CGSG Visit to Ypres

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During Term 4, the English department organised a trip to Ypres in Belgium to experience the history of war and support students who were analysing War Poetry.

A Year 8 student Sandra wrote:

‘The trip to Ypres was unlike anything I had experienced before. The new knowledge I have gained, and the powerful emotion I felt on the trip is difficult for me to put into words - it was both exciting yet saddening to learn about at the same time.

The first part of our journey began in France. We visited the Thiepval Memorial which commemorates the missing British and South African soldiers whose bodies were never found, so they were never able to receive a set grave.

There are 72,337 names of fallen soldiers but sometimes those names can get “rubbed out” once their bodies have been found and identified. Behind the memorial, there was a graveyard; on the right hand-side the British were buried underneath a tombstone, whereas the French were buried underneath a cross. It was fascinating to learn about how many soldiers from the Battle of the Somme alone were never found.

Once we had a look around Thiepval, we then proceeded to embark to our next destination of Lochnagar Crater. A mine explosion on the 1st July 1916 formed the crater, on the very first day of the Battle of the Somme! It is the largest man-made crater from the First World War. Along the perimeter of the crater there is a crossing with the names of the soldiers who died within this area.

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My favourite fact from this part of the trip was the name of one woman on the tile- she was a German nurse who secretly helped the Triple Entente troops. Sadly, she got caught and was killed by the Germans.

The final part of our time in France was spent visiting the German cemetery. This taught me that although the French and German were enemies, the French still had the decency to bury the German troops- that shows true respect to me. However, because the French and Germans were still enemies, the French decided to bury four German troops in one grave. This seems to demonstrate that the French were both respectful and also defiant as they still weren’t “handing themselves over” to the Germans.

For the second part of our trip we went to Belgium. The first place we visited was the Ypres Salient; where one of the biggest battles in World War One was fought. Following on, we moved on to the Essex Farm where there are 1,200 servicemen buried.

A few steps away from the graveyard is the place where John McCrae wrote his famous poem “In

Flanders Field”.

It was fascinating to be standing in the same place where the outstanding McCrae wrote such an emotional and moving poem. Afterwards we visited Tyne Cot, which bears the name of 35,000 men from Britain and New Zealand who fought and died in the “Bloody Battle of Passchendaele”. It was a huge cemetery, it stretched out as far as the eye could see. It was very poignant that so many men risked their lives for a war that helped shape our future today.

The final wreath laying was extremely emotional because so many different generations came together to show their respects to remember the fallen.

The fun event of the trip was chocolate shopping in Belgium!

On the last day we went to the Poperinge Execution Cells which is still tattooed with the graffiti of men who were sentenced to death; suffering in silence from PTSD and shell-shock!

We went to Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood Museum and the trenches were dirty with muddy water that sometimes went past the ankle which shocked us a few times! We went through old tunnels and now we understand why the trenches were in a zig zag style and not a straight line; if the enemy came he wouldn’t be able to shoot straight down and injure/kill everyone in his path.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I feel more prepared for my examinations by having seen the trenches and war memorials. I feel empathy with what soldiers went through and, I still feel emotional to this day from visiting all the graveyards and remembering the fallen that fought for us.”