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Year 9 History Trip to the Battlefields

Monday, 23 May 2016

In May, 90 students from Year 9 (and even then we were oversubscribed) and a team of 8 staff visited the First World War Battlefields of France and Belgium.

We met early on a Friday morning, just after 3.30 and bleary eyed, we started our journey. The girls were excited to be going on the trip and many conversations were peppered with talk of the sacrifice so many had made.

In class, Year 9 had studied who fought in the war, what it was like to fight, and how it all began. Thus, a visit to the battlefields gave a new perspective and sense of reality that even Miss Dickson’s lessons couldn’t replicate. By visiting the cemeteries, with the tens of thousands of headstones for those whose bodies were retrieved, and engraved lists of thousands more missing in action, the scale of the slaughter could be properly comprehended. Watching the girls appreciate quite how many people died, in such small areas was remarkable. We visited a German cemetery (Langemark) as well as British and Commonwealth sites (Thiepval, Tyne Cot, Newfoundland Park, Menin Gate), the diverse nature of those who fought becomes clear. At this distance, and confronted by those numbers – 72,000 names at Thiepval, 44,000 at Langemark, 47,000 at Tyne Cot, 54,000 at the Menin Gate – the idea of good vs bad totally disappeared. At dinner we heard comments such as “It really was global the war, wasn’t it?” and “I can’t believe they gave up their lives for us” with another commenting “We needed to pay our respects and thank these brave people.”

All in all, a fantastic trip made all the more engaging by the centenary of the First World War. The staff team were brilliant and we got to visit a chocolate shop. Oh, and Mrs Stow and Mr Rock got a new personal best for completing the Guardian Crossword.

Miss Powell