Leaden Hall year 6 girls enjoyed a memorable and moving three day trip to the First World War battlefields around Ypres.
They started with a walk around the town of Diksmuide and saw the shell cases at Pax Gate.
The following day they visited Hill 62, Memorial Museum Passchendale 1917, Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Menin Gate. The girls were shocked to see the restored trenches and dugouts that the soldiers lived in; “We trudged through the muddy trenches and our feet were sore after only one hour, it was hard to imagine spending four years sleeping, eating and living in those conditions.” The girls sat in one of the dugouts and sang their partner songs, ‘Pack up your troubles’ and ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, which some visiting veterans stopped to listen to and enjoy.
At Langemark German War Cemetery they were able to speak with some German soldiers who had come to tend to the cemetery. They learnt that the Germans buried their fallen differently to the British, with flat gravestones and communal graves.
Tyne Cot Cemetery made a deep impression on the girls; “It was incredibly moving to look at row on row of 12,000 graves”. The girls found a grave of a Victoria Cross recipient.
They also visited Essex Farm where the poet John McCrae, who wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’, worked as a doctor during the war. That evening the girls were honoured to take part in the Menin Gate ceremony, where three girls lay flowers from Leaden Hall, and all were incredibly moved by the bugler playing The Last Post. “The Menin Gate was really moving, to think that there were 55 thousand names of missing soldiers on the gate was very hard to believe.” The girls found some of their family members listed amongst the missing.
After all the history, the girls enjoyed a taste of French cuisine the next day with a visit to a local boulangerie where they learnt how to make croissants, baguettes and pain au chocolate. There was some tasting involved too. Mrs Parry, Year 6 teacher, commented; “It was an exceptional trip; the weather, the accommodation, the food and the girls were exemplary, and the sights and knowledge that the girls learnt will stay with them forever.” This was the first Leaden Hall excursion to Ypres and will certainly be repeated next year.