History Trip to Ypres
On Friday 9th November, 2018, the History Department took a group of Year 8 and Year 9 students to Ypres Salient as part of our ongoing celebrations and study of First World War. We were fortunate to be visiting the battlefields just two days before the 100th anniversary of the end of the war (11th November). Theresa May and the French President, Emmanuel Macron, were also visiting the same sites on the same day as us, but we didn’t see them!
The Year Eight students are completing a project on the war, therefore the trip enabled each student to see the actual battlefields and the vastness of the cemeteries. We visited a number of Commonwealth cemeteries including Essex Farm, Tyne Cot and Menin Gate. We also visited Langemarck German Cemetery, in order for the students to see the sacrifices made by both sides of the conflict. We have been running this trip for the past seven years, the current Year 13 students were the first group we took. The Art Department has made clay leaves with each Year Seven 7 and during open evenings and transition events so we now have a large number of individual leaves to highlight the huge numbers of men who died on all sides. The ‘leaf’ was chosen as it represents new growth and a new start. It was inspired by the ground at Langemarck being covered in leaves too.
At Tyne Cot, which is the biggest allied cemetery in the world, each individual student had researched and gathered information on one soldier who had given his life for our future. Each student laid a poppy cross on the grave of the soldier he or she had selected and wrote a short reflection or prayer to commemorate the sacrifice. Some students had researched a soldier who had the same family name as they had, or had fought in a specific regiment with which they had family links. This gave the activity more poignancy for the students and many were so overcome with the size of the cemetery and the images we had seen in the museum at Tyne Cot, that they became emotional. All students should be both congratulated and proud of themselves for the respect they showed at each of the sites we visited.
One of the most popular parts of the day was the visit to Sanctuary Wood (Hill 62), where the students had the opportunity to walk in actual trenches used during the war. This helped them empathise with the soldiers as they were still very muddy and part of the system includes a long, dark tunnel. The site is littered with shell holes and the trees still show the damage caused by the bombardment during the fighting.
The trip ended with a visit to Ypres Town and Menin Gate. At the latter, we held a short commemoration service led by the school youth chaplain, Miss Bassett. She was assisted by Harrison Holmes, Evie McGill and Liam Gambrell who read a poem of remembrance. Thomas Cubbon laid a wreath here on behalf of the school. Students were then able to go into the town to buy gifts – mostly chocolate!
Miss M. King (Subject Leader of History. St Simon Stock Catholic School).