Two of our Year 11 students, Ruby and Dean accompanied by History teacher Miss Van-Eker, had a fantastic opportunity to visit the World War One Battlefields in Belgium and France in October. Other schools from all over the North West of England accompanied us on our journey to find out about the Great War. The trip involved visits to Lijssenthoek Cemetery, the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, Menin Gate, Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park, Sunken Lane, the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Thiepval Memorial, Langemark Cemetery and Talbot House.
The first day of our tour was in Ypres and students were able to see the trench systems and see where the British and German front lines would have been, as well as understanding how the tactics used, applied to the landscape. In the evening, there was a unique opportunity to be part of the national commemorations of the First World War Centenary held at Menin Gate. We were able to proudly lay a wreath at the ceremony and reflect on how World War One lost so many lives.
Over the next couple of days, we visited a number of cemeteries, in which were we told stories about different soldiers who had fallen. Passchendaele Memorial Museum was a chance to look at the weapons used in World War One, including imitations of the smells of the gases used! We worked alongside the tour guides in Sunken Lane to recreate where the soldiers went ‘over the top’ on day one during the Battle of the Somme. Students took part in evening activities, which involved historical enquiries about where they had visited in the day and look in greater depth at the brutality of the Great War using artefacts. Ruby and Dean even got to lead an activity, they had to work with the other schools to form a balanced argument on whether the Battle of the Somme was really a disaster for the British.
The final day was spent visiting Langemark Cemetery. This was a German Cemetery in Belgium, which had an eerie atmosphere and was a total contrast to the cemeteries we had previously visited during the trip. To end on a positive, we got to visit Talbot House, which was where soldiers had a bit of downtime from the brutality of war.
We learnt about how soldiers would watch entertainment acts to keep the morale up. Lastly, we visited the Chapel at the top of the house, where we said a prayer together in remembrance of those who lost their lives.
Both Ruby and Dean thought the trip was very moving. They learnt so much about World War One and equally, took away sombre memories which will last a lifetime. We will be holding a Remembrance Oral History afternoon at Stanley High School on Friday 10th November, from 1.30-2.30pm, in which students will talk about their experience in more detail. All are welcome and there is no cost.