Battlefields Trip to Belgium and France

Over the first weekend of the October half term, 41 pupils from U4 travelled to Belgium and France to deepen their understanding of the nature of fighting the First World War and visualise its immense consequences.

After a gorgeous sunny ferry crossing, the group’s first stop was the Flanders Field Museum, built inside the stunning mediaeval cloth hall of Ypres which was painstakingly reconstructed after its bombardment in the First World War. The girls were issued interactive bracelets which told them one individual’s experience of the conflict.

The group’s second day took them into the muddy trenches of Hill 62, a preserved network of dugouts, trenches and tunnels that was once the front line for British troops.

The girls then visited a medical dressing station and discussed how rapidly surgery developed during the war.

Pupils are always struck by the stark contrast between the pristine, white headstones of Tyne Cot, the largest commonwealth cemetery in the world and the bleak, sombre atmosphere of Langemark, the only German cemetery on the Western Front.

The group were lucky enough to be staying in the very centre of Ypres this year, yards from both the ever-popular chocolate shops and the imposing Menin Gate, where Headington laid a wreath in the Last Post ceremony.

A number of the group had relatives lost in the area, whose names are forever remembered on the gate.

The final day involved a visit to the Somme, donning a hard hat and venturing 30m underground into a limestone quarry where thousands of British and Newfoundland troops waited to launch a surprise attack in 1916.

Mrs Helen Rose, Head of History at Headington said: “This is a continually moving and memorable annual trip – the students were an absolute pleasure to explore the region with and learned plenty while being immersed in rich history.”