The weather was very kind for this year's trip to the Ypres Salient. Having left Cokethorpe at 6am, pupils were relieved to reach our first destination, Hooge. Site of a beautiful Lutyens-designed cemetery and a large crater (a result of a mined offensive by the British in the second Battle of Ypres), this was a poignant start to the trip. Pupils explored the different features of a British Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery whilst also reflecting on the sheer scale of human loss as well as the way in which the war affected the landscape in and around Ypres.
Tired pupils (and teachers!) were relieved to arrive at the hotel, enjoying the customary warm welcome from the hotel staff - well-used to visits from Cokethorpe after eight years of hosting us on this trip. After a good night's sleep, we visited the German Cemetery at Langermark, contrasting the austere, dark design with the white, triumphant design of Hooge, before then visiting Essex Farm, where John McCrea worked as a surgeon and wrote 'In Flanders Field' following the death of a close friend.
Following a visit to the excellent Passchendaele Memorial Museum at the afternoon was spent in Ypres, visiting the Menin Gate and exploring the town, destroyed by the war and painstakingly restored. We returned to the Menin Gate again in the evening that take part in the daily act of remembrance - an event that has taken place every evening since the monument's construction in 1927, with the exception of the years when Ypres was occupied by Nazi forces in the Second World War.
The final morning was spent at Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world, where pupils took part in a final act of remembrance, with Sam Carter reading Binyon's evocative poem 'For the Fallen'. The children were a credit to the School; enthusiastic, curious and empathetic. Their attitude and approach led the bus drivers to comment that, in all their years of transporting groups to Ypres, they had never taken such a well behaved and polite School. It was a fitting end to an excellent trip.