Rebecca Phillips and her students were lucky to go on a WW1 Battlefields School Tour in Ypres and get the opportunity to learn more about WW1 and the Commonwealth soldiers during the war. Read on to find out about her first-hand experience.
We set off from school to Hull to catch the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge. The cabins were small but comfortable, and we ate our body weight in food. There was plenty to choose from and a selection of delicious desserts. The students absolutely loved the ferry, and some cited it as one of the best bits of the school tour!
We arrived in Belgium early the next day. We emerged from our cabins bleary-eyed, but ready to hit the road after breakfast. First, our coach driver drove us to The Tyne Cot Cemetery. The weather was glorious, and our students were eager to explore.
The WW1 Battlefields School Tour began with the students visiting the Ypres Salient Battlefield, and our history teacher explaining that it is the resting place of the commonwealth soldiers during WW1. This topic is covered in KS3 history, so it was very educational, but also eye-opening for our students. They looked around the gravestones and at the names of thousands of the commemorated soldiers on the walls. Noting especially how young some of the men were who had lost their lives.
Later we visited Langemark German Cemetery. The students noticed a stark contrast between the two cemeteries. The German headstones were black, and the shadows from the large trees gave it a dark and foreboding atmosphere. We explained to the students that the fallen German soldiers were buried upright in mass graves, which they found both fascinating and gruesome. By now we had built up quite an appetite, so we ate our packed lunches.
From there we drove to Ypres where our original plan was to visit In Flanders Fields Museum. What ended up happening was that about a quarter of the group went on a flying visit to the museum and the rest descended on a chocolate shop called Leonard’s. What ensued was a frenzy of bidding on all types of gorgeous chocolate.
We ate our evening meal at our hotel, Flanders Lodge, and then headed out again to watch The Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate. They close the road at 8 pm every evening to play the Last Post, which was very moving. Afterwards, we found the name of our history teacher’s great Uncle on the wall of Menin Gate, so we laid a wreath and a couple of our year eight girls read a poem they had written. It was an evening we won’t forget.
Somme Trench Museum
The next day, we visited The Somme Trench Museum to continue our WW1 Battlefields School Tour before getting ready to depart. The students thought it was fascinating and really worth a visit. Afterwards, we were met by our French tour guide. Although she conducted the tour in English, she did include some French which was a nice touch for our Year 10 French students. She took us around Newfoundland Park, Lochnager Crater and The Thiepval Memorial. She really brought alive the history of WW1, not least in her vivid description of the giant rats in the trenches, living off human remains!
That afternoon, we headed back to Zeebrugge to catch the return ferry home. Arriving in Hull the next day, we were all exhausted but had had a brilliant time. The teachers found it just as enjoyable as the students. It was due in part to our contact with Mike at Rhapsody Tours/ WorldStrides during the process of planning and the endless patience and knowledge of our coach driver. We would book to go back in a heartbeat. The students are still raving about it, even after the summer holidays.
To plan your school trip to Ypres, get in touch with the WorldStrides team today.