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Y9 Battlefields - June 2023

We had a fantastic three days for this trip from 14-16 June. Our guides, Andy, Ed, Dickie and Frank were central to the whole experience, with their boundless enthusiasm and limitless knowledge. At all times they sought to engage and enthuse our students and ensure they got the maximum from the sites we visited. They managed to include the majority of the hoped for pilgrimages – a unique, moving and valuable experience for the students involved – which will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It is a shame that we could not visit all – but the geographical logistics of completing such a large itinerary prevented all being completed. The ‘Last Post’ ceremonies and 2 wreath-layings are always sombre and powerful highlights of the trip – huge thanks to Mr Walker and his musicians, who performed beautifully under considerable pressure.

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We were blessed with perfect weather for the whole trip. Though the heat and hayfever was a challenge for some, wet weather would have made it an altogether less pleasant experience. Students were sensible with liquid intake and mostly managed to avoid sunburn.

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Whilst the main focus of the 3 days was the daytime activities, students also clearly enjoyed their time together and particularly the evenings in the Hostel. Some were enjoying so much that they were still going at 02.55 on Wednesday and 02.40 Thursday. The Messines Hostel is a superb venue with great facilities and plentiful food. It also provides great sunset views situated on top of a significant piece of ‘high ground’ that was fiercely fought over during the war.

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I owe a huge debt of thanks not to just to our guides and drivers, but also to my 11 colleagues who worked tirelessly to ensure the welfare of our students throughout. Half of the staff were also experiencing the trip for the first time, and the WW1 Experience makes for three very long physically and emotionally draining days.

The Trip does represent many, many hours of work – but it is also without doubt (along with the Snowsports Experience) the highlight and most rewarding aspect of my educational year. Though their short term memories may inevitably be of chocolate, laughs and time with their mates, I hope the students will remember it for deeper reasons for many years to come. This was the 19th and final WW1 Experience that I have organised. I actually bumped into Pete Railton (who some parents may remember from CPS as students themselves!) on Saturday who started the tradition back in 1998. I was pleased to take over the reins from him in 2002 and am confident that Mr Marshall James will continue to offer this valuable experience to students and staff for many years to come.

Paul Edwards



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