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Battlefields visit to Ypres March 2019

After an early 5am start on Friday 22nd March, 45 students accompanied by Mr O’Reilly, Mrs Bart, Mr Lee, Mrs Tanner and Mrs Urquhart travelled to Belgium to visit the battlefields of the First World War. We started at the Passchendaele museum which houses many artefacts from the battle of Passchendaele including uniforms, weaponry and propaganda posters. The final part of the museum is a reconstruction of Allied and German trenches which enabled us to see for ourselves the different ways they were constructed. We travelled on to Ypres where we were able to see the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. This ceremony has taken place every evening at 8pm since 11 November 1929. The Menin Gate has the names of 54, 604 men who died in the Ypres Salient, who have no known grave. They came from regiments across the world including Britain, Australia, Canada and India. The ceremony began with the Last Post, followed by a minutes silence and the reading of a verse from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.”

On Saturday we continued our tour with our excellent tour guide Simon Louagie who told us so many fascinating stories. He was lucky enough to have met Harry Patch, the last surviving Tommy and showed us the memorial he had paid for to honour the friends that he had lost during the war. We visited Langemark cemetery where over 44,000 German soldiers are buried and on the site of the first gas attack during the war Simon helped us understand the horrors that soldiers on all sides must have faced. We then carried on to Bedford House cemetery and saw the graves of men from many different nations such as India, Canada and Britain. We were also struck by the many different religions which were represented in the cemetery including Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians and those of no faith. We ended our visit at the largest war cemetery in Europe, Tyne Cot where we heard two very moving letters: one was written by a mother to the son she had lost during the war who had no known grave. She left her letter on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. The final letter Simon read us was from a soldier who wrote a letter to his wife which she would only receive on his death. This really brought home to us the reality of the war which was fought over 100 years ago and reminded us all of the need to work for peace between all nations. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and our thanks go to Mrs Tanner for organising the whole visit.