October 30, 2017
The annual Battlefields Trip is always memorable for Fourth Form history students as they are brought face to face with the realities of the war they have been studying. “It is always a remarkable trip,” says history teacher Dave Forbes-Whitehead. “The boys learn such a lot by experiencing the sites of the Great War and that experience never fails to move them, too.”
The lines of war graves and the names of 55,000 mean with no know grave etched onto the Menin Gate served as stark reminders of the scale of casualties in the First World War. At Sanctuary Wood, the boys were able to explore the original trench lines, while visits to the Somme battlefield, Vimy Ridge and Beaumont Hamel gave the pupils a real sense of the locations of the terrible battles of a century ago.
The experience was particularly poignant for two pupils, one of whom was able to trace no fewer than six members of his extended French family among the graves, while another was the first member of his family able to visit the grave of his relative, Staff Sergeant Hudson, at the Wancourt Cemetery.
The vast site of the Lochnagar crater demonstrated the devastating power of the explosives used and again the pupils witnessed the scale of the war’s human devastation when they visited Thiepval’s memorial to soldiers missing after the Battle of the Somme, which records the names of no fewer than 72,000 men. Among these are the names of five OAs and relatives of members of staff, and in a small moving ceremony, a minute’s silence was held.
Pupils also laid a wreath to remember the men of the county at the memorial to the Hertfordshire Regiment at Tyne Cot after a visit to the German graveyard at Langemark. A final visit to the Passchendaele Museum allowed the students to explore the labyrinth of a recreated dugout and section of trenches, gaining a very real sense of the conditions which soldiers were forced to endure during the war.