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Battlefields tour gives pupils important First World War insight

64 historians from the Third Year upwards visited the battlefields of the First World War during the Autumn half term break.

The annual trip, which sees the History department take pupils to northern France and Belgium, came just a couple of weeks ahead of Remembrance Day.

Day one saw the boys and girls visit the location of 1916’s infamous Battle of the Somme. Pupils then learned about the weaponry used and saw artefacts from the Great War as they visited sites and museums, such as the underground museum in Albert.

Pupils laid a wreath in memory of Old Stopfordians lost in battle at the memorial for the missing at Thiepval and a minute’s silence was held in memory of all those who died in and around the Somme area.

On the second day, pupils made their way around meticulously replicated underground bunkers and trenches at Passchendaele Museum where they were also able to view the extensive collection of objects and photographs that were on display – giving them the opportunity to see and feel what life was like for soldiers a century ago.

The travelling party’s next stop was Hooge, a small village around two miles east of Ypres. From 1914-1917 there was fierce fighting in the area, which was the front line of the Salient, and the village was totally destroyed.

A second wreath was laid by Lucy Ferris and Alex Patsias at the moving Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Speaking about the trip, Third Year pupil Jessica Horsford said: “Going on the battlefields trip was a good experience as you actually got to see the places you have heard and read about so much and it really gave you a sense of perspective.

“One of the things that stuck in my mind most was the crater as you could see the damage and destruction that it had caused. I learnt some more details about the Battle of the Somme and, as we laid the wreaths, it was a good time to reflect and remember.”

Fellow Third Year pupil Thomas Pennington added: “The trip to France and Belgium was very interesting and educational and I would really recommend it to other pupils as it helps in class as it gives you more thoughts about what happened in the war.

“There were lots of facts and figures on show and walking through the trenches and reading them gave you a feel for what life was like for the soldiers.

“A relative of mine, my grandad’s uncle, is buried there and it was a special moment visiting his grave. I did research about him before the trip and my family had lots of questions when I returned.”