The trip moved on to Belgium today to visit the battlefields around Ypres. The morning began with tour of the cemeteries and trenches around Ypres itself. Local historian and guide Emmanuel David joined the coach and his extensive knowledge illuminated all the sites we visited.
The German Cemetry at Langemark packed an emotional punch as the group struggled to come to terms with a mass grave containing 25,000 young Germans. “Seeing these cemeteries, and understanding the restrictions placed on Germany, it helps me understand how the Nazis were able portray Germany as being oppressed by the rest of Europe” commented Matthew in Year 13.
After this the group moved up to Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth in cemetry in Europe to compare and contrast the memorials.
Next up was a first for the battlefields trip with a visit to the theatre. Journey’s End was an immersive production set in an officers dug out and featured realistic effects that took the pupils into the reality of life for a WW1 officer. “It was favourite part of the trip” said George in Yr 9 “it really brought it life for me, much more so than reading things off the wall”.
After tea in one of Ypres fantastic Art Deco buildings and a visit to a chocolate shop the group got themselves ready for the Last Post Ceremony.
3 pupils laid a wreath to honour those lost. “I found it very moving” reflected Zac in Year 9, “having all those people remembering in silence then walking out and placing a wreath on behalf of our school was really powerful”. “I was really nervous at first” said Jamie in Yr 9 “but it was so rewarding, after seeing all of the graves it gave me a deeper understanding of what we were doing.”
Tomorrow the group are exploring the In Flanders Fields museum and visiting some British trenches before heading home.