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 Months of fundraising by 40 Social Sciences students paid off when they enjoyed a packed trip to see battlefields in Belgium and France.

 The 40 students had an early start on 2 November 2015 - leaving College at 5am to start the long coach journey across the Channel to Calais and into Belgium.

"We arrived at 6pm at the Peace Village Hostel in Ypres which overlooks the Messines Ridge Battlefields and memorial," said Miss Hill, Social Sciences curriculum assistant who accompanied the trip with Mr Arnold, Miss Sayer and Miss Walters.

"In the foyer of the hostel were life-size models depicting the Christmas Day Truce football match of 1914, as well as scale models of trenches and artefacts dug up from the local fields.

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"After the evening meal students had a short history lesson on how and why World War One began and a fun quiz before bedtime and lights out."

The next day meant another early start to fit in a packed day visiting battlefield sites around Ypres.

Click HERE to find out how to join the next Social Sciences trip

"First stop was the Passchendaele Museum, with several floors of displays, film shows and collections devoted to the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

"Students were particularly interested in the replica dugouts and trench system below the museum and outside in the grounds.

"Before leaving, students left thoughtful messages in the museum memory book."

The next stop was Tyne Cot, the resting place of 11,954 soldiers and the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.

"The engravings on the war graves made students think about the very young age of many of the soldiers as well as the enormous scale of casualties," said Miss Hill.

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"Thousands of bodies were never found and their names were listed on large plaques on the memorial wall.

"After a quick packed lunch en route, we visited In Flanders Field museum located in the famous Cloth Hall in Ypres.

"The students enjoyed this different type of museum which has interactive touch screens, video projections and soundscapes activated by their pre-programmed Poppy bracelets.

"We made a short stop at Langemark German Military Cemetery where students saw the contrast between the white gravestones of the Commonwealth soldiers compared to the stark plaques in this German memorial site.

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 "No trip to Belgium would be complete without a trip to a Belgian chocolatier, which was the next destination before dinner. Students watched chocolates being made, tasted samples and bought souvenirs to bring home.

"In the evening we attended the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony where Mia and Aiden proudly laid a wreath on behalf of the College. 

"The ceremony has taken place every evening since 1918, apart from World War Two years, and it was an honour to witness our students participate in the ceremony in front of crowds of visitors from all over the world.

"On the third day we left Belgium early in the morning and travelled back over the border to the Somme region of France to visit Vimy Ridge preserved tunnels and trenches. 

"Here students were fascinated to learn they were standing in Canada, as the site is now owned by the Canadian Government and is maintained as a memorial to the Canadian forces who fought there.

"Onwards for a short stop at the Mametz Devonshire Regiment Cemetery to pay our respects to over 160 soldiers who had fallen on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and buried in the section of the trenches.

 

"The next planned stop was Thiepval – a colossal memorial to the missing 72,000 of the Somme with no known grave, which could be seen for miles around. Newfoundland Memorial Park was the final visit of the day. 

"Here students trekked through remains of Commonwealth and German trenches on the Western Front. 

"The Caribou Statue is situated on the high ground overlooking the trenches paying tribute to the fallen and 814 missing soldiers.

Days four and five saw a significant change of scenery as the students visited Disneyland Paris parks to learn about travel and tourism. 

"Students were permitted to go off in smaller friendship groups, returning to check in with staff every couple of hours, showing us photographs of themselves with Disney Characters and relaying stories of riding frightening roller coasters. 

"It was a very happy atmosphere with a wondrous sea of students in blue hoodies and Minnie Mouse Ears! We ate our evening meal in Planet Hollywood, a first experience for most of the group.

"We travelled home during the evening and into the night and arrived back safely in the early hours of Saturday 7 November – 40 very tired students and four even more tired staff. 

"What a terrific week we had with great company making new friends across different years, and the memories will no doubt last forever!"

The Social Sciences team are planning to return to Belgium and France in 2018 to coincide with and commemorate the centenary of end of the Great War.

 

 

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Stoke Damerel News Archive: Academic Year 2015/16

 

 

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