Basildon Academies Remembering Ypres, 2018
100 years and 5 days after the ‘War to end all wars’ was officially over, 40 of our Year 11 students visited Ypres in Belgium.
This area was the scene of some of the biggest and most significant battles of World War One and is home to the Menin Gate. Thousands of soldiers marched through the town during the conflict to reach major battlefields, and the Menin Gate is built upon the starting point of the main exit road. It is a memorial to the missing; dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed along the Ypres Salient.
The coach greeted us at the Upper Academy on the cold early morning of the 16th November and took us to Belgium. Our first stop was the trench system at hill 60, where students could visualise with the aid of our guides, the difficulties of life for the soldiers who fought in such horrific and world changing conditions. Year 11 students recapped their knowledge of the types of injury inflicted and began to trace the story of one group of men, in particular a young soldier known as Robinson. One of our guides commented on the good quality of questions posed by our Year 11 students, who will be questioned on the trench environment in their History GCSE exams.
“It was so interesting examining the different styles of warfare that had never been seen before. Looking at the landscape and looking at the impact on the landscape gave a sense of how much fear the soldiers would have had.” Chris Hawkins
As we then traced the evacuation process for the injured soldiers throughout the course of the day, Robinson’s story was a recurring theme. From the casualty clearing station, he was taken to the cemetery where he was eventually buried, we were reminded not only of his bravery but the astonishing courage of those around him who fought to save him, including stretcher bearers and the surgeon in the casualty clearing station who was twice awarded the Victoria Cross.
Comfort Erhabor was our Year 9 representative, here describing her experience of the day:
“I thought it was really informative and interesting... It was great to see how everyone who fought in World War 1 was acknowledged. I was chosen to lay a wreath for Private T.F Robinson which was a real honour for me.”
As the day drew to a close, we paid tribute to those who fought in war at the spectacular Menin Gate. Two of our students laid a wreath on behalf of our school following the daily 8pm ‘Last Post Ceremony’. This was in complete silence in front of hundreds of visitors, including many veterans of war. Our students were praised by members of the public for their respectful response.
“Laying the wreath was very moving, even more so because it was at the end of our trip and the things we had learned about and seen all day were at the forefront of our minds. It signified the loss and remembering touched my heart.” Chris Hawkins
This was a valuable experience for our students that was educational in more ways than one. Year 11 student Abby Dangerfield commented: “I found the trip inspiring and emotional. Visiting the cemeteries and attending The Last Post Ceremony gave me a lot of time to reflect on the great sacrifices our soldiers made during the war. It was an incredible opportunity to commemorate the fallen and appreciate all that they have done.”
News article written by Miss Mallinder
Click here to view more photos of the trip