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Insightful Battlefields trip

Eighty pupils from the Third Year and above travelled to the battlefields of the First World War during the History department’s annual visit to France and Belgium.

Pupils are able to visit a number of poignant First World War sites as they can see, in person, the locations they have been learning about in lessons.

Day one saw the travelling group head to the River Somme where, from 1 July to 18 November 1916, more than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed – making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Following this, they learnt about the weapons that were used after visiting sites such as the underground museum in Albert.

At Thiepval a wreath was laid by Jacob Henshaw and Alice Thomson and a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the Old Stopfordians and all of those who died in and around the Somme area.

One hundred and sixty Old Stopfordians volunteered to fight in the First World War before conscription was introduced and many more joined the Forces after.

At the Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, accurately replicated underground bunkers and trenches allowed pupils to experience what life was like for soldiers more than 100 years ago.

Two miles east of Ypres is Hooge, a small village which was the front line of the Salient. From 1914 to 1917 there was fierce fighting in the area and the village was totally destroyed.

At the moving Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Anna Collins-Room and Harry Meanwell laid a second wreath.

Speaking about the trip, Thomas Keogh said: “The trip gave us the opportunity to see the true impact of this tragic and bloody war, where it was fought and how. It was quite immersive and poignant, really allowing us to grasp the true bloodshed and destruction like no class-based lesson ever could.”

Alice Thomson said “At Thiepval, with the help of the Sixth Formers on the trip, I found the name of my Grandpa’s Great Uncle, Private Francis John Akerman, at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Private Akerman was a member of the Gloucester Regiment and was killed in France on 26th October 1916. It made the situation really personal to me and will be an experience I certainly will never forget.”

Lilah Vidler concluded: “I got to visit a lot of places that I have heard of in class and I was particularly moved at seeing the grave of John Condon, the youngest soldier killed in the First World War aged just 14 – almost as old as me.”