In the year of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, Highfields was fortunate to secure bookings for the end of June - indeed covering the anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28th June.
Thirty-nine Year 9 and 10 students and five from Year 12 went on a range of visits to memorials, museums, cemeteries and battlefield sites in the Flanders Fields.
We always make a point of looking at these terrible events from all sides - for instance visiting Lijssenthoek Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery which is located near where a forward casualty clearing station came under shellfire in 1917, causing the fatal wounding of Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler. One woman amongst nearly 11,000 men, she is the only woman buried alongside combatant troops on the Western Front. In the same cemetery are laid to rest French, German and American soldiers, as well as nine members of the Chinese Labour corps.
There has been much refurbishment of the already wonderful museums in preparation for the anniversary years - the In Flanders Field Museum and the Peace Tower at Diksmuide have moving themed displays and make full use of technology to enhance understanding and engage the curiosity of visitors.
The Last Post Ceremony
At the end of the second day a party of four students, smart in their school uniforms and carrying a wreath they made themselves, participated with great dignity in the Last Post Ceremony.
The group then moved onto Menin Road South Cemetery for an even more moving occasion, when Niall Felton laid a second wreath on his Great Great Grandad's grave. We played a recording of the bugle call, declared the immortal words, 'They shall not grow old ....', and Niall laid the wreath and read Rupert Brooke's poem, 'The Soldier' ('There is some corner of a foreign field') with great solemnity).
A visit was made to the German cemetery at Langmarck to reflect on the losses and how they impact on all sides in conflict, and spent the final day investigating the experience of the Belgian people, on whose homes, towns and farms this war was inflicted. There is a terrible resonance with the situation in present day war zones.
'I think the trip to Belgium was absolutely amazing.'
'My favourite part was the visit on the way back to the Peace Tower because it was interesting and the dark area inside was brilliant as the speakers represented the sounds which would have been heard during that period.'
'The trip was brilliant - there was no better way to remember the fallen than by seeing their graves.'
'I got the chance to see my great great granddad's grave; everyone made me feel so proud when I laid the wreath and we held the ceremony in the South Menin Road.'
'I learned a lot on the trip - The teachers were so knowledgeable.'
The whole trip ran smoothly, thanks to the preparation by the staff team and the wholehearted engagement of the students. Sincere thanks to Miss Tappenden, Miss Timmins, Mr Pycroft and Mr Andrews for all their support and energy in making this trip an unforgettable experience for the students.
An additional thank you to Charlotte Barr in Year 10, for her wonderful photographs: many of which are featured above.