On 9 and 16 November 2018, the history department’s annual Battlefields trips took place. These involved 10 staff and nearly 120 Year 9 students across the two days. It’s always a painfully early start, leaving school at 4am, but this does mean we can pack in as much as possible.
Many of us took the opportunity to have a hot drink at the Folkestone Services before we boarded the train. By 10am (local time) we were in Belgium where the itinerary included a visit to the Passchendaele Memorial Museum at Zonnebeke which has a reconstructed trench system and lots of great exhibits including some of the massive shell casing from the famous ‘Big Bertha’ gun. A popular exhibit with students (or maybe that should be unpopular) was the boxes containing the smells of the various poison gases that were used.
At Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery, on both days, students laid a wreath, read a poem and had a minute reflecting on the fallen; a sober moment when you are standing amidst more than 11,500 graves. It is always pleasing when we do this, that our students want to represent the school by laying the wreath, reading the verses or writing the dedication on the card and that the silence is absolutely observed. The contrast between this cemetery and the experience of then visiting the German Cemetery at Langemark is noticeable.
At Hill 62 it was time to get into a real trench, feel the mud on their wellie boots and go through the scary tunnel (several times!).
Towards the end of the day we went into the town of Ypres. On the second trip, following the 100 year commemorations on Sunday, there were an incredible number of wreaths at the Menin Gate. Many were from regiments or Heads of State in memory of soldiers, but one we noticed was in memory of the 8 million horses which also died. Then we headed to one of the chocolate shops where staff did overhear that many students had the intention to buy some for family (though we don’t know if these treats actually made it all the way home!). Finally, a short period of free time in groups to visit a few other shops in the main street or a café to try the local chips – which seemed to go down well.
On both days the students were well behaved and staff were able to enjoy their company and the day.
Ms N Hill
Subject Leader - History