Battlefields Tour 2022
Report by Ted, Sophie, Toby and Robbie.
Over half-term Year 10 historians attended the annual Battlefields Tour, the first time in two years, visiting both important and poignant battle sites and cemeteries of the fallen soldiers, continuing the over 20-year tour tradition.
The first day of the trip was by far the most eventful with large delays and a missed ferry; whilst for some this would dampen spirits, RHS pupils remained extremely eager, fuelled by a minibus full of Liverpool supporters who began a singalong with pupils of karaoke classics by The Beatles and Oasis. Fortunately, pupils still had time to visit the highly symbolic town of Ypres and explore the Menin Gate memorial for those individuals who bodies were never recovered.
Day two was packed full of sites to visit starting at the ‘sunken road’, a trench from the Battle of the Somme which is arguably the most poorly communicated battles of the First World War, with only 100 of 700 troops returning. After which pupils visited the Canadian Newfoundland Memorial Park, one of the largest preserved battlefield sites on the Western frontline, where the battle lasted approximately 30 minutes with many lives were lost on French soil. This poignant feeling was additionally felt at the Thiepval Memorial and although under maintenance it remained one of the highlights of the tour. After re-tracing and learning more about the battle from the tour guide, pupils then headed over to the site of an underground mine that not only left a 20ft deep crater in the ground, but was also felt in London during the time of the detonation. The day ended with the daily Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres; this ceremony continues as a tribute to the selflessness and courage of the fallen thousands, during which three pupils Rachel, Jack and Amber laid a wreath on our behalf.
Day three saw a visit to the Bayernwald Trenches, a set of reconstructed German support trenches, where pupils learnt about the formation of trenches and how exposed the British were in France. Next pupils visited the German War Memorial Langemark Cemetery, which unlike the British, has flat black marker stones, a strong contrast to upright Commonwealth Cemeteries.
The last trip was to Tyne Cot Cemetery commemorating 35,000 troops and is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. Ted, Year 10 commented; “I was particularly struck by the number of unknown dead buried, recognisable from their headstones which simply stated ‘Known to God.”
The tour ended with a Remembrance Service where pupils listened to war poetry and a letter from a mother to her son who had lost their life during the war, encapsulating the impact war has on all. During this time pupils were provided the opportunity to lay a poppy in a place of their choice.
Sophie, Year 10 said, “I found the Tyne Cot Cemetery the most memorable due to the amount of graves – it really put the volume of loss into perspective."
All pupils expressed gratitude for the RHS staff who gave up a portion of their half-term break to accompany the pupils.