14 November 2016

Our trip to the battlefields got off to a flying start with a prompt departure from school at twelve thirty in the morning from the car park! This year we had 59 students and 6 staff for our visit to the First World War Battlefields of Northern France and Belgium. We met our guide for the tour, John, at the Death Cells in Poperinge. 

The visit to Essex Farm introduced our pupils to one of the youngest casualties of the First World War, Rifleman Valentine Joe Strudwick, who was 15 when he was killed. The famous poem, In Flanders Fields, was written here by the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel, John McRae.

The second day was spent examining the battlefields of the Somme area following the events of 1st July 1916. A visit to the crater at Lochnagar allowed the pupils to familiarise themselves with the area, followed by the Thiepval Memorial. At the small cemetery near Beaumont Hamel, a memorable ceremony served to pay our respects to those young men who were cut down on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. A group of pupils including Ciaran Dulley, Rachel Bryce, Patrick Hurley, Lauryn Flanagan, Callum Glendinning and James Murray completed an emotional day by laying a wreath in memory of the Lancashire Fusiliers. All pupils were asked to find the graves of different soldiers prior to the visit who had been killed in the war, and were able to pay their respects.

After a long coach drive back from the Somme region of France the students settled back into the hotel for a battlefields quiz, which tested both their historical and general knowledge.

We spent the third day in the Ypres region.  The first visit of the day was to the German cemetery at Langemark which emphasised the huge loss for the German troops. This cemetery is famous for the statues of four German soldiers, who are watching over the resting place of their comrades.

Ypres presented our pupils with a wealth of information and experiences about the war of attrition that saw three major battles here during the course of the war.

Tyne Cot is the largest CWGC cemetery on the Western Front with 11.953 burials in total. The Tyne Cot memorial forms the far wall of the cemetery and commemorates those with no known grave from August 1917 onwards; there are 34,780 names recorded. Seeing the cemetery at Tyne Cot is a testament to the horrific battles and suffering that during WW1 and is a deeply moving experience.

Two of our pupils, Eleanor Sture and Max Cross, took part in a moving and memorable ceremony at the Menin Gate, laying a wreath on behalf of Archbishop Temple School.

The visit to Bellewaerde Park was much appreciated by all, easing the tension of the visit so far and providing some light relief.

This was a marvellous trip, thoroughly enjoyed by all. Many lessons were learned and experiences shared. The pupils have delivered assemblies on the theme of remembrance to the rest of the school and local primary schools, to pass on the significance of this message.

Miss S Porter

History Teacher