Writing: Zac Dhanda (Year 9)
Editing: Amal Shakir (Year 11)
The Year 9’s day began far too early at 5:30, but when they finally arrived at the Eurotunnel to take them to Calais, they were beginning the second part of their journey to the Somme.
After another couple of long hours, we finally arrived at the first destination, Thiepval. Awaiting us was a large structure with thousands of names inscribed on the walls. Behind this was a cemetery, British soldiers on the right and French soldiers on the left. It was a moving and touching beginning to the trip when the students laid down crosses in memory of the fallen soldiers.
After stopping off at a few destinations on the way, our next big stop was a bomb crater, putting into perspective the scale of the war. The British had tried to dig under the German lines, with the aim of creating a massive explosion and change the tide of the war. However, it didn't go to plan - the bomb killed many German soldiers, but they hadn’t dug the hole close enough to the trenches. Tens of thousands of Germans had died and the British hadn’t accomplished their mission, the war was at a stalemate. Seeing this piece of history in person was mind-blowing and really showed us all how big this war really was.
At the end of the first day, we had a tour of the real trenches where the Newfoundland regiment were positioned. Seeing the horrors of living in the trenches and what it would have been like to go to war, was a real eye-opener.
The next morning we visited Ypres where we saw another crater called the Caterpillar Crater. The British had dug under German lines and created an explosion which was heard in London. This crater was so much bigger than the first one we had seen, and it showed just how far people were willing to go to end a war.
One of the most emotional things we did was the visit to the biggest WWI cemetery in the world, Tyne Cot. There were thousands of graves in the cemetery which seemed to go on forever. The idea that every grave marked the body of a person who had died was almost too hard to comprehend - and incredibly moving. But equally important was to see the other side of the casualties and to see the German cemeteries, which is what we did next.
The German trenches were very different in that each gravestone was a black plaque with about eight names written on it. In the centre there was a mass grave of about 25,000 bodies, all buried together. To see the two cemeteries commemorating the soldiers who died, principally for the same reason but on opposite sides, gave us a new perspective on the events that defined the modern world.