For children learning about the First World War, a school trip to the battlefields can be invaluable. Bringing their classroom studies to life, a visit can give a better understanding of why this relatively short four year period, over 100 years ago, is still of such immense importance and why it must never be forgotten.
For visitors to the region, initial impressions can be deceptive as you drive through the tranquil countryside and sleepy rural villages. However, look a little closer and evidence of the unimaginable horror of the First World War is all around. The fields still carry the faint scars of trench lines and shell craters, whilst the cemeteries and memorials bear witness to the hundreds of thousands who died – many of whose remains were never found.
Maybe you’ll even see the ‘iron harvest’; unexploded shells, barbed wire and other remnants of the war uncovered by farmers and now unwanted rubbish, left at the side of the road for disposal by the authorities.
The Peace Village Hostel
For school groups wishing to visit the area, there are many hotels and hostels to choose from. However, if you’re looking for accommodation built with youth groups in mind, in a great location with facilities to keep students (and staff) entertained, you can’t do much better than the Peace Village in Messines.
Messines saw heavy fighting in June 1917 and it is perceived as one of the rare military successes on the Western Front. The Battle of Messines was the first time that nationalist and unionist Irish soldiers fought together and the significance of this, together with the nearby Island of Ireland Peace Park was one of the reasons why the Peace Village was built. The first stone being laid by the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in 2005.
What to expect?
The Peace Village can accommodate up to three coach loads of students in 43 en-suite studios, each of which is furnished in a modern style with a mezzanine level and surrounded by open countryside.
There is also a common room, on-site restaurant and a bar with terrace which serves a range of soft drinks, as well as local craft Belgian beers.
The playing area outside can be used for football, basketball, volleyball, hockey and ping pong. The Peace Village can offer other evening activities such as story-telling walks and interactive workshops. Campfires are also permitted if pre-arranged. All of this is a great way to unwind together after a day exploring the battlefields.
The Peace Village is located just 30 minutes by coach south of Ypres and the restaurant is more than happy to re-schedule your evening meal to allow you plenty of time to see the Last Post Ceremony.
Although the Peace Village is ideal for groups focusing on the battlefields around Ypres, it can also be used as a base for visiting the Somme region.
Watch the video to find out more:
Plan in advance
What’s the catch? The Peace Village is extremely popular with many groups requesting to stay there each year. If you would be interested in arranging a tour to the First World War battlefields and staying at the Peace Village, it’s particularly important to plan well in advance.