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Battlefields Trip

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47 Fifth Year pupils and five staff marked the centenary of the end of the First World War by visiting the battlefields of Ypres in Belgium and the Somme in France from 16th to 19th October.


This is a well-established trip which the History Department has undertaken every year since 1988 and this year’s visit was a particularly successful one. The staff were hugely impressed by the positive attitude, consistent engagement and thoughtful questions from the pupils. We were also blessed by marvellous weather.


As ever, we covered the major sites of the Ypres Salient and the Somme which we have visited for many years, such as Tyne Cot near Passchendaele, the largest British war cemetery in the world, and the Sheffield Pals Memorial Park at Serre. The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate at Ypres and a guided tour of the trenches at Thiepval Wood were also highlights.


But there were also some sites which were new to us – including a position near Pozieres on the Somme, where JRR Tolkien served as a Signaller, an experience which is said to have inspired his later works, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. War poetry and other readings chosen by Miss Barrett and read by pupils at appropriate locations added a further literary dimension to the trip.


Armed with information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and other research, several pupils, including Ned Potts, Miles Quick and Flora Peddie, were able to find the graves of relatives who were killed in the conflict. Others found the names of relatives with no known graves on the Tyne Cot Memorial Wall or the Thiepval Memorial.


For the first time, we took a drone, expertly piloted by Mr Marriott. The resultant footage will be edited by members of the Drones Club in the coming weeks into a video record of the trip which promises to be truly spectacular.


Reporting by Mark Rathbone 


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