Battlefields tour helps pupils remember the dead

Pupils at first world war memorial

The History department’s annual battlefields tour to northern France and Belgium took place over the half-term break, with 67 third year pupils and six members of staff visiting the sites of the first world war.

The site of the Battle of the Somme was the first destination, where our pupils were guided around the trench system at the Newfoundland Memorial and visited the Lochnagar crater, created as the battle began on 1st July 1916.

Pupils then visited the Thiepval Memorial where they laid a wreath of remembrance to three Old Stopfordians lost on the Somme, including Herbert Ormesher who left school in 1915 and was one of the 58,000 British soldiers killed or wounded on the first day of the battle.

The trip then crossed the border to Ypres, a small Belgian town fiercely guarded by the British during the war.

Pupils were guided through the Ypres salient to sites such as Essex Farm, Hellfire Corner, Hill 60 and Tyne Cott, the largest British military cemetery in the world, before witnessing the poignant Last Post played every day of the year at the Menin Gate. Pupils laid another wreath at the memorial, which remembers the 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought to save the town and have no known grave.

Mrs Heather Ashton, teacher of History and leader of the trip, said:

This was a truly significant experience for all pupils involved, who realised that people not much older than themselves gave up everything to fight for their country.

Plans for next year’s trip are already in place with the hope that any interested pupil in the current second or third year will experience the reality and significance of the first world war and remember much more than the pages of a textbook.

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