Just before half term a coach load of Year 10 History students headed to the battlefields on a trip organised by Mr Hester. A chance to bring the pages of their books to life on this unique trip. Two students have written about the experience. First up is Chris who talks us through day 1 and then Poppi who tells us about the second day of the trip.
Thursday 20th October:
On Thursday 20th October, we had a very early start (3:30 am) and made our way to Folkestone, Kent where we drove onto the Eurotunnel. Once on the Eurotunnel it was about 35 minutes, until we arrived in Calais, France. Next, we made our way to Belgium where we would spend the rest of Thursday.
Our first destination was the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (10,000) where we learnt the story of Nellie Spindler (the only woman buried there). Nellie was a Nurse that specialised in urgent chest high wounds, she worked at NO 44. Casualty clearing station (CCS). On August 21st, the CCS was bombarded at 11:00am, Nellie along with four other nurses were hit by a shell and concussed. Nellie died just 20 minutes later at age 26 in the arms of sister Minnie Wood (the sister in charge).
Our next destination was the Langemark German Military Cemetery (40,000). In the First World War Hitler had served with the Bavarian Reserve-Infantry-Regiment 16 and had been in action in the area of Langemark, details of the battle are written in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. After the war, during his campaign Hitler visited the cemetery, and during his table talk, he reminisces ‘In the old days it was just a mound of earth. And now-! Fields filled with blossom and waving corn.’
Next, we visited the Hooge Crater Museum, where we learned about the medical advancements that occurred throughout the war and the treatments soldiers would go through. We also learnt about the uniforms and equipment each soldier was equipped with, and the structure and strategies involved with trench warfare.
Lastly, we made our way to Ypres, where we had the opportunity to buy Belgian chocolates and have dinner, before we experienced the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony which takes place on every day at 8:00pm to commemorate the casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. A few of our students had the opportunity to lay a wreath as part of the ceremony.
Friday 21st October 2022
We had another packed day!
We set off at 08:00 and made our way to the Battlefields of the Somme and spent some time in The Sunken Lane.
Afterwards, we went to the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial (this is Canadian territory in France) and we got to walk through some of the trenches and see the shell holes that have been left.
Next, we visited Ovillers-la-Boisselle where we saw the Lochnagar Crater. The Lochnagar mine was the largest of the seventeen mines that exploded on 1st of July 1916. It was packed with 60,000lbs (27,216 kilograms or 27.216 tons) of ammonal in two charges 18 metres apart and 16 metres below the surface. The mine created a crater 100.5 metres across and 21 metres deep, including a lip 4.6 metres high. The explosion constituted what was then, the loudest man-made sound in history and debris from the explosion rose 4,000ft (1,219 metres) into the air. While here, we learnt about the use of gas during the war and looked at how gas masks had progressed.
Our last stop was to the Thiepval Memorial which bears the names of more than 72,000 men who lost their lives and is the largest Commonwealth WWI Memorial. The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme battlefields bears the names of 72,194 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces. These men died in the Somme battle sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. The date of 20 March was the day before the German Army launched a large-scale offensive, codenamed “Operation Michael”, against the British Army Front in the sector of the Somme. Over 90 percent of those commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial died in the 1916 Battles of the Somme between July and November 1916. The Thiepval memorial serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial. It was designed as an arch representing the alliance of Britain and France in the Somme 1916 offensive against the German defensive Front.
We then travelled back to Calais where we got on the Eurotunnel and made our way home.
A big thank you to Mr Hester and all the staff who made the trip possible. This really was a special experience for our students and one they will never forget.
The scrolling gallery below shows some photos from the trip.