Battlefields tour 2024

Towards the end of last term some of our Year 9 students travelled to Belgium and Northern France on the Battlefields trip to learn more about the men who fought in World War One. They visited the trenches, cemeteries and museums throughout the weekend and gained an insight into life as a soldier and the toll of the war.

Here are two students accounts of the trip:

Charlotte, Year 9:

On our journey to Belgium, we stopped at a couple of cemeteries and encountered others throughout the trip. We visited the Bayernwald trench system and had the opportunity to explore it, which was fascinating. Later that evening, we attended the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, where some students laid wreaths, paying respects to the soldiers of WWI.

The following day, we traveled to the Somme, where we learned about the Battle of the Somme and its historical context. This visit allowed us to envision exactly how the battle unfolded, bringing to life what we had learned in school earlier in the year. In the afternoon, we continued our exploration of the Battle of the Somme. This segment was my favourite part of the day as it was highly interactive. We had the opportunity to try on different types of gas masks, learning about their development over time in response to new types of gas warfare. Additionally, I had the chance to handle and shoot an (unloaded) rifle, a model used in 1916, and observed the attire worn by British soldiers.

The next day, we visited the memorial museum in Passchendaele, which became my favourite part of the trip due to the trenches and underground bunkers we explored. I experienced lying in crowded and uncomfortable bunk beds, gaining insight into the living conditions soldiers endured. We also delved deeper into life in the trenches and the Battle of Passchendaele. Later, we had time to purchase authentic Belgian chocolate before visiting Tyne Cot, a cemetery and memorial to those missing and dead in the Battle of Passchendaele, before departing for England.

Henry, Year 9:

I went on the school battlefield trip from the 21st to the 23rd of March. We arrived at the College at 6am and boarded the bus, which took us to the ferry. After the ferry ride, we arrived in France and learned all about where the front lines were and explored some trenches that had been recreated. We then traveled to Ypres in Belgium. After dinner, everyone walked to the Menin Gate, where two other students and I were given the opportunity to participate in the Last Post ceremony, which honours the fallen soldiers, including my great-great-great uncle, George Northen, who was missing, presumed killed. After the ceremony, we went back to the hotel, where we had some free time to play in the games room, which included games like 8-ball pool, table tennis, a punching machine, and a few sofas to chill out on.

The next day, we traveled to the Somme, where we had a tour. After lunch, there was a presentation of weapons and items to help the soldiers survive. We were shown how to use the weapons safely and learned about all the different pieces and uses of equipment that a soldier would carry in the war.

On the third and final day, we left for the Passchendaele War Memorial Museum, where we saw what the soldiers would wear and their living conditions from all countries involved. There was also a short film, and we got to experience what each of the different gases smelled like and the effects they would have on people. After the museum, we went chocolate shopping. We began our journey home. Not long into the journey, my friends and I stopped at Brandhoek Cemetery, where my great-great-great uncle, Frederick Northern, was buried. I learned that he was a corporal in the war.

Overall, I think that the trip was very good, as in the space of three days, we did a lot of interesting activities. Despite the sensitive subject, the trip was a lot of fun, and everyone enjoyed it.