Year 9 Battlefields - June 2022
The trip this year was the first since 2019 and the first foreign school trip since covid.
After a slightly late start, 10 staff and just under 100 Year 9 students were in Belgium by late morning. The guides from Anglia Tours were outstanding as ever in showing the students several sites around the Ypres area, both British and German cemeteries and trench systems. We arrived at the Messines Hostel, explored our allocated rooms and enjoyed our dinner. We then finished day 1 with a visit to the local cemetery for final act of remembrance led by Mr Walker and his team of musicians. Being blessed with fantastic weather the students then relaxed back at the Hostel, socialising and playing a variety of sports.
Day 2 started with a hearty breakfast and a coach trip down to the Somme area to see where the famous Pals Battalions fought on the 1st July 1916. Again the weather was beautiful and having visited several sites, both coaches enjoyed our customary ice cream at The Ulster Tower before a wreath laying ceremony at the impressive Thiepval memorial. A sleepy journey back to Messines followed, with dinner and further relaxation.
Day 3 was another early start, visiting the Arras area and a tour of the Wellington Quarry. The afternoon saw a return to Ypres and the Menin Gate, not forgetting our chocolate shopping! With a final wreath laying ceremony at Tyne Cot and some quiet time for reflection, we then made our way back to Calais. With a smooth, if long transition through passport control, we were soon back in the UK and returned to school by midnight.
A long but memorable three days full of insight and memories which I hope will stay with the students for many years to come. The behaviour was exemplary throughout and a real credit to our school and wider community. Our hosts were particularly welcoming as we were, in many cases, their first visitors since the pandemic. Parents were able to follow our progress throughout via our Facebook page.
I must thank my colleagues, Anglia Tours and Bouden Coach Travel for another fantastic WW1 Battlefields Experience. The guides from Anglia were outstanding as ever. Their unbounding enthusiasm and subject knowledge is both infectious and inspirational – and makes the experience so much more fulfilling for the students and staff alike.
My final thanks must go to my nine colleagues who helped enormously both during and leading up to the trip. The extra workload demanded by Brexit and Covid was significant and I could not have done this on my own.