Y9 Battlefields Trip
Our Y9 students set off for the History and English First World War Battlefields Trip on Sunday 14th October. They will return on Wednesday 17th October.
Today we visited Wellington Quarry and Vimy Ridge. Although we only had half a day it was still packed with lots of moving memories, some of lost souls and others of man-made destruction.
As we arrived at the Wellington Quarry you could almost wade through the atmosphere, there was so much respect and such a sense of loss in the air. When we walked in to the centre there was a model of the dugouts with miniature figures of soldiers working away to help in the war effort. We were given an audio guide and then to add to the mood of warfare we were given WW1 Tommy helmets. As a group we waited to get in to a lift and go down into an authentic mine shaft.
When we reached the bottom of the shaft, the overall shock of the poor conditions the soldiers had to withstand was horrendous. Luckily, for us the floors had been boarded up and it was not damp anymore, although you could still picture the tired men and the steady thud of the picks.
Deeper and deeper in to the quarry we found out more and more about the surprise attack of the German front. We saw cave drawings of the deceased, from sketches of women to carvings of crosses in the limestone walls. Another thing that we learnt is what went wrong with the plan and how the soldiers communicated with their families during the 7 days they were stowed underground.
After visiting the quarry we followed on to visit Vimy Ridge and the Canadian memorial, the visitors’ centre was similar to the one at the quarry, remembrance poppies and little statues of the memorial. There was also smaller version of part of the memorial.
We were led outside in groups-then proceeding into the replicated trenches. If you looked out about 10 metres, you could see the German trenches opposite the Canadian trenches. It just shook me up a bit to see that they were so close together they could probably talk to each other if they wanted to. As you looked around the no-man’s land was covered with indents of the war’s history with shell holes everywhere.
Once we left the trenches we had to get back to the coach, I saw the Canadian memorial through the trees. It made me speechless, the sheer glory and size of the posts gleaming in the sunlight. As I advanced up the steps toward the monument, I finally appreciated the impact of the war on everyone. The thing that moved me most was the amount of names on the monument. Although I also realise why they chose that spot was because of the amazing view looking over France, it was breath taking.
- Jenny 8.3
Today we went to Vimy Ridge, which is where the Canadians and the Germans fought in 1917.
When we went to Vimy Ridge, it taught me that we do not realise what our actions will cause before it is too late.
When I saw all the craters left by, the shells it made me realise that all our actions have consequences and they might change other people's lives.
In addition, when we went to the memorial, to see all names on it was sad because that was only one of the many battles, which were caused by World War 1.
- Georgina 8.3
Today, Tuesday 16th October, we visited the Passchendaele museum and spent a couple hours exploring the many features and floors of the site. The museum covered many aspects of the war including chemical weapons, uniforms, trenches, dugouts and much more. There was lots of information available in a variety of languages, which we spent lots of time reading. Our favourite parts were the restored trenches, which we enjoyed looking around, and exploring. We also enjoyed the dugouts, which were, like the trenches, representations of trench warfare during WW1. We thought the museum was very informative and enjoyed learning about lots of different areas of The Great War.
- Caitlin 9.1 and Rebecca 9.7
Langemarck German Cemetery was a sobering experience, as it painted a stark contrast between the British and German cemeteries, and how the soldiers were represented. Up to this point, we had only seen the pristine, well-managed side of cemeteries, the ones that the victors of the First World War were privileged enough to be suited to. There were charities erected to support the cemeteries, and the cemeteries presented civic pride. Flowers were surrounding the white headstones, types that would blossom into vivid flashes of colour in the summertime.
The German Cemetery was in stark contrast. There were black gravestones, and instead of pointing upright, they were held over the floor: hundreds of gravestones. Whereas each gravestone in Tyne Cot, Essex Farm, Lijssenhoek was dedicated to one soldier, these gravestones commemorated anywhere from six to a dozen soldiers. Oak trees, a symbol of spirits being carried up to heaven, were planted around the cemetery, a blanket of leaves carpeted over the cemetery. A wall, said to “ensure that the graves were hidden from the eyes of the locals”, also surrounded Langemarck.
The sheer number of perpetuated the sombre mood dead hidden within the cemetery in such a small space, forty-four thousand dead. Tyne Cot was at least an order of magnitude larger, and yet less than a third of the amount of people were buried.
Langemarck would also contain a mass grave: an open lawn that turned out to contain twenty-five thousand corpses. Beneath us. None of whom had their own headstone, all contained in a minuscule space. The immediate thought of what came from the graveyards is injustice and a segregation, even in the modern day.
