Belgium Trip

Commemoration of the lives lost at Belgium and France during World War One
From the 3rd October through to the 6th, many schools across Lancashire came together to pay their respects and visit the lands which played host to the brutalities of the First World War. Studying the history of Great Britain and focusing on the events of war, this was an opportunity that fellow student Ecem Hasan and I found intriguing and emotional but was something that confirmed why it is that history is so significant, not only as a source of knowledge but also of one of vast human suffering and experience.
On the first day in Belgium, we visited Passchendaele Museum which offered to us a reconstructed trench experience and although it was artificial, it was daunting and allowed students to understand how difficult life was, not just for the British “Tommy” but for the Germans too. I feel that the museum experience gave condolences to the Germans and humanised them, something which they had been stripped off beforehand. We also visited further museums, which offered a more modern aspect and view to the war with more interactive features to it (In Flanders Field Museum). A part of the museum that shocked all the schools including teachers, was the re-enactment of a shellshock sufferer and the gruesome display of injuries. The museums were raw in their information and detail yet at the same time were educational and offered different views for students to take away. Ecem Hasan referred to them as “perspectives that allowed us to see what the dangers of war and suffering involved and how easy life is to us compared to the bravery of the men in the trenches.”
We also visited genuine battlefields, such as the Canadian trenches at Vimy Ridge- a beautiful, contradictory scene which triggered emotions for everyone. The fields were cratered with the explosions of shells and trenches were rebuilt for the public to experience. I feel visiting Vimy Ridge was highly beneficial as people tend to forget that the Canadians, South Africans and many other nationalities also played their parts throughout the war and therefore, this was a reminder that it was a world war and not just European. Alongside this, we also visited the Somme, which is infamous for the “British Blunder” and touched our hearts as we discovered our own locals such as the “Accrington Pals” had lost their lives here, and we even discovered a grave of Darwen soldier Joseph Smithies Entwistle. The Somme has always been something we learn from a textbook and almost an abstract place and when we visited the horror of it, it’s hard to believe that such atrocities and bloodshed could’ve occurred in such a peaceful and open country.
Throughout these visits, we also managed to attend cemeteries, not just those of the British but the Germans too. Tyne Cot was another example of a beautiful place yet writhed in suffering. The cemetery itself seemed never ending and it’s a shame that we couldn’t learn of every single soldier that had sacrificed themselves for their country. Row along row of white stone, more often than not, we saw “An unknown soldier” which meant bodies usually had been buried without identification. We acknowledged before the trip that soldiers didn’t return home and that was seen almost as a norm but to not belong to anything other than a slab of white stone was heart-breaking for us as students to see but very worthwhile to gain a wider understanding.
It’s an experience that most people would only have to visit once to be able to recall it vividly. It shocked us and educated us (and the other schools) with a powerful experience of the horrors that the years 1914-1918.