Following a number of thought-provoking trips to Ypres and the Somme, Yavneh College in Borehamwood returned once more in 2019. The historical insight and lifelong memories they make along the way have allowed this to become incredibly popular for students at the college.
Since 2015, the group have ventured to Belgium and France, and they’ve also begun to secure their spot for 2020! They usually make their trip a one day visit, however, they opted to stay overnight on this year’s tour. This allowed them to get more out of their experience, benefitting from more time in each destination.
Ypres and the Somme were two influential locations throughout the First World War. Ypres was a key war area that helped the British hold the Western Front. The defence of this location saw the British and French fight off German attempts to capture the Belgian town.
The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest of the First World War. Over a number of months, both the British and French forces fought the Germans in a ferocious battle that stretched as far as 15 miles. After the battle was over, there were more than one million dead and wounded from both sides of the battle.
To this day, the sites remain two of the biggest landmarks for historical and educational visits. The memory of the First World War is woven into the patchwork of Ypres, whilst the Somme provides an experience that brings home the reality of one of the most famous and brutal battles in the history of war.
One of the best moments from recent tours was the group’s visit to Hill 60 and the Caterpillar Crater. They value these types of experiences as…
‘’It contextualises the true scale of the conflict which pupils can really appreciate.’’
During their two day, one night tour, they packed in a considerable amount of excursions across the two destinations. This was helped by adding an overnight stay to this year’s tour. The party leader said that this arrangement worked much better than doing the trip in a shorter period of time, as it allowed the group to see more things and stay at certain landmarks for longer. Thus giving them more time to reflect; to consider the significance of the various remembrance sites they visited.
First they stopped in France where they visited Thiepval Memorial. This remembers the 73,077 British soldiers who fell on the Somme between 1916 and 1917. After taking time to appreciate the first stop on their tour, they travelled to Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, where the 1st Newfoundland Regiment suffered the highest casualty rate amongst British soldiers during the fights that took place.
The final visit of the day led them to Lochnagar Crater which is a significant visual experience for every visitor. The largest man-made mine crater from the First World War is located on the Somme battlefields and offers a truly thought-provoking experience.
The group then progressed to Belgium where the evening ended by participating in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.
Here, the students celebrated the symbolic end to a soldier’s day through the Last Post bugle call. This is used as a sign of remembrance, representing that the soldier’s duties are officially done and they can now rest in peace. Select students got the chance to lay a wreath at the ceremony which is the ultimate sign of appreciation and respect.
After the emotional remembrance service, a lighter visit to Leonidas Chocolate Shop was a welcome addition. Due to the group’s strong Jewish routes, kosher chocolates were provided!
The next day began with an early morning visit to Hill 60 and the Caterpillar Crater, which, due to the large number of bodies it still contains, has the status of a cemetery. They then travelled to Tyne Cot Cemetery for further remembrance of the fallen, before making the journey to the Passchendaele Memorial Museum. Here, they were able to view the story of the First World War in a different way, focusing on the battle of Passchendaele where more than half a million people died.
Visits to the Langemark and Essex Farm cemeteries were a fitting end to an incredibly memorable trip.
Passchendaele Memorial Museum
Our expert History Tour Guides, Trevor and Paula, helped to bring the landmarks to life with their historical knowledge and specialist guidance. This particularly helped with landmarks like Hill 60 and the craters where there are no interactive elements or clear signs of what actually took place.
They explained and portrayed the significance of these locations, which painted a clearer picture for the students of what took place. This often helps them to remember key details for when they return to their studies. Although Paula was exceptional, Yavneh College knew Trevor from their previous tours and weren’t surprised with the level of service he provided.
‘’Trevor was his usual excellent self.’’
Ultimately, trips such as these are incredibly rewarding for students. For those studying history in the early years of secondary education, trips to Ypres and the Somme can often spark a keen interest in the subject which leads them to study history at both GCSE and A Level.