Between 9 and 11 February 2012 a group of Year 9 pupils took part in the school’s annual visit to the Battlefields of the First World War, which was led by Miss Emily Boulton and colleagues from the History department.
Braving icy winds and snow on the ground, the group set off on the morning of Friday 9 February, and made directly for France’s national war memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette, near the City of Lens. This striking memorial takes the form of twin buildings, a chapel and a tower. The tower contains the bones of several thousand French soldiers, and also individual coffins of soldiers who fell in the Second World War, Indochina and Algeria. There is also a casket containing the ashes of French victims of the Nazi extermination camps. From the ridge we were able to see our next destination, the famous Vimy Ridge, scene of some of the heaviest fighting of 1917. Now under the management of the Canadian government, Vimy is one of two sites in northern France that commemorate the sacrifice of Canadian forces. As well as a remarkably preserved section of battlefield, containing the undulations of massive shell craters, Vimy also has a uniquely preserved section of tunnels dating back to 1916-17. We were privileged to receive a guided tour of this remarkable underground network where supplies were brought to the front-line via a small railway.
On the second day we travelled to the Somme, tracing the front-line of this infamous battle via a string of small cemeteries where individual regiments fought and fell. We were left with the overwhelming impression that this was a truly international sacrifice, as we stopped at memorials to soldiers as far afield as South Africa, Scotland and Ulster.
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Tuesday 21 February 2012
by Charlotte Hails