On 18th April 2016 the year 9 students were given the opportunity to visit the WWI battlefield sites in the Ypres Salient in Belgium. After a very early start the students arrived at their first destination. Sanctuary Wood museum (Hill 62) is a unique site in that it still has remnants of a WWI trench system so the students were able to walk around and start to understand what the conditions would have been like for the soldiers. Their second visit was to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest commonwealth burial cemetery in the world. It also has the names of 35,000 men commemorated on the back walls in honour of those men who have no known resting place. The third site visit was to Langemarck which is a German Cemetery. This holds the bodies of 44,000 German soldiers who perished in the war and many lay in mass graves, the largest holding the remains of 25,000 men. As we were making good time, we were able to stop off at Essex Farm cemetery which is where John McCrea wrote his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. There are also remains of the concrete forward dressing stations which will be useful for the students studying GCSE History next year. The final stop was to Ypres itself where the students were able to lay a wreath in memory of a local Wilton Soldier at the Menin Gate. This structure holds the names of 55,000 men who were killed during WWI and have no known resting place. Finally, as a treat, the students were able to walk down the high street and buy some real Belgium chocolate . All in all, the students were a credit to the school and behaved impeccably throughout the day and on the coach to and from the various sites. My deepest thanks go to John Lancaster for organising the transportation arrangements, amongst other things, Mrs Stone for her support and to the community members for assisting on the day.
One Student’s Report:-
“On the 18th April year 9 visited the 1st World War graves in Ypres Belgium. We had to get up at 2:00am. We went via Euro Tunnel. Our first stop was Sanctuary Wood. This has a museum and the original trenches and we could roam around them; there were tunnels which were dark. Our next stop was Tyne Cot which is the English cemetery, and it was here that a lot of the British were killed, in all about 55,000. After, we went to visit the German cemetery called Langemarck; this was dark and gloomy. Second to last we went to Essex Farm for about 5 minutes, this was where the soldiers went when they were injured before going to the military hospital. Our last stop was the Menin Gate. We laid our wreath at the top, it is here that all the names of the soldiers that haven’t been found are named, and there are so many names that they cover the vast walls of the gate from top to bottom. To finish off our super school trip we visited a proper Belgium chocolate shop….yum yum!”