“The Battlefields Trip was full of contradictions. It was incredible yet poignant, to remember the boys some only fifteen, who died fighting for their country.
Some events, like listening to The Last Post at the Menin Gate transported us to those battlefields of the Somme, while walking up and down the graves at Tyne Cot Military Cemetery, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Thiepval Memorial To The Missing and Essex Farm and reading the names on the panelled walls at the Indian War Memorial made us truly realise, in terms of actual people rather than simply statistics, the toll of the Great War on both soldiers and those serving on the Home Front alike.
Some occasions brought home to many of us the reality of World War One. For some, it was the wonderfully preserved trenches at Vimy Ridge and Newfoundland Memorial Park, listening to the story of Private Frederick Edward Franklin, who started at Watford Boys in 1912 and lived on the High Street in Rickmansworth. For others it was finding their surnames on memorials and graves in the cemeteries, as well as finding relatives who had fought and died in the First World War in those cemeteries, either on panelled memorials to the missing, or in graves. For the remainder, it was hearing the horrific stories our amazing guide Tom related to us, about failed attacks, (more often than not, the reasons for the odd memorials scatted around.) The Ulster Tower, for example, a touching tribute to Ulster Division, who launched a well planned attack, that should have, by all accounts worked. Unfortunately, it failed, the only outcome being a boatful of casualties.
At Tyne Cot Military Cemetery, we participated in our own act of remembrance- reading out the names of the men and boys from Watford Boys. Quite a few of us live on the same streets that the fallen boys had lived on, coupled with the fact that some boys were only fifteen when they died, only made it more heart-breaking. That simply hammered in the lessons we had learnt already.
Personally, I believe that everyone should go on this trip. It’s a unique learning experience, which I know I will treasure for many years.
And of course, a huge thank you to all of the teachers who generously gave up their valuable half-term. Without you, it would never have happened, and that would be a travesty indeed!”