Fourth Year visit to the battlefields of France and Belgium
On the 24 October, a group of Fourth Year students gathered in the front car park at St George’s College, Weybridge, at 6am to board a coach to the battlefields in France and Belgium. By 6.30 am we had left for Dover to get the ferry to France and once we had arrived we headed straight for Belgium.
On our arrival in Belgium we visited Langermark cemetery, a German WW1 cemetery, Langermark, where we found lots of graves, surrounding a major mass grave of 25,000 bodies. While here we had a talk by Mr Barham, Head of Upper Sixth Form, in which he read to us the poem ‘Dulce et decorum est’ and talked to us about the first Battle of the Ypres Salient. After which we walked around the graveyard.
Soon after we were back on the road to our second destination, which was the Tyne Cot cemetery and memorial where we learnt that nearly 12,000 bodies were buried here and a further 33,000 names are mentioned on the memorial to the missing.
Tyne Cot cemetery
Next we heard about the third Battle of the Ypres Salient, and the Battle of Passchendaele, after we heard a poem from Miss Houston, Head of Third Year, followed by an account from Alastair Hannaford of a soldier who died and was buried in the Tyne Cot Cemetery. We were then each given a wooden cross and were allowed to walk around the cemetery before planting our crosses.
After this we ventured back to France to find our hotel. Later in the evening we went for dinner and bowling, thanks to Jamie Boden for assembling the teams. After we finished bowling we went to the arcade where we saw our competitive streaks come out, as the teachers played table football and many students taking part in air hockey matches.
The trenches at the Somme
After a good sleep, we reconvened for breakfast before leaving to visit an area of trenches in the most northerly part of the Somme, where the Canadians from Newfoundland fought during WW1. At the trenches we went round in four separate groups lead by our teachers.
After we left the trenches we went to Thiepval, which is a French and Commonwealth Memorial and Cemetery, to lay a wreath. A rendition of the last post was played by Mr Tapscott, History teacher, as Jack Manley and Abbie Strachan laid the wreath by the altar.
The Menin Gate
Next we visited a theme parkwhere we were able to go on several rides before we visited the Menin Gate, where Miss Marshall, History teacher, spoke to us. After we left the Menin Gate we went to visit the chocolate shops in Ypres.
On the final day we visited a Belgian Concentration Camp were we learnt about what the inmates were put through. We also learnt about how in 1943 the Gestapo took over two rooms to house the Belgian Resistance while they tortured them, this was also the first time women enter the camp as resistance fighters.
Belgian concentration camp
For our last stop we visited the site of the V2 rocket bunker at La Couple. We also visited a museum on the holocaust which was within one of the bunkers.
Words and photographs by Alastair Hannaford
Fourth Year student7 November 2014