly 13,000 individual graves and over 35,000 names of soldiers from the Ypres areas who’s bodies have never been identified. We had an act of remembrance and the girls got to reflect on everything they had learnt at school and on the trip.
We then went into Ypres itself, saw the Menin Gate and had the opportunity to purchase chocolate before the long journey home. Finally arriving at midnight, the girls were tired but appreciative of the chance to go and pay their respects on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and many said it was the most thought provoking trip they had been on.