Battle Fields Trip October 2014

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Last week, I was involved in a school trip to Belgium and France. Here, we remembered those lost in the First World War and tried to understand in more detail what we had been taught in the classroom. Whilst, to some of you, this may have seen a little depressing and not a good way to spend my half term, it was, however, extremely moving and extraordinary to be able to stand on the ground where the soldiers went over the top, commencing the Battle Of The Somme.

A poem found on the grave of a soldier
in Essex Farm Cemetery

Call me a history nerd, but I love visiting historical sites. Although, I still can’t put the emotion I feel into words when I’m in an area of rich history. It occurs when I go to Hardwick Hall (probably my favourite place ) and it occured everywhere we went in Belgium and France, for example, in the
Carrière Wellington (Wellington Quarry) in Arras where thousands of soldiers lived under the city during the War. It was also a prominent area within the Battle Of Arras (9th April 1917), we actually passed Exit No. 10, where the soldiers left the quarry. With the messages left on the wall (from both World Wars), and the sounds the museum had installed, the quarries were fascinating but extremely sad and creepy – especially the area where the soldiers took their last prayer on Easter Sunday.

I’m constantly afraid that I’m sounding insensitive as I write this, I’m honestly not and I apologise if it appears so.

Tyne Cot Cemetery
Found on Thiepval Cemetery
The most moving event of the trip was when we watched The Last Post Ceremony – A ceremony that takes place every night at 8pm in Ypres under the Menin Gate, to remember those lost in the First World War. Usually it lasts a few minutes (Full details will be provided by an outside source, the link will be at the end of this post), unless it’s an extended ceremony. The night we watched, visitors from the Lancashire Regiment attended meaning it was extended, which made this ceremony extremely moving – especially as after each wreath was placed, everyone which saluted. Maybe it was because that day we had visited several memorials, but that almost made me cry. Unrelated to the ceremony, we were stood next to the Mayors from the Lancashire regions and we were able to speak with them which was exciting and weird.
Newfoundland Park – Where
The Battle of The Somme
took place

I wish I could explain to you the impact that the memorials have, but I just can’t put into words. When you’re in a classroom and you’re told the facts, it really doesn’t seem that many. But once you visit several memorials, and you read the names, it all becomes very real extremely quickly. Especially when you visit memorials that list the names of those lost in the War, for instance Thiepval Memorial which lists the names of those lost in The Battle of The Somme. Equally, memorials that feature mass graves, for instance the German memorial Langemark, are just as moving and sad.

Statue of the Mourning Soldiers in Langemark

I think what’s important to remember is that every soldier was fighting for a cause, and there was no ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

The Wreath we placed on Thiepval Memorial
Thank you for reading this. I apologise if it was a bit ‘waffly’ but I just wanted to share my experience. All of this, plus more, occurred within two days, it all happened so quickly I’m still trying to contemplate it.
After we did all this, we spent a day in Paris, so expect that soon!
Information can be found here
Places I visited:
The First Day
Bayernwald German Trenches, Wijtschate, Ypres Salient
Essex Farm Cemetery
Langemark German Cemetery
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
In Flanders Fields, Ieper
The Second Day
Wellington Quarry — la Carrière Wellington, Arras
Newfoundland Memorial Park, Beaumont Hamel, France
A Guide to WW1 Battlefields and History of the First World War
Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery

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