World War 1 Battlefields Trip April 2011

Mr Davison, Miss Swannell, Mrs Reeve, Mr Roberts and all of the students gathered before the laying of the wreath ceremony at the Menin Gate.At the beginning of the Easter Holidays Miss Swannell, Mrs Reeve, Mr Roberts and I took 30 Jack Hunt students to various battle sites, memorials and cemeteries related to World War I. Our tour focused on the Ypres Salient which saw some of the worst fighting in the 1914-1918 war. This was a joint English and History trip – all students having studied aspects of the war prior to the trip taking place.

For all of the students this was a unique opportunity to gain a real insight into key events and ideas of the First World War. It was also a real opportunity for them to understand the true cost of war and so take what they would witness into their day to day lives after the trip.

Students visiting the trenches at YpresSimply put, the trip was a fantastic success. The year 9 students behaved outstandingly and did themselves and the school extremely proud. Their approach to the sites we visited was very mature and considerate. They were being faced with emotions and ideas that were overwhelming for many yet their openness and honesty allowed us to help and support them throughout.

Below is an extract from an email I received from Mrs Gisborne (the mother of one of our year 9 students) -

'I also wanted to say a huge thank you to both of you. Sam hasn't yet stopped talking about all the things you did and saw. He described the trip to his Dad as 'life changing'One of the cemeteries containing thousands of graves at Ypres!
From me personally it's a thank you for taking such good care of Sam and all the other students and for giving them an experience they'll never forget'

When asked to write something for the wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate all students surpassed our expectations and in the end we wrote three onto the Jack Hunt wreath - one in full and extracts of another two. The one we wrote in full was from Gavin manning (yr 11) and the others came from Ross Brace (yr 9) and Saliyah Walji (yr 9). Ross and Saliyah laid the wreath at the Menin Gate ceremony. The ceremony is held every night and is internationally attended – Ross Brace and Saliya Walji preparing to lay the Jack Hunt wreath at the Menin Gate Ceremonyboth in the form of spectators and participants. It is an immense honour to be able to take part in this event of remembrance and reflection. Below is what Gavin wrote –

As the women weep,
As the man cries,
As every nation stands alike,
For the fallen angels that sacrificed,
We stand and shout to the sky,
Be you enemy or ally,
You're an angel in my eye.

This brings me on to the two year 11s that accompanied us on the trip - Gavin Manning and Catherine Cook. They joined us late on and knew full well that they would be the oldest students on the trip. They knew one or two of the year 9 students at the start but that is all. I would like to say on behalf of all the staff and all the year 9 students how utterly fantastic they both were.

They were invaluable to us and the students. They helped us in organising the students and they helped the students get organised. More importantly they became friends to all the year 9 students - at no point did they close The Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridgethemselves off from the younger students. They were an inspiration to all and I cannot speak highly enough of them.

This is the second year that we have run this trip and for the second time running myself, and all the staff members involved, have been inspired by the students that we have taken. It is through their behaviour and actions that we get the desire and motivation to run the trip again and again.

Click here to view an album of amazing photos from the trip.

Ian Davison.