Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Forty six Year 9 and Year 10 pupils, five members of staff and our handpicked guide set off at an unearthly hour for the Battlefields of World War 1. After a disappointing stop at the execution post (it was being restored and therefore not there) we visited the memorial at Ploegsteert, or Plug Street to our troops, to see the name of a relative of Georgie Bailey. We stayed at a purpose built student hostel in Belgium, which offered barbecued food and a climbing frame, to Year 9’s delight!.
We enjoyed a full day on the Ypres Salient. The students were amazed at the size of Tyne Cot (the largest British military cemetery) and contrasted it to the very gloomy atmosphere of the German Langemarck. The pupils screamed through the tunnels in the trenches in Sanctuary Wood as is traditional and bought chocolates in Ypres, an essential diversion on these trips. Our wreath was taken up in the moving Menin Gate ceremony that evening by a very smart Amy Parsons, Jeremy Sharpe and Angus Harrison.
The next day we visited Thiepval memorial on the Somme and the Sheffield and Devonshire cemeteries as well as a German trench system at Bayernwald. By the end of the day the scale of casualties 96 years ago had become only too apparent to all of us.
Next stop was Paris. Our hotel left something to be desired and its location was very awkward, but thanks to the efforts of Mlle Le Bouëtté and our very patient driver, Terry, we managed to carry out our planned excursions. The boat trip on the Seine was beautiful (despite a mooner!) and the trip up the Eiffel Tower exciting for those with a nerve for heights and even a few without. Mrs Cotton’s walking tour was comprehensive but marred slightly by the weather which was very humid followed by the inevitable downpour. We were stuck on the other side of a roundabout getting drenched with Galeries Lafayette in our sights! We got there, however, and recovered with retail therapy or a drink and a cake. The students behaved admirably and all enjoyed themselves.