On 30th March 2023, the Humanities team took 60 Year 9 students to visit the WW1 battlefields in Belgium and France to further their understanding of the war and to see its impact on local history. Students were asked in advance of the trip to research any relatives they had that died in the war and this information was passed onto the guides at Anglia Tours. We were pleased to be able to find out more information regarding the relatives of Jasmine, Thomas, Jack, Freya and Mr Parker. These students were able to go on pilgrimages and in some cases see the graves or memorials in honour of their relatives. It was also inspiring to learn more about local soldiers from Rutland that fought and died in the war, this helped to capture the imaginations of the students and pleasing to hear of so many contacting home to find out any information they could about their own relatives.
On the first day of the tour, students travelled to Lijssenthoek Cemetery where they were introduced to the importance of the Commonwealth War Graves and were able to visit the grave of T.H. Hinman, a private from Braunston that had died in the war. Students further gained an understanding of the area by learning about how it was a former casualty clearing station and its connections to medical situation in the war. From here they travelled to the Bayernwald trench system. A recreation of the German trenches in the area from the time. This allowed students to visualise the structure of the trenches and were given the opportunity to walk around before our guides gave an informative talk on the subject. Finally, students travelled to Ypres where they watched and participated in the Last Post Ceremony that takes places every single night, including during Covid-19 when a lone person stood under the Menin Gate and performed the Last Post. Two Catmose students, Finley and Annabella, laid a wreath in memory of those that died during the war.
The second day of the tour was focused on the Battle of the Somme in which the British casualties numbered at 420,000, 58,000 came from the first day alone. On this tour, students visited the Sunken Lane where they were given an overview of the battle itself before then travelling to Ocran Villas Tea Room where the tour guides demonstrated the uniforms worn by the British soldier, weaponry and the changes in gas masks throughout the war. Josh bravely agreed to wear the British uniform and was used to demonstrate the importance of the inform and also able to show students a Lee Enfield rifle that was used during the war. A variety of students then wore the gas masks to demonstrate how their usefulness changed throughout the war through to a modern mask worn by soldiers in the army. Continuing our tour, students visited Newfoundland Park, where a preserved trench system is kept. Finally, a visit to the Thiepval Memorial which is dedicated to all those without a grave from the Battle of the Somme.
On the final day, students travelled to the Passchendaele Museum which focuses on the infamous battle of 1917 which is mostly remembered for the horrific muddy conditions that resulted in large numbers of deaths. Students thoroughly enjoyed this museum which gave them the opportunity to explore a recreation of a dug out, explore a variety of different trench systems, wear uniforms worn by soldiers from a variety of nations and see the different weaponry used within the war. Students from here visited their final cemetery of the tour, this time the German military cemetery Langemark. Students used this opportunity to look at the differences in cemeteries and were able to link this to their current learning by being able to see the cemetery that Adolf Hitler walked around in 1940 upon his invasion of the area. This meant students could see the connections between the first and second world wars. To conclude the tour, students returned to Ypres for one final time where they were allowed to go chocolate shopping before returning back to the College.
It was commented by Anglia Tours how much of a credit to the College the students were throughout the trip. They were engaged, eager and showed enthusiasm despite the torrential rain we experienced and 50mph winds during the second day of the trip. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and moving experience, one that students will hopefully not forget in their lifetimes.