The two-day trip developed the girls’ understanding of the Great War – the reasons for it, what happened, the outcome of the war and its human implications.
Travelling to both Belgium and France, the girls visited Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Langemark German Military Cemetery and Tyne Cot Military Cemetery, widening their understanding of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the German cemetery ethos.
The girls gained a great insight into trench warfare, the use of ground, trench construction and the daily routine and problems with trench fighting while visiting the Sanctuary Wood Museum (Hill 62), one of the few places on the Ypres Salient battlefields where an original trench layout still remains.
Particularly moving was the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, the war memorial in Ypres, Belgium dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. Four Farlington pupils laid a wreath at the memorial for their relatives who had given their lives during the Great War.
The history students were given the chance to see the preserved trench system and to walk the battlefield at Newfoundland Park, near Beaumont Hamel, one of only a few sites on the Western Front where the ground remains largely untouched. The Newfoundland Regiment attacked here on the 1st July 1916, and suffered appalling losses. The memorial site is the largest battalion memorial on the Western Front, and the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved.
The realities of the Somme 1916, Kitchener’s Army and the Pals Battalions and ‘going over the top’ were underlined at the Sheffield Memorial Park. Other stops on the trip included the Ulster Tower, a memorial to the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division, Lochnagar Crater, the largest manmade crater in World War I, and the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
Alice Tarplee, Year 10 from Cranleigh, said: ‘It was a fantastic experience to see the battlefields. I learnt a huge amount and it gave me a massive insight not only to trench warfare in WWI, but also to life in the trenches for the soldiers who lived and died in the war. I found visiting the cemeteries and memorials very moving and it was astounding to see the multitude of names to be remembered. Though it was intensely sad – I did cry a few times – I also had a great time. I had a great experience and learnt a lot over the two days – definitely a trip to remember.’