Early last Sunday morning, 44 fourth form pupils set off for the annual Battlefields Trip. Despite being extremely tired from the early start it did not take us long to get into the swing of things. Our first stop when we arrived in France was Vimy Ridge. This was an area where frontlines from the Battle of the Somme were located. We were given a chance to walk around the original trenches that have been preserved by concrete. It was amazing to see how close the enemy lines were and the vast network that supported the main trenches. Close to the trenches there was the large Vimy Ridge memorial that is dedicated to the many Canadians who lost their lives fighting in the Battle of the Somme.
We then took a short drive to Thiepval. It was under construction butthis did not stop us from appreciating its meaning. The cemetery was small and well-kept with beautiful flowers beneath each cross. It was a moving experience that really highlighted to us the devastating effect that the loss of these men’s lives had on everybody who knew them, and the countries that they fought for. On the way to Ypres, we took a short stop at the Lochnagar crater that is 21m deep and 91m in diameter.
After a long, somewhat tiring, day we reached Ypres; it was a beautiful old town with cobbled streets and amazing architecture. We attended a memorial service where Ruby Dickson and Tom Campbell were given the chance to lay a wreath in honour of Cranleigh boys who fought in the war. It was a moving service with the last post being played and a two minute silence held. In the evening we were allowed to wander around the town where many people bought Belgium chocolate or stopped for some waffles. It was a fantastic end to an eventful day.
After a good night’s sleep, the next day we stayed in the town of Ypres, looking at the chapel where Cranleigh and many other schools have donated plaques in honour of their students. We then went to the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum which displayed a large and breath-taking outlook on the war. There were many artefacts straight from the trenches and some videos that really gave you an insight into what life was like in the trenches. It was an incredible museum that gave us a chance to think for ourselves about the scale and impact that the war had. This was confirmed by Tynecot cemetery. There was row on row of gravestones; a huge area with 12,000 men buried whose names were unknown after the end of the war. It was not just British and French soldiers buried here but also many men from New Zealand and Australia. Much like the first cemetery it was beautifully kept out of respect for the soldiers but it was on a much greater scale. Our final stop on the trip was Langemark, one of the few German cemeteries around the area. It was an area of land given to Germany so that they could pay their respects to their man who died in Belgium. There was a mass grave in the centre with the bodies of 25,000 men. There were plaques on the ground surrounding this with the names of 5 or 6 men to each plaque. It had a very different feel from the British cemeteries where the individuals were recognised. In the German cemetery it focuses more on the comradeship between the soldiers.
The trip was an eye opening experience and I can say that everybody thoroughly enjoyed being given the chance to see so many amazing things in only two days.
Sophie Howard (4th form)