Abersychan School – First World War battlefields tour

Events and News feature holding image - 220x140This project is part of the Welsh Government’s Remembering the First World War – £1000 grant for secondary schools in Wales scheme. Every secondary school in Wales has the opportunity to apply to receive up to £1,000 to develop creative and innovative projects to commemorate the First World War. For more information and guidance on how to apply, click here.

*All text has been provided by the school

Our idea:

Pupils will gain an insight into how the First World War affected Ypres and the Somme. By visiting trenches and relevant museums, they will develop knowledge and understanding of the causes, events and consequences of First World War, particularly focusing upon the three battles of Ypres and the battle of the Somme. By visiting war graves and laying poppies as well as laying a wreath at the daily Menin Gate memorial, they will develop an appreciation of the importance of remembrance.

What happened:

During the Easter Holidays, Mr Evans, Mr Thomas and Miss Hagerty of the History Department, assisted by Miss Rawles from the English Department, took 43 Year 9, 10 and 11 pupils on a tour of significant WWI Battlefields, cemeteries and memorials around Ypres in Belgium and the Somme in France.

On Friday 11th April, the pupils were able to visit the beautiful medieval city of Bruges and explore the sites from a canal tour of the city. We then moved on to the Hill 62 Museum in Ypres where pupils were able to explore a reconstructed section of German trenches, experiencing just how filthy conditions must have been for the soldiers involved. The pupils also saw the amazing primary evidence collected by the museum as they excavated the site.

On Saturday 12th April, the pupils began the day with a tour of the In Flanders Fields interactive museum in Ypres, which served to really bring to life the horrors of the three battles of Ypres. The pupils then had a guided tour of the Ypres Salient where we visited Essex Farm Cemetery to see the grave of the war poet, John McCrae, as well as the field hospital he served in. We also visited the grave of the Welsh Bard, Hedd Wynn, whose poem The Hero had won the 1917 Eisteddfod after his death fighting near Ypres. We also visited the largest Allied cemetery in the world at Tyne Cot where pupils had the opportunity to place a cross of remembrance on a grave of their choice. Many pupils chose to place their cross on the graves of unknown soldiers to ensure their sacrifice was not forgotten. We finally visited Langemark German cemetery where pupils were shocked at the contrast with the Allied cemeteries they had visited. The pupils then enjoyed some light relief, visiting a delicious Belgian chocolate shop. In the evening we took part in the daily act of remembrance that takes place at the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres. The Gate contains the names of 54,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died near Ypres but whose bodies were never found. During the moving ceremony, Jake Tidley and Jessica Roberts laid a wreath on behalf of the staff and pupils of Abersychan School. Afterwards, Jake was able to locate the name of his Great Great Uncle on panel 37 of the gate. He had died in 1915, during the second battle of Ypres.

111024 - WG_Funded_land_mono jpg - LogoOn Sunday 13th April, the pupils had a tour of the Somme Battlefield, where 420,000 British soldiers had been killed on wounded in 1916. We visited Mametz Wood to see the memorial to the 4,000 soldiers of the 38th Welsh Division who had died. We also visited the Canadian Memorial and the site of the Lochnagar Crater where a huge mine was set off at the start of the battle. We also visited the Thiepval Memorial, which contains the names of 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died at the Somme but whose bodies were never found. Pupils then visited the Somme Museum in Albert and the Museum of the Great War in Peronne. These museums and the artefacts they contained really helped to bring to life the battle for the pupils.

The pupils found the trip profoundly moving. All agreed that, especially this year on the centenary of the outbreak of WWI, it is more important than ever that we remember the sacrifice of all soldiers who gave their tomorrow for our today.