It was Mrs Roberts, the head of History, who led the trip in late September – a trip which, in the words of one Year 11 boy, Liam, brought the history books to life. ‘From the little things like the bullets and shrapnel to the bigger things like the cemeteries, everything gets put into perspective when you get to see them yourself,’ he said.
St Bede’s pupils had already begun acts of remembrance, gathering the names of local soldiers and sailors killed in action and writing them on poppies, while Mrs Morris, the Creative Arts technician, created a striking ‘Tommy Atkins’ silhouette for the school entrance. On the day before departure, students and staff gathered there for a remembrance service led by school chaplain Clare Guidi, which included a poignant playing of the Last Post by a Year 9 pupil.
The trip began at the battlefield and cemeteries of Ypres Salient in Belgium, and the battlefield of the Somme. Pupils visited the Hooge Crater Museum and Sanctuary Wood Museum (Hill 62), which offered an exploration of the life in the trenches. They also saw the Langemark German cemetery and the Tyne Cot British cemetery and memorials to soldiers with no known graves, while there was the opportunity to explore the reconstructed trenches at the Passchendaele Memorial Museum.
Other highlights of the trip were Vimy Ridge, the Lochnagar Crater, and the Essex Farm Cemetery and Dressing Station. For one Year 10 pupil, Roksana, Vimy Ridge left a lasting impression. ‘The view was simply overpowering,’ she said. ‘Moreover, it helped me understand the terrain the soldiers were fighting in, with the small craters from the shells and artillery, and the trench locations.’
The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, where pupils laid a wreath to remember the thousands whose names are recorded there, was particularly poignant according to Rebecca, from Year 10. ‘The Menin Gate ceremony was very special and moving,’ she said.