Nov 14

Year 9 Battlefields Trip October 2012

Year 9 Battlefields Trip 2012


Everyone who went on the trip to the battlefields thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a really interesting and moving experience. We experienced with our own eyes what it was truly like to be fighting in WW1, rather than just reading about it in a textbook or watching a presentation in a classroom. None of us will ever feel quite the same about WW1 again.


We set off from school early in the morning and travelled to Belgium. Our first stop was the Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, a museum about the war in the West Flanders area of Belgium. We spent a couple of hours there which enabled us to experience the full horror of what it must have been like for the soldiers, fighting and dying in the deep mud of the trenches. We also learned about the impact of the war on the surrounding area – at the end of the war the whole of Ypres was about 1m high, if that.


Hill Farm Cemetery
Essex Farm Cemetery


After breakfast the next day, we set off for Hill 60, a battlefield. We noticed how lumpy the ground was because of all the shelling. We saw a giant crater from a mine, which was 40ft deep and learned about the battle which caused four Victoria Crosses (medals for extreme bravery) to be won in just one day. We went on to Railway Cuttings / Larch Wood cemetery and saw the graves of Commonwealth soldiers who were killed nearby. It was really moving and sad. One of the graves was for a 17 year old. All of the gravestones were the same style and size, to show that on death we are all equal, and that these people all died fighting for us, no matter what rank or class they were.


Railway Cuttings Larch Wood Cemetery
Railway cuttings at Larchwood Cemetery


After visiting the cemetery, we set off to the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, where we visited reconstructed dugouts (which some of us didn't particularly enjoy because they were quite dark and claustrophobic). We spent the afternoon visiting cemeteries in the area. We visited Tyne Cot cemetery, which is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery ever. Thousands of soldiers are buried and remembered there. We were each given a memorial cross to place on someone's grave; some people were given names of Bristolians who had died, so placed their crosses on their graves. Some of us, me included, put our crosses onto the graves of unknown soldiers as it felt really sad that they had no one to remember them.



Trench experience at Passchendaele Memorial Museum
Trench experience at Vimy Ridge


We also visited Essex Farm Cemetery, near which the poet John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields. There we saw the grave of a 15 year old boy which was really sad and quite scary as it showed that if we lived one hundred years ago some of us could have been fighting. At Langemark, a German war cemetery, we noticed it was much smaller than the other cemeteries we had visited. After the war the Belgians were not keen to give the Germans land to bury their dead, as the Germans had invaded ending in the deaths of thousands of soldiers and Belgians. However, there were still thousands buried there. There is a mass grave containing over 24,000 soldiers. The cemetery is a very dark and depressing place. At the back of the cemetery there is a statue of four soldiers mourning their dead comrade. The statue used to be at the front but it was moved to the back where it looks as if the figures in the statue are watching over the dead, remembering and protecting them. 


This cemetery hit me and my friends the hardest as it showed that the Germans were not just soulless robots who actually wanted to kill people, like they are sometimes portrayed (history is written by the winners, after all), they were just like our soldiers. One day they walked out of their door and away from their families, went to fight and never came back. We all felt really sad after our long day, so it was time to visit the chocolate shop in Ypres. We all bought lots of chocolate then had our evening meal in Ypres.


I felt really lucky as I was one of four people (Beth, Sam, Ryan and me) who were going to lay a memorial wreath for the school at the nightly remembrance ceremony at the Menin Gate, where the names of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers that were killed in West Flanders are engraved on a massive gate and arch. I felt really proud, but also nervous. Thankfully, the ceremony went without a hitch and we were all really happy that we had been part of it and helped to remember those who died and honour their memory. You can watch how it went in this video.



The next morning we left Belgium for France. On the way we stopped at Fromelles cemetery, which was only created last year after a mass grave of Allied soldiers (mainly Australian), was found nearby. This was the first place I found someone who may have been related to me, they had my mother's maiden name. It was good to see that these people had been remembered and properly buried at last. We also visited a cemetery where Nathan's relative was remembered on a memorial. 


After visiting Fromelles, we drove down to Newfoundland Park, a battlefield from the Somme owned by the Canadian government and remembering the Newfoundland regiment who fought and died in the Battle of the Somme. We walked along the trench line, learned about the Battle of the Somme and how many people died. We saw the Danger Tree which is the furthest any Allied soldier got before they were killed or injured. This was very sad as the Danger Tree isn't actually very far from the front line and it just seemed like a massive waste of life. 


