The History and English departments have taken 41 Year 9 students on a trip to the First World War Battlefields in France on Sunday 9th October until Wednesday 12th October.
Below you will find accounts of the days activities from the students.
Sunday. It’s was an early start as we left UVHS at an eye shattering 6am for the long trip down to Ypres, but it paid off as we were able to cross the channel early, which let us go on a special stop to Lijssenthoek cemetery. It was here we learnt about the medical situation during the First World War and we also visited the resting place of William Gibson, one of our old boys. It was a very heart warming experience and we were interested to hear about ex pupils and learn their stories.
We then arrived in Ypres where, once we checked in to our hotel, we listened to a talk from serving British army personnel about the equipment used in World War I compared to their modern day equipment. It was certainly a striking difference.
Today we visited many places that showed us the causes of The Great War and the effects it had on the people and towns. This gave us a chance to experience what life was like at the time, it also gave us an insight on the terrors of war.
The first place we visited was a cemetery called New Irish Farm where we visited the grave of a soldier from our school called William J Chorley; we laid a cross in remembrance, this proved to us that no matter who joined up from the smallest towns such as Ulverston – they can end up surrounded by so many other nationalities.
The next graveyard we visited was Essex Farm Cemetery here we remembered Carl Henderson-Robinson another of Ulverston’s fallen soldiers. We also went to some chilling bunkers that were used as hospitals in The Great war. I found it hard to believe that this old abandoned place would have been thriving with rushing nurses and recovering soldiers, as it was so scarce of life.
Next was Yorkshire Trench which gave us a physical experience of trench warfare. I don’t think anyone could believe what the soldiers had to deal with in the cramped conditions. Also, this was only a representation of what it should have looked like; not the muddy conditions that they actually fought in.
Later we went to a German cemetery called Langemarck which totally contrasted from the wonderfully kept British ones. Langemarck had no gravestones; just plaques with 5 or more names on them. It was shrouded in oak trees which made it quite dark. The grass was fairly overgrown and the leaves had not been picked up. A small wall covered the perimeter, this was originally to enclose the area soon after 1918, so none of the local people, who suffered so badly under the invasion, would be reminded of the trauma of occupation.
Our final stop on the first half of the trip was Tyne Cot. This took everyone’s breath away; it was colossal. Later we found out that this was the largest British Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world. The gravestones seemed to go on for miles and miles. Also, there was a museum that was filled with contemporary artefacts.
After this we continued our second half which took us to Ypres. We visited the Cloth Hall and even a chocolate shop, which must have made a fortune from all of us spending €20 each on chocolate. After our shopping spree, we went to the In Flanders Fields Museum. Personally - this was one of the best museums I have visited as it had a practical approach, like letting us try out the duckboards of a trench and watch videos of the war.
Our final stop after we ate dinner was The Last Post at Menin Gate…. I’ll let Ruth and Grace take over and tell you about that.
On Monday afternoon, we went to the In Flanders Field museum. My experience of the museum was quite an emotional one. All the artefacts and memories of the fallen soldiers touched many people. We walked around the museum, watching videos and hearing people’s accounts of when the war hit Belgium. It was amazing to see how many people were affected by the devastation that took place over four years and shattered people’s lives.
The Menin Gate was a beautiful and peaceful place and I was very proud to be a part of the wreath laying ceremony. It was very emotional to see how many fallen soldiers were being commemorated at this famed event. I was also very overwhelmed to see that the community dedicated every night to the fallen soldiers who were not known to have a grave.
We were both extremely honoured to partake in the wreath ceremony at Menin Gate. After the three buglers played the Last Post, we meaningfully placed a commemorative wreath on behalf of UVHS at the top of the plinth. We then payed our respects and walked back down the steps before a one minute silence and a final emotional tune from the buglers. We will forever remember this experience and the millions of men that lost their lives to make today’s world a better place.
-Ruth and Grace
I choose to place my poppy at Vancouver Corner because the Canadians came half way across the world just to help in a war they didn’t need to be involved in. Maybe thanks to them we won the war, especially when the German forces gased the French forces, because the Canadians stepped into the breach to prevent the Germans from coming any closer and capturing another country, which could have cost us the war.
First of all, we visited Ploegsteert or ‘Plug Street’ Memorial and we found the name of old UVGS boy J P Burrow. After paying our respects we found out that the Last Post Ceremony used to be held at the Plug Street Memorial once a month. Next we went to Beaumont Hamel a memorial to the Newfoundland troops who fought on the Somme and a preserved battlefield. We found out here that a mis-communication caused nearly all of the Newfoundland troops to be killed with in about 150 metres. The furthest they reached was a tree now remembered as ‘Danger Tree’. It is amazing to see how many shell holes there actually were. After this we went to the Ulster Memorial to the Ulster men who fought on the Somme and had lunch there. They served a very nice hot chocolate! Then we went to the Lonsdale Cemetery in the middle of a large area of corn fields, we visited this particular cemetery to pay our respects to one of our old students Albert Metcalfe. We went on to see the ‘Lochnagar Crater’ this was a huge crater from when the British used tunnelling to try and explode a German stronghold, it was successful but didn’t quite destroy all of the German defences. The crater is much larger than you would expect. Lastly we went to Somme Museum. Today was very fun and interesting.
-Patrick and Sam
After lunch we visited the imposing Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme. There are over 70,000 names on this memorial and I found my great great uncle, Francis ‘Frank’ Sayer on the pier and face 1c. It felt great to find him here as it gave me a way to connect to him and World War 1. Overall, I’m just happy that I found a way to connect to him
After Thiepval, we made a special visit to Dernancourt Cemetery to find the final resting place of my great great great uncle Richard Ridding. It’s strange to think that I am related to someone who fought in the Great War, he gave his tomorrow for our today. I am so very proud and touched to have the honour to visit my great great great uncle’s grave. So many people aren’t as lucky as I am to be able to find a loved one and for me to be able to visit him is an absolute privilege.
The Musée Somme is a museum about the battle of the Somme and it was very interesting. There was a hallway that sounded like and looked like a trench. This was quite realistic and made me realise how the soldiers might have felt in the trenches.
At the Musée Somme whilst we were waiting for everyone to come out of the museum and gift shop the president of the Albert-Ulverston twinning committee and councillor of Albert, Patrick Cauchefer, appeared looking for me as he knows my nana and grandad. He knows them as he met them in 1990 when my nana was mayor at the time and also chairman of the twinning committee and my grandad was with her in Albert. Patrick and I had a small conversation and he gave me two Musée Somme coins. One for my nana and grandad and one for myself. After this small conversation we said goodbye.
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Mr Fay c/o Mrs A Herman (Headteacher's PA)
Ulverston Victoria High School
Springfield Road, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 0EB
Tel: 01229 483900