November afforded the opportunity for three students and two members of staff to take part in the Battlefields Tours Programme organised by UCL.
Arriving in Belgium, they checked in to their accommodation in Peace Village, Belgium, where they enjoyed taking part in a tour briefing and introductory learning session.
After a good night’s sleep, the following day offered the opportunity to explore how the First World War affected ordinary people. The first stop on the itinerary was at the Memorial Monument, Passchendaele. Here, students explored the ‘dug-out experience’ and the life of ordinary people at war.
Next was a visit to Lijssenthoek Cemetery where the headstones are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Every headstone told a story and students learned of some of the thousands whose lives were given to ‘The Cause’.
After lunch, students visited Langemark Cemetery, a site which commemorates the loss of German lives.
The last stop of the afternoon was at Tyne Cot British and Commonwealth Military Museum where students remembered those who gave sacrificed their lives to shape the future of the next generations.
Following their evening meal at Peace Village, Ypres was the next experience. The Ceremony of The Last Post at Menin Gate was a humbling experience for all, where wreaths were laid to honour the fallen.
After a healthy, nourishing breakfast, the group left Peace Village for Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park. This is a preserved battlefield where students learned of the story of the brave Newfoundland Regiment on 1st July 1916.
The next stop was at Le Hamel to learn about the involvement of the 44th Australian Infantry Battalion in July 1918.
Thiepval Memorial was the final stop to consolidate understanding of the Somme followed by a session at Peace Village where students explored the similarities and differences between the equipment available to a soldier in World War One and that issued to soldiers in modern warfare.
Overall, the students had an amazing experience to which their reflections bear testimony:
“I thought it was very sad that the soldiers had to suffer such hardship and loss.”
“I learned a lot about how much the soldiers did for us and the Menin Gate service was very touching.”
“So many graves made me feel really upset because I never realised how so many men gave up their lives for our freedom today.”
A big thank you to UCL for organising such an interesting itinerary for our visit 😊.