This year, Brechin High School second and third year pupils were given the opportunity to go on a trip to Belgium and France to see battlefields and historical landmarks from the First World War, writes High School pupils Erin Smith and Catherine Wales.
On our trip, we visited many genuine WW1 sites, including war memorials, museums and trenches.
We began our visit in Belgium at the Munchenhof hotel. While in Belgium we attended the Menin Gate, which is a memorial of British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the Ypres battles.
We found this a very unreal experience as all of the names, which covered every inch of the walls, were of men whose bodies were never found.
Three pupils from our school, Patrick Kinnear, Tisha deGuzman and Nadia Anderson, were chosen to lay a memorial poppy wreath at the Last Post Ceremony, which was a very memorable experience for the school and the individuals who took part.
Whilst in Ypres, we also got some lovely Belgian chocolate, which, we are pleased to say, fully lived up to our expectations.
The next day, before traveling to France, we visited the Passchendaele Museum, which we thoroughly enjoyed, as it gave us a very accurate insight into the three battles of Ypres.
We then went to the Tyne Cot Memorial Cemetery. This was a very emotional experience as when we arrived all we could see was a sea of white graves.
There were 11,954 graves in total, 8,367 of which were unnamed or “known unto God”.
It was very hard-hitting seeing some of the young ages on the gravestones, as some were only a few years older than ourselves. As our last visit in Belgium, we went to see genuine First World War Trenches and the artifacts museum at Hill 62.
In France, we visited one of the sites of the Battle of the Somme. The stretch of the trenches we visited was held by the soldiers of Newfoundland (a province of Canada and a member of the British empire who was granted their independence from Canada), the Essex Regiment and the 51st Gordon Highlanders.
The memorial site was handed over, and is now kept by the Canadians. We were taught about the Newfoundlanders experience of going “Over the Top” and being slaughtered by the German machine guns.
We came across a tree which is named the “Danger Tree” because it was the furthest the Newfoundlanders ever got before they fell. We also found out that it took the soldiers five months to cross No Man’s Land, when it was thought to take a day.
The German front line was eventually captured by the 51st Gordon Highlanders Battalion. There is a memorial on site to remember their courage and success.
Despite our jam-packed schedule of educational visits, we still found time to enjoy ourselves at French theme park, Parc Asterix, and took a day trip to explore the delights of Paris.
We saw many historical landmarks on a boat ride along the Seine including, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Musée du Louvre.
After this, we climbed the 277 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and enjoyed the view down the twelve avenues.
All in all it was an amazing trip. We had so much fun learning about the First World War and seeing for ourselves the memorials, museums and landmarks, as well as enjoying the beautiful Paris, and having a ball in Parc Asterix.
We feel we have improved our knowledge of French and history, and this was a trip, we will never forget.