Report by Mr Smith
35 pupils from Our Lady’s High School travelled to Belgium and France during the final week of term to take part in a memorable World War One Battlefields Experience led by an excellent guide from Mercat Tours.
After an overnight ferry crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge, the group travelled to the southern lip of the Ypres Salient, visiting the small Belgian town of Messines and standing in the very room in which an injured Adolf Hitler was treated during the First World War. That afternoon the group donned their wellies to stand up to their knees in the mud of the trenches at Sanctuary Wood, and listened in awe to stories at the Pool of Peace, Hooge Crater and Hill 60, before travelling along the Menin Road, the scene of such bitter fighting as both sides battled for control of Ypres.
Day 3 was a full day visit to France and the Somme battlefields where drama and roleplay brought the horrors of the battles to life as the group toured Beaumont Hamel Ulster Tower, La Boiselle, Pozieres Ridge, Vimy Ridge and the Thiepval Memorial where two pupils laid poppies in memory of relatives who had been killed in action.
On Day 4 the group journeyed to the northern lip of the Ypres Salient to visit the Allied cemeteries at Essex Farm, Poelkapelle, Passchendaele and Tyne Cot, and the German cemetery at Langemarck before holding their own memorial service at the Menin Gate in Ypres. Here another pupil was able to leave a poppy as a mark of respect to a relative killed in action.
The final day was devoted to sightseeing and souvenir shopping in Bruges before the journey back to Motherwell. Throughout the week pupils also read poetry and sang songs from the period, climbed in and out of German pill-boxes and marched as soldiers, but most importantly were challenged to think, discuss and reflect on their experiences of an unforgettable week.