28th March 2023
Writing: Mohit Pulicheri (Year 9)
Photography: Alexander Deakin-Radkov (Year 9)
Year 9 embarked on a trip to the most notorious battlefields to understand the atrocious events and the history of the battles in WWI and WWII.
We first arrived in the town of Arras, where, with a bit of walking, we met our guide, who explained the tactics used by the Germans when attacking France, and the countermeasures France (and its allies) used against Germany. One was The Wellington Quarry, a site built by the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. The Wellington Quarry is an extensive underground network of tunnels leading to the German front lines. The primary purpose was to get as close as possible to the Germans with the element of surprise. The plan was largely successful and gave an advantage to the Allies in The Battle of Arras in 1917.
After this, we travelled to Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. This park occupies the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved. It focuses on teaching us about the Newfoundland Regiment in attacking the German trenches in The Battle of the Somme. This site memorialises those soldiers to commemorate their sacrifices in the battle.
After visiting the Beaumont Hamel memorial park, we arrived at our accommodation briefly before we set out to The Menin Gate to witness the daily ceremony held at 8 PM. The roads to The Menin Gate are closed, and the ceremony begins. In this ceremony, we saw the playing of “The Last Post” and the placement of the wreath to commemorate the 54,000 officers (of the United Kingdom and commonwealth forces) who died in the Ypres Salient before the 16th of August 1917 and had no known grave.
After sleeping in our comfortable accommodation, we set out at 8 AM to visit various sites, such as; Vancouver Corner, Essex Farm, Hill 60, Mesen and most notably, Langemark German Cemetery, which is the only German cemetery in the Ypres Salient. The cemetery contains 44,292 burials and a mass grave of roughly 25,000 soldiers. The site is near the village of Langemark, the location of the first German campaign to use poison gas.
We visited many more cemeteries, including the Tyne Cot British Cemetery, which contains graves of soldiers from WW1 and is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world.
The final place we visited before returning home was the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, an exhibition about the Third Battle in Ypres (1917). The museum consisted of never seen visual materials and even had a section where you could smell the artificial stench of the different gases used in WW1 and WW2. The museum also had an outside area that recreated the communication trenches the Allies used to send messages from the soldiers to the officers and vice versa.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and it was great to learn the fascinating history of the battlefields and how they were fought between the opposing sides in the wars.