Battlefields Fam Trip
As we approach the centenary of World War I the popularity of our Battlefields Tours is steadily increasing. The Key Stage Team has just got back from a three day familiarisation trip to Ypres and The Somme, which was not only highly productive but also extremely enjoyable for all of us. We took this opportunity to touch base with our trusted suppliers to discuss preparations for the forthcoming season, as well as explore new opportunities in the area to ensure we continue to offer our groups the very best packages.
The trip was organised just as it would be for one of our student groups. We travelled by coach and ferry, stayed in one of our contracted hostels and had an itinerary packed with visits. In the Ypres area we went to Passchendaele Museum, the recently renovated In Flanders Fields Museum and had a guided tour of the Ypres Salient Battlefield sites. We also visited the Somme 1916 Museum, the Historial de la Grande Guerre Museum, had a full day trip to Albert in France for a guided tour of the Somme battlefields and stopped off at Vimy Ridge Memorial before heading back to Calais.
Each museum portrays a unique perspective of the Great War with their fascinating collections of artefacts and experiences, such as the trench and Dug Out Experience at Passchendaele Museum. Meanwhile the reality of warfare is really brought home in the battlefield tours as the different stages of various battles are described and the guides pepper their narratives with anecdotes of individual soldiers, making the experience all the more engaging. The Somme Tour was the most poignant for me, as our guide described the movements of the soldiers over the rolling hills and how their expectations of the battle were so different to the harsh reality of the actual events.
As well as visiting the attractions most often included in our Battlefields Tours we also went to see some of the accommodation we use. Poppies and Salient School Hotels continue to provide great facilities in the centre of Ypres, whilst lots is happening at Peace Village to provide extra educational activities for school groups.
The Menin Gate School Hotel, where the team stayed, is a very popular choice for our tours and it is easy to see why; its location in the heart of Ypres is ideal for walking to the town’s attractions and being literally opposite the Menin Gate means that you are in the midst of the atmosphere when the Last Post Ceremony takes place every evening. On our first night we attended the ceremony and one of our group laid a wreath, just as the majority of our schools do. It was a touching service and remarkable to witness how locals and tourists alike gather each day to remember the fallen soldiers of the First World War.
Overall the trip was a great success and has made us even more excited for next season. We are confident that each group will have an unforgettable and poignant tour that will impact both students and leaders alike.
Some of the Key Stage team share their highlights from the trip:
“For me the best aspect of the trip was both of the guided tours with the guides explaining how each battle progressed and the roles that each commonwealth nation played, the struggles and losses for everyone. Seeing the sites and hearing the stories together allowed you to imagine the war tactics used, the horrors the soldiers faced, the heroes made and the huge sacrifices of WWI.” Carly
“My favourite part of the trip was our evening meal at Hotel Regina. The food was delicious and we were told some great stories about how the building’s tunnels were used to smuggle shot-down Allied airmen to safety.” Robyn
“Our driver, Steve, was absolutely brilliant. Our itinerary was full and timings were tight. Steve made sure the trip ran smoothly and he was flexible whenever we wanted to add things in last minute.” Emma