Fourth Form visit to Ypres
59 Prep pupils, parents and staff made the journey to the Ypres Salient on Saturday in what has now become an annual pilgrimage to the First World War battlefields.
Pupils conducted a short Service of Remembrance at Talbot House in Poperinge, an Everyman Club, visited by soldiers of all ranks as relief from the traumas of life in the trenches. We then visited the Town Hall of Poperinge, to pay tribute to the 306 men “shot at dawn” during the First World War, and this theme was continued as a wreath was laid at the grave of Lieutenant Eric Poole, the only officer to be executed.
From Poperinge we moved about the battlefields, stopping briefly at the grave of Captain Noel Chavasse, a medical officer, who uniquely won two Victoria crosses during this dreadful conflict.
Pupils had the chance to explore the trenches at the Bayernwald before visiting the Commonwealth War Cemetery of Tyne Cot and the German Cemetery at Langemark. A brief halt at Essex Farm proved especially poignant, for here we saw buried Private Valentine Strudwick, who was only 15 years of age when he fell in the trenches outside of Ypres. The reading of a Siegfried Sassoon poem over his grave juxtaposed the patriot enthusiasm with which young men joined up, and the horrors of life in the trenches.
A hastily eaten meal at Café Canada provided nourishment before attendance at The Last Post ceremony conducted at the Menin Gate each evening since 1928 in remembrance of the 54,896 men who died between 1914 and 1917 and who have no known grave. This was a sombre note on which to end a thought-provoking day, in which the pupils had the opportunity to see first-hand the sights which are studied as part of the Fourth Form study of the First World War.