World War One Battle Field Tour – Belgium and France
From the 11th of November to the 14th of November 2018 year 9 students Phillix B, Shivonne S. and I went on a tour of World War One battlefields and commemorative sites. We travelled as part of the legacy 110 groups that have been provided funding by the Department for Education to travel to First World War sites, ensuring that the next generation of British students understand the significance of the First World War and continue to partake in remembrance.
Upon our arrival we were presented with details of a soldier who had grown up one and a half miles away from our school. William George Fitzjohn was in the Bedfordshire Regiment, Second Battalion and he fought in Belgium on the Ypres Salient during World War One. William was a focal point of our remembrance during our trip and highlighted just how much World War One affected local communities. We were able to lay a poppy in his memory.
The battles were very bloody, I think we should learn from this so it doesn’t happen again, we should remember World War One to avoid similar wars happening again.
Belgium – Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele
The battles in Ypres saw some of the fiercest fighting in Belgium during World War One. Shivonne and Phillix were also able to study artefacts and experience a trench walk at the memorial museum Passchendaele where our local soldier was killed in action. When back from our trip I was able to find out that William was involved in a trench raid in which the German lines laid down heavy fire. He died at Hollebeke on the 20th September 1917. His body was not recovered, like so many soldiers of World War One and he is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
France - the Battle of the Somme
We travelled to France and followed the old trench lines down to the most famous battle site of World War One, the Somme. Here 60,000 British and Commonwealth troops were killed or injured on the first day. We were also able to lay a poppy in remembrance of another soldier local to our school who lived in Essex, Albert John Cliff. Albert’s body was also never recovered and he is commemorated at the Thiepval Somme memorial.
There was a lot of casualties during the battle of the Somme; it was almost like they had no hope once they climbed out of the trenches. The progress was slow but they managed to be successful and push the Germans back. You could argue that though the allies gained ground, it was a disaster due to the amount of men lost or injured.
Menin Gate Ceremony
Our visit to Ypres happened just after remembrance Sunday on the 11th of November. This meant that Phillix and Shivonne were able to represent Lea Valley Academy at a wreath laying ceremony in front of a large congregation in commemoration of those who served in the armed forces. At the Menin Gate arch, with the names of hundreds of soldiers inscribed into the walls, Phillix and Shivonne and a member of our tour, who currently serves in the army, laid a wreath to show our respect for the sacrifices made by soldiers at the battles of Ypres and other battlefields during World War One. We also listened to the famous ‘Last Post’, which is played on a bugle every evening at Menin Gate.
We felt proud to be able to represent Lea Valley Academy and to show respect for those who lost their lives. We learnt that World War One means a lot to many people from many different cultures, so to remember it is something our community can relate to.
Phillix & Shivonne
Our tour was a memorable four days in which we all learnt a lot about the impact of World War One on the people who fought in it, the local people in Belgium and France and on our own community. We hope that the experience that we share can help our school and local community to remember a time and a war that is still resonating with us, even after one hundred years.Paul Turner
Lead Teacher for History