Tuesday 1st July
First visit of the day was to Tyne Cot cemetery, the resting place of many North East soldiers from World War One. Those who gave their lives were mainly from the Durham Light Infantry and the Northumberland Fusiliers who fought in the battlefields around Ypres. David, our guide, told a wonderful story about his great Grandad Charlie who survived a battle in this very area all those years ago. The emotion David showed whilst telling his story got to us all.
Then it was off to Passchendaele Memorial Museum which gave us the first view of what a World War One trench looked like. The village of Passchendaele was the site of one of the fiercest battles to take place in this area during the The Great War.
Sanctuary Wood was our next stopping off point to learn about trench warfare. We listened to David talk about the weapons used in the fighting in the trenches. David demonstrated the use of the bayonet and various other weapons. We watched whilst standing in the trenches so we could feel what it was like to be attacked whilst standing in what we used as our defences.
We then headed to the Canadian War Memorial of Vancouver Monument. David gave us a demonstration of chemical warfare. He described how chlorine was used. Mr Graham and Mr Bayne were “volunteered” to smell the gas used by the Germans on the British troops. David explained how mustard gas was used and demonstrated the use of an original World War One gas mask whilst Daniel read a poem written about the use of gas during The Great War written by Wilfred Owen.
On to Langemarck, the only German cemetery in the Ypres Salient and only one of four in Belgium. This cemetery was behind German lines. It was taken by the British in 1917. The British cemeteries we visited were white in nature and a place to pay respect and lay flowers to commemorate the fallen. The Germans lived together, joined together and died together therefore this cemetery has a very different feeling. The crosses here are black. This was “the price of defeat”. Adolf Hitler visited here in 1940 when Germany occupied Belgium during World War Two.
Following on, we visited Essex Farm Cemetery where we paid our respects to the youngest soldier, on record, to fall in the war. At just 15 years old it was a moving experience to think that he was the same age as we are now. Then it was off to Ypres for a spot of shopping and a visit to the famous chocolate shop to purchase some of the famous Belgian chocolates.
After a feast of Chicken and Frites we attended the famous Menin Gate ceremony which is a daily act of remembrance for those soldiers that lost their lives but who remain missing to this day. Our school had the honour of laying a wreath of poppies as part of the ceremony.
Meg, Lucy and Thomas did our school proud!
The ceremony ended with the blast of the bugle playing the Last Post. A fitting rendition to end a day of thought provoking moments that will last a lifetime.