With some weary eyes this morning, we had a nice continental breakfast before heading out for our day on the Ypres Salient, with our first stop at the Menin Gate. The structure, which is a memorial to the missing, was to book-end our day, as we would return there tonight for the Last Post ceremony.
Here, James Hatton and India Allen were able to locate the names of their relatives and leave a cross of remembrance and fill in the visitor’s book. Tonight they would be here again to take part in the ceremony. From there, we walked The Ramparts to the Lille Gate and then went on to St George’s Church – built specifically as a place where pilgrims like ourselves could go to pay their respects.
Just before our next stop, Mrs Kirkland spotted this little visitor just next to the Lille Gate at the cemetery there…
When the visited the hugely impressive In Flanders Fields museum which is housed inside the imposing Cloth Hall in the middle of Ypres. A very interactive and modern museum, pupils had wristbands that they could scan as they went round to reveal stories, videos and voices of the Great War.
After some free time to explore the centre of what has become modern day Ypres – a gently bustling city centre with café-culture and shopping at its heart. Ice creams and even forays into the fountain (and that was just Miss McKay) were enjoyed before we boarded the coach to take us to our lunch spot at Hill 60.
Once we had devoured our packed lunches together, we ventured to Sanctuary Wood – a highlight for many. Here, we were able to walk through real trenches and tunnels that have been restored, complete with mud. There are also huge display cases of real shells, guns and military equipment that have since been harvested.
With a brief stop to discuss the role of gas attacks in WW1, at Vancouver Corner, Mr Cox read Wilfrid Owens Dulce et Decorum Est. From here we went to our last stop of the afternoon at Tyne Cot. This is the largest British cemetery in the world, with the iconic cross of sacrifice towering above the gravestones. Pupils were able to explore the names and search for relatives on the computer system.
The evening was spent at Utopia, a restaurant in Ypres where we tucked in to chicken and chips before going to hold a good place for the Last Post Ceremony. James, India and Lucy Clark (in their uniform in the near 30 degree heat… no non-blazer days here…) took part in the ceremony. Lucy will locate her relative tomorrow at Thiepval. It was a very moving experience and our pupils were beautifully engaged and respectful.
Last stop of this packed day was the chocolate shop before returning home to the hotel for a much needed bedtime at 10pm. Tomorrow is our day on the Somme, so we’re going to need some rest!
After making excellent time down the M1 this morning, we stopped at South Mimms services to get some well-needed breakfast and to stretch our legs. On from there, we carried on to Dover where we had a very calm and enjoyable crossing to France.
After watching an excellent film by Tony Robinson (known to most as Baldrick from Blackadder) about the causes and start of WW1, Mr Franks told us about the Ypres Salient, our home for the next 3 nights. Our first stop was at Essex Farm Cemetery and Dressing Station, home to the graves of many who gave their lives on the Salient, but particularly to one John McRae.
McRae was a Canadian soldier who penned the famous In Flanders Fields poem that refers to the poppies that to this day have become symbols of remembrance for the Great War. After Mr Cox read the poem next to his memorial, we explored the dressing stations and then boarded the coach that would take us to our hotel, the Munchenhof in Langemarck.
After checking in and having time to settle in and unwind (or play football, as the boys decided…) we had dinner at the hotel. Plates were piled high with vegetables chips and chicken as we enjoyed a very civilized meal together. After some free time to let our food settle (yes, more football), we embarked on a night walk to nearby the German Cemetery, in Langemarck.
German cemeteries have a different look and feel – no English country garden with mown lawns and upright headstones here. Instead, the graves are flat the ground and the whole atmosphere is different and eerie. We decided to go at dusk to augment the feel. Pupils were reverend and excellently behaved as we explored the gravestones and the architecture of the site.
Lights out at 10:30 tonight, as we are off to Ypres tomorrow. Breakfast is 7:30 sharp!
The journey home has gone to plan so we expect to be home by 1pm. We look forward to seeing you all at school soon!
We are off the Eurotunnel and now driving back to Chesterfield. Looking forward to seeing you all soon!
This afternoon we performed our concert at St Michael’s Basilica, which is where Maria and Captain Von Trapp get married in the Sound Of Music. It was an absolutely stunning church and all of the pupils performed brilliantly. Involved in the concert were upper school choir, festival choir, manflesh, string quintet, chamber choir and soloists.
This evening at the hotel is barbecue evening. We have enjoyed a delicious barbecue and are now enjoying free time, playing rounders and on the trampolines.
This afternoon the pupils performed absolutely brilliantly at our first concert. It was a beautiful venue on Lake Wolfgang and the sun was shining! Festival choir, upper school choir, manflesh, barbershop quartet, acapella choir, jazz band, brass band, string quintet, sax ensemble and soloists performed in our concert and were all superb!