Phoebe Edmundson and Jonathan Corner, accompanied by Mrs Jones, had the great privilege of visiting the battle sites of WW1, in Belgium and France. After joining other students from around the Midlands, our Tour Guide from Equity, along with military historians and serving soldiers, we experienced a memorable insight into the conditions of the soldiers and an appreciation of the work of the Commonwealth war Graves Commission in maintaining the cemeteries dedicated to the fallen.
Visiting Lijssenthoek Cemetery and the Tyne Cot Cemetery we were made aware of not only the huge numbers of soldiers killed but also the different nationalities and faiths of those who fought and died. We found headstones and laid poppy crosses to two local soldiers who died in1917 from Hinckley, Frederick James Flude and Ernest Louis Hall, both from the Leicestershire Regiment. We also found the headstone of Nellie Spindler, a nurse from Lichfield who worked at the hospital close to the front line when she was killed by a shell.
In sharp contrast, Langemark Cemetery, for the German war dead, the headstones were in black, lying down on the ground. A mass grave contained 32,000 bodies and headstones recording the names of 14,000 soldiers.
Joining a crowd in the region of 2000 people, we participated in a moving last post ceremony which takes place every night at the Menin Gate.
Standing on Vimy Ridge, we were able to see first-hand how the Germans were able to take control of the high ground and understand why so many lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The fantastic Canadian National Memorial towers into the skyline to commemorate those who lost their lives in the assault to regain the Ridge in 1917.
Students were able to walk through the preserved trenches of the Canadians and a short distance away the German trench lines. A fascinating talk was given by a guide at Thiepal Wood, taking us inside the recently excavated British trenches.
Each student created a pottery figure which will form part of a memorial to the 600.000 killed in Flanders during WW1. This was a fitting ending to an emotional tour, as a lasting remembrance to the soldiers who lost their lives.