We left Newfoundland Park for the Ulster Tower memorial for the 36th Irish Ulster division. Two of us dressed as a WW1 soldier and a Red Cross nurse and we had a talk about their uniforms and what their equipment would have been. Afterwards, we went to Thiepval memorial where Allied soldiers with no known grave are remembered on it. There were thousands and thousands of names which was really overwhelming and incredibly sad. We then visited Citadel, the area in which Siegfried Sassoon fought and the cemetery where many of his close friends were buried. We read a poem by Sassoon about the trenches and saw the places where he fought. It was really interesting because I already knew a bit about him and his experiences of WW1, but seeing it really brought it to life.


Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial


The next morning we visited the Wellington tunnels in Arras. These are a system of tunnels under Arras which Allied soldiers lived in for eight days before they attacked the German trenches in the area. The tunnels were amazing and like a sort of underground town. There were beds, bathrooms and directions painted on the wall. We then travelled to the Vimy Ridge site, stopping on the way at a cemetery where Mr Shaw's great grandfather was buried. Vimy Ridge is owned by the Canadian government as it was the first time all four Canadian divisions fought together in the war. It was really interesting because the trenches had actually been preserved and we could walk around them.


Mr Shaws great great grandads gravestone Douglas Wilbur Smith surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps died on the Somme

Mr Shaw's great great grandad's gravestone, Douglas Wilbur Smith, surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps who died on the Somme


After looking at the Vimy Ridge Memorial which is amazing, we began our long journey back to Bristol. Although tired, we had all really enjoyed the trip which had changed our perspective of WW1 and those who experienced it. If I could do the trip again, I would as it is an amazing experience and really helps you to understand WW1 and the events which changed our world.



Year 9 Student


Group photograph at Passchendaele Memorial Museum

Group photograph at Vimy Ridge



Oct 9

Year 10 History GCSE Development Field Trip

Year 10 History GCSE Development Field Trip


The Year 10 History GCSE Development field trip was a huge success, from visiting exceptional museums, watching a demonstration in the Old Operating Theatre (a role I so eagerly volunteered for), to the excitement of the London Dungeons.  All followed by a fantastic meal at the Hard Rock Cafe, which on my table was also really funny!

The Year 10 History GCSE Development field trip is likely to not only entertain you and your friends but also inform you, enhancing the Medicine through Time topic.  Who knows, it could inspire you and be part of your history!

Year 11 Student
   Year 10 students at the old operating theatre

Images L-R: Buckingham Palace, Herb Garret and the Hard Rock Cafe.  

Jul 10

Hampton Court 2012

Hampton Court 2012

The Hampton Court trip in February was one of the highlights of my year!  The castle was beautiful and it was amazing to think that famous kings and queens, such as Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I actually walked on the stone tiles that I too was walking on.

The palace was stunning.  There were so many rooms that you could look into and each room had a history.  My favourite was the room where guns and weapons were used to make patterns on the walls.  You could walk all around the castle and also see where Catherine Parr and King Henry secretly got married.

The gardens were enormous and one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  It was a really amazing trip and I only wish I could have stayed longer and that Mr Shaw had turned up in a Wolsey costume!

Seannah, Y12 Student


Oct 7

My trip to Ikoba by Susie Dobson

My trip to Ikoba by Susie Dobson

Over the summer holidays, my family and I visited Uganda, and one of the places we went to was our partner school, Ikoba.  We met the Headteacher and some of the other teachers who are visiting us later this year.  Everyone was very welcoming.  We were given a tour of the school and saw the two dormitories, where the mosquito nets we provided money for were in use.  The sleeping conditions were very cramped, and some of the beds had three bunks.  It was very dark, and it was hard to see, and that was in the daytime!   Luckily they are building a third dormitory, so there will be more space for everyone.  The school has been doing some building work like us, and we were shown their new classrooms, and a toilet block which even had a ramp for disabled access.

The SMRT tree which was planted recently has grown, and the Headteacher said that some of the students liked to sit under it because it now provided some shade. Unfortunately, we arrived in the middle of their exams, but we visited a S1 (Year 8 but their first year secondary) class, which was the first class to have no boys in, where I was embarrassed trying to introduce myself.  We didn't have very much time, so we had to leave very soon, but we were persuaded to stay for a meal before we left.

Headteacher Faith Ikoba_Francis_Ssentongo Monique Karimonje
Headteacher Faith Francis Ssentongo Monique Karimonje

Francis (Physics) and Monique (Music) are visiting us in November.

Written by Susie Dobson, Year 9, Francombe. Photos by Susie's father Chris Dobson.