Year 10 spent the weekend visiting the World War I Battlefields as part of their Enrichment studies. Some of the girls share their thoughts on the visit here:
To be on the battlefields of the Somme where my great, great grandfather fought and was shot had a massive impact on me. He probably never would have thought that one day, his awful battle would be remembered in such moving detail by his great, great granddaughter. I’m sure it would have made him very proud.
It was really on returning from our tour that it really hit me what I had seen. Whilst there I found it emotional, but talking to my family about my experiences and learning, made it even more powerful. The world wars have always been something of an interest to me, and so to have the opportunity to see where it all happened and to extend my knowledge was something I have long anticipated.
At Serre, to imagine the horror, fear and pain the soldiers had to face was heart rending and extremely distressing. I could not imagine having to endure what they did; especially as they had to follow orders, and could not even pause to help a comrade who was injured as they walked towards across No Man’s Land to the German trenches, even if it was a childhood friend from their Pal’s Battalion.
Seeing the remains of the front line trenches, standing in them and looking up the hill at No Man’s Land, knowing that the ‘enemy’ was only a few hundred feet away made me appreciate how terrifying their ordeal must have been. I could never have gone over the top to begin to walk into the cross fire of machine guns and shelling.
I found that Essex Farm was a very emotional part of the tour, as when reading the poem ‘In Flanders’ Fields’ we stood in exactly the same spot where the army medic John McCrae wrote it . You could almost imagine the grief and mass destruction around him, due to the surrounding poppies, row upon row of graves and the awful bunkers used as dressing stations for the wounded and dying.
Going into the muddy trenches of Sanctuary Woods made me understand the terrible reality of war and how many men did not in fact die in a direct battle , but by disease and infection that spread in the awful and unsanitary conditions of the trenches.
The Wellington tunnels beneath Arras intrigued me as I have a relative who was a miner before war broke out, and after signing up was sent to the Western Front to help dig under ground for the British army. This personal connection really sparked my interest in experiencing the tunnels and quarries for real, rather than just imagining them.
Originally I wasn’t expecting to be as emotional as I was when visiting the battlefields. However, I surprised myself as the tours of tunnels, trenches, battlefields, cemeteries and memorials made me realise the devastating scale of effects World War I caused, not just to the soldiers, but to their grieving families, across the world.
There is nothing more deafening than the silence of respect. As The Last Post is played at The Menin Gate Ceremony, nothing disturbs the stillness that follows the bugles’ final resonating note as we mourn millions of innocent, courageous men, who lost their lives in the terrible four years of the Great War.
A visit to Thiepval Memorial was very sentimental to me, containing the names of over 70,000 Commonwealth soldiers lost in the Somme. One of these is my great, great, great grandfather. Nobody knows where his body finally came to rest, or where and how he died. This memorial and the service we held, reminded me of the brave sacrifice he made for our country.