During the summer term, 46 intrepid Year 9 and 10 students had a sweltering but amazing trip to the battlefields of the Ypres Salient and the Somme.
“So much was packed into the 3-day trip that it would be difficult to list it all, but from my perspective, I’d like to pick out some of the events that made it really special: We had several students who were able to connect with the lives of relatives who fought in the Great War.
On the first day, Helena was the first in her family to visit her 3rd Great Uncle’s grave at Duisans cemetery, and David was the first in his family to visit the memorial to his great great grandfather at ‘Plugstreet’.
On the second day, Evan visited the grave of his relative Private William Griffiths at Essex Farm, Jonah read from his great grandfather’s war diary when we were in Passchendaele, and Adam D joined all of the above to commemorate their relatives by laying wreaths at the Menin Gate at the Last Post Ceremony.
And finally, in the final minutes of the last visit on the last day, Alex managed to find his great-great uncle Bob, on the Thiepval memorial to the missing. Bob joined the army aged 15 or 16 and died in the Battle of The Somme.
We managed to visit the Hill 80 archaeological dig. This was hugely special. We were one of only 10 schools ever to get the chance to visit this. Within weeks, the dig will be over and houses will be built over this field in Belgium, where bunkers, trenches, and the bodies of (at least) 116 soldiers have been found in just a few weeks. We were shown a graphic demonstration of how ‘live’ the ordinance that they found is when one of the bomb disposal experts showed us how a white phosphorous grenade that has been in the ground for 100 years still sparks and fizzes with just a few scrapes from his trowel. And I don’t think any of us will forget the sight of being shown skeletons lined up next to each other, with boots, ammunition and the classic spiked helmet next to them. A moment I for one will never forget.
Here are some of the students’ highlights:
Spencer: Tyne Cot cemetery. It was so huge, it put everything into perspective.
Dom: The Hill 80 dig – I’d never seen anything like it, and seeing the trenches…
Josh N-E: So much…but the first cemetery on the first day. It wasn’t too big and was a really nice intro into the names and the headstones and what to look out for in cemeteries…
Simon: I just loved Passchendaele museum.
And a final note on our students. We had a lot packed in on this trip, and the 30-degree heat made being outside in the sun and getting onto the hot coach quite challenging at times; but they were positive, enthusiastic, well-behaved, and great company.
I know I speak for all of us – Becky, Mark, Chelsey, Emily – when I say that they were great. Well done, them! ”
Head of History, Years 7-11