History School Trips - Flanders insights

Some members of the Select team recently visited Flanders. Here are some insights into some of the excursions on offer:

Flander’s Fields

Visiting the WW1 sites in Flanders really is an eye-opening and humbling experience. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the war and spending time visiting this area where so many perished was very moving. And although 100 years might seem like a long time, it actually really wasn’t when you realise that we would only have to trace back a few generations to find relatives who may have lived through this conflict.

Menin Gate
The last post ceremony that takes place at Menin gate was certainly a highlight for me. Having a moment to remember those who fought bravely and seeing some of their names written on the walls is an overwhelming experience. It was great to see so many people coming together to remember them. Some laid a reef in memory of a fallen family member which again reminded us that many still had close family members who died during WW1.

Island of Ireland Peace Park
Where there is an abundance of books on the topic and of course information online, nothing is more valuable to students than actually visiting a place like this to fully understand and get under the skin of history. Whilst visiting memorial sites such as Island of Ireland Peace Park, Hooge crater and Tyne cot cemetery I was really able to build a better picture of the events of WW1. Not only did I understand better the struggles of war but it also helped me see the bigger picture, the aftermath and the effect that it had for those waiting at home too.

Hooge Museum
It’s great to see that most museums and sites have fantastic structures in place to ensure learning for the general public, but also for students in particular. Hooge crater museum for example puts a lot of thought into its displays and guided tours. They have recently expanded the museum to include a section about the Medical evacuation aspects of the war and how soldiers were treated for their wounds. They also have a well kept re-production trench that shows the differences between the British and German trenches.
We were also very lucky to have a passionate guide that brought to life how this Medical evacuation worked and painted us an accurate picture of what these horrific situations entailed. It really is difficult to fathom that it could take a couple of days to evacuate a patient to where they could be treated, when nowadays that same journey on foot could take no more than 45 minutes.

New Zealand Memorial Park
Visiting the graves of the fallen can appear to be just a grim experience, however it also shows the global and indiscriminate side of the conflict. Many men fought along each other, men of different ages, backgrounds, religions and countries. Although a place of remembrance and contemplation, a war cemetery shows how people can come together to unite towards the same cause regardless of who they are and where they are from. Along the way we heard personal stories about some of the fallen men, turning each tombstone into a story as well.

Talbot House
After a busy and educational day exploring all the sites, Talbot House in Poperinge is a welcome stop for a well-earned cup of tea and cake. In addition to satisfying your sugar craving, it’s also interesting to imagine the purpose of this place during the war, as soldiers would come here and try to disconnect from the atrocities of combat. Hard to imagine how this would be possible, but Talbot House did offer a safe place to unwind and share time with comrades, if only for a brief moment.

A trip to Ypres and the WWI sites is highly recommended to all student groups and their teachers wishing to gain a better understanding of this huge page in history, and add a hands-on experience to their classroom learnings. You can view example itineraries and further details here >

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