'On Thursday 23 November, our Third Form pupils set out for the annual Battlefields Trip to France and Belgium, in order to explore the sites of major First World War battles.
It was cold, wet and windy when the coaches left Cokethorpe at 6am, en route to Ypres. Most of us were very grateful to be back on terra firma following a rough channel crossing, as we travelled north to Hooge - site of one of the earliest examples of mining during the war.
Having learnt a little about the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the way in which cemeteries were designed in the post-war period, the group proceeded into Ypres, where they explored the Menin Gate and took part in the daily Last Post ceremony.
After a much-needed nights' sleep, the students were back on the coach the following morning, travelling down to Vimy Ridge and then the Somme. Here, they visited Lochnagar Crater, Thiepval and Newfoundland Park, learning about the way in which different parts of the Commonwealth were involved in the war as well as finding out more about the tactics adopted by allied commanders.
On the third and final day, the group were able to contrast the rather triumphant approach to commemorating the war seen in Commonwealth memorials with the dark and dismal resting place for German soldiers at the Langermark cemetery. They also visited the Passchendaele Museum at Zonnebecke, before ending their tour at the Tyne Cot cemetery, where there was an opportunity for a short but poignant moment of reflection.
There is no doubt that the experience had a deep and profound effect on the pupils; their questions and reflections illustrating a good deal of empathy as well as an increased understanding of the way in which the conflict affected all those involved. It was a busy three days, but a trip that will last a long time in the memories of all involved.'