The journey was very pleasant in our nice, comfortable, luxury double decker coach, something which hopefully made some students contrast with the experience of a WW1 soldier, although the train journey in the tunnel “under the sea” failed to produce the anticipated sightings of Dory, Nemo and mermaids etc.
Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived in Calais, the weather was not hopeful, dark skies and lots of water already in the fields. This awful wet weather, whilst slightly uncomfortable for us, brought home the realities of what WW1 soldiers went through in the trenches. We had the luxury of getting on a nice warm coach every so often and ultimately going home at the end of the day whereas many men obviously never got that chance. Hopefully, despite the inconvenience the weather brought, this may have had a positive effect on some students making them more aware of the hardships soldiers suffered.
Mrs Wager gave us some very informative guiding throughout the day which greatly enhanced the experience for many students. Our first stop was at the Passchendaele Museum with its amazing array of WW1 artefacts and brilliantly reconstructed section of trenches. We then moved on to Tyne Cot the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery. Here, for a brief moment, the rain stopped and a little bit of blue sky appeared. Students looked around the cemetery at their own pace and we gathered together for a reading of the Laurence Binyon poem “For the Fallen” read by Grace Laws. Then two students, Hannah Humm and Saskia Bowler, laid a wreath on behalf of the school. Unfortunately it was not long before the rain came again. We moved onto Langemark the German WW1 cemetery and also had a quick optional stop at Essex Farm Cemetery where the “In Flanders Field” poem was written by John McCrae and where there is the grave of the youngest soldier to die in WW1 - Valentine Strudwick. We then moved on to the last part of the original sections of trench at Sanctuary Wood where students could run through the tunnels and experience the trenches again in a muddy environment. However, the rain really came down, even hailing at one point, so many went in to get warm by the fire in the café before changing and getting on the coach. Our last stop was in the town of Ypres where we saw the Menin gate before experiencing the array of goodies on sale in the chocolate shops. After a very wet and cold day the students returned home hopefully having reflected on how fortunate they are due to others’ sacrifices.
Miss F Duncan