Ypres & The Somme visit

The years 2014-2018 mark the centenary of the Great War.  In March 2015 fourty three students and five staff visited Ypres and The Somme.

  The first stop was In Flanders Fields museum to gain a background into the conflict.  It is housed in The Cloth Hall, Ypres, totally devastated in the fighting for Ypres Salient. 

  The British cemetery at Tyre Cot is the largest in the world.  It contains the graves and names of the men killed during the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele.  The German cemetery at Langemark is very different in atmosphere: dark and sombre with headstones of black marble flat on the ground.

  Our hotel in Langemark gave everyone a chance to unwind, shower, eat and play Ten Pin Bowling to a variety of standards!

  Day two began with a two-hour drive to The Somme.  First stop was Beaumont Hamel and the memorial to the Newfoundland Regiment from Canada.  These men suffered 86% casualties and their officers 100% on the first day of the battle, July 1st 1916.  The area is staffed by young Canadians who have to pass stiff selection process to represent their country.  They regard it as a very high honour.

  We moved on to The Thiepval memorial.  It lists the names of over 72,000 men who have no known grave.  Many of the students were looking for names of relatives they had researched prior to the visit.  The lead teacher found his own name – no relative but a young man of 21 killed on the first day.  Here we laid our wreath, not just from our party but for all at The Vale.

  Last stop was Lochragar crater, one of the 17 mines blown at 7.28am, two minutes before the troops went over the top!

In the evening we journeyed back into Ypres to join hundreds of people for the Menin Gate ceremony that takes place every evening.  The Last Post was played, details were recounted of a young man who enlisted aged 15 – the same age as many of our students – and died on that day, March 15th aged 17.  Wreaths were laid followed by a period of silence.  The group found the whole experience very moving.

  Our final day began with some shopping in Ypres for souvenirs and Belgium chocolates!  Our last stop was Sanctuary Wood and a preserved section of trenches – wet, muddy and cold.  The students could walk through the trenches and get some idea of what trench life was like.

  The students had many varied experiences and are sure to have taken away a real understanding of what the men who fought in World War I, The Great War, really endured.