July 1, 2024

Last week, students from Saint Felix School embarked on a poignant excursion to explore the World War One Battlefields of Belgium. Based in the Ypres area, students from Years 9 to 12 spent two intense days visiting various sites, including preserved battlefields, trench systems, museums, and cemeteries.

The experience, led by our Head of History, Mr Farrands, was deeply moving, with the itinerary packed with sombre locations that left a lasting impact on the entire group. Highlights included the remarkable Passchendaele Museum and both the German and British cemeteries at Langemark and Tyne Cot, respectively. The contrast between the solemnity of the German cemetery and the hopefulness of the British one made a profound impression. The sheer scale of casualties, epitomized by the discovery of a fifteen-year-old British soldier’s grave surrounded by flowers and toys, was a stark reminder of the senselessness of war.

The Menin Gate ceremony was another unforgettable moment, prompting deep reflection among the students. Despite the solemnity of the trip, there were moments of respite, with free time in Ypres and evenings at the hotel providing much-needed relief. The town’s picturesque square and local shops offered a welcome distraction, complemented by visits to a chocolatier and dinners at charming restaurants.

Throughout the trip, the students’ engagement was commendable, with their reactions ranging from shock to awe, particularly upon entering Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest British and Commonwealth cemetery in the world. They were moved by the sight of countless headstones and the solemn rows commemorating those whose bodies were never recovered. The discovery of a British VC recipient’s headstone at Tyne Cot was particularly poignant.

Special recognition is due to the dedicated staff, including Madam Moyle for her meticulous planning and organization, and Mr West and Mrs Stokes Hayward for their invaluable on-site support in Belgium. Their efforts ensured the trip was both educational and emotionally resonant for all involved.