Those who fought in the battles of the First World War, on the British Commonwealth or German Imperial sides, were truly just civilians; civilians dressed in a soldier’s uniform, enlisted against the enemy. Yet, the blissful irony was that both sides, their soldiers were alike. They held the same ideals and were truly the same, summoned into the theatre of war by their respective governments, a perfect storm of nationalist ideals and propaganda that resulted in a rain of fire. The only reason that the Commonwealth peoples and German peoples would be so segregated and buried in such contrasting ways are simply because of the Allies’ pyrrhic victory and the Central Powers’ defeat.
- Will 9.5
Watching the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony was a unique experience. Each person respected the ceremony by watching each soldier walking up and placing down the poppy wreathes. They were holding them with pride and honour. It gave off a very sad but honourable aura. The music made it feel like you were connected with each of the soldiers whose names were on the walls that towered above us. Seeing people cry around me made me feel like I just had the news that a relative had died.
- Louis 9.5
Today I was lucky enough to put a wreath on Menin Gate. It started with a quick talk and demonstration of what we had to do then we waited for 7:59.
The started Bugles to play. When it was my turn, I was nervous. I walked down the first set of stairs. I became emotional, I did not want to cry and it was hard not to. I walked across the road. I was more confident and excited to be representing the school. It was an honour.
I walked up the stairs to place down the school's wreath. I was proud of today. It will remain in my memory forever and how I felt will too.
It was an honour to do it. I felt proud, excited, nervous and other mixed emotions. I was fortunate to do it.
- Jessica 9.2
Today I was given the chance to place a wreath at the World War One memorial to the missing at the Menin Gate. We started with a quick briefing of what to do and how to conduct ourselves. The music started to play and the army cadets led the ceremony. After, the army cadets, schools, and veterans laid their wreathes. After the wreathes were laid, the band played and the crowd dispersed. The pressure of representing school at such an important event was immense. I was adamant not to look at anyone in case I was put off or I tripped up on the cobbles. I was shocked to see how many people died at the many battles at Ypres, as there are over 54,000 names on the memorial. Overall, it was a fascinating experience.
- Adam 9.1
Today was a unique day. I never thought that I would be able to visit my great great granddad. I knew that I was named after him but getting the opportunity to see where he lay and learn about what he would have gone through as well as many others was truly special. I managed to give him a message from my family, and me, which was very moving. I found all of today emotional and interesting and I think I will remember it for years to come.
- Jamie 9.8
Today we visited several cemeteries and memorials, but one was particularly special for me, as I have to visit my great-great granddad’s grave. Private James Rowland Wilson was enrolled in the Durham Light Infantry. I have possession of some of his memorabilia - his marriage ring, the spurs off his horse, a picture of his wife, son and self, a lock of his ginger hair and his marriage certificate - all of which my family and I fondly treasure. He is commemorated in the Bancourt British Cemetery. The Bancourt British Cemetery contains 2480 soldiers who fell in the First World War (1462 of those burials are unidentified).
As we arrived at the remote, peaceful location of the cemetery, I was nervous. With my poppy cross in hand, I approached the pristine cemetery, with jittering butterflies in my stomach. The rows upon rows of white head stones shocked me. Most of those in the cemetery died at a similar period of time (my relative died in the Battle of Le Transloy fighting for the Durham Light Infantry). At his head stone, I laid my poppy cross with a moving message on it at his grave, with a strange feeling. It was unusually weird but liberating that I was stood on top of my great-great grandad. It was very emotional in several different ways and it shook me. It moved me very much to see where the brave soldiers lay in their final resting place.
- Laura 9.1
When we visited the battlefields and memorials in France over the Somme area, we were able to go over to Thiepval Memorial to the missing soldiers. There was an exhibition when we were there, for everyday of the war, there was a sign and a figure wrapped in white. The sign itself had a date and the amount of deaths on that day. Only in the British Empire, almost 1 million people died over the 4 years. Even after the war there was over 75 000 people dead from post war injuries.
Seeing all the amount of lives lost makes you think how many people suffered, whether it was the men or the families left at home. Most were civilians and volunteers who thought the war would be an adventure or even be over by Christmas.
In one day, alone over 60,000 people from Britain and its empire were killed or injured. July 1st 1916. Seeing that label compared to the others is awful, the amount was staggering. There were 15 pillars in the Thiepval monument itself many from the Somme, all of them had thousands of names piled on top of each other. Each as proud and strong as the army where they served and gave their lives. None of them were forgotten; it would’ve brought peace to the families, even if there isn’t a grave, that there is a monument with a name. Even from a Private to Captain, all missing and dead have the same headstones or engraving, showing all are equal in death.
Seeing the monument was haunting; to know that so many people died in that same field or a few yards away even. Over all it was an amazing opportunity and visit, the grounds were wars were fought and freedom was taken and gained.
- Frances 9.1