This year, 35 Year 9 students had the opportunity to discover more about the history of The Great War and the battlefields around the Ypres Salient. We were fortunate enough to visit several Commonwealth War Cemeteries of differing sizes including Essex Farm (where John McCrae composed the famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’), and Tyne Cot – the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world with more than 11, 000 burials and a further 33, 000 names inscribed as a memorial to the missing. The scale of such cemeteries is astounding and forces you to appreciate how many lives the war cost. We also visited Langemark: the sombre and more macabre German cemetery.
On the Sunday evening, we were lucky enough to witness The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres and two of our students, James Cook and Sophie Petit, laid a wreath to commemorate the fallen soldiers – the first time students from Prince Henry’s have done so. However, the highlight of the trip was tracking down the location of one of our student’s relatives: Eashan Patel’s great, great grandfather, Private E. Tustin, who fought and died on the Western Front. Eashan is only the second member of the family to have visited Private Tustin’s grave and it was a very emotional and poignant occasion – one that was felt by everyone on the trip and something that will stay with us forever. On the last day, we visited the historic town of Bruge which gave us a last chance to purchase some delicious Belgian chocolates.
Eashan commented “The Belgium trip was a brilliant experience! As well as having an amazing time with my friends, roaming round Belgium, I was lucky enough to discover my great, great grandfather’s grave. This was a really emotional experience for me, and when I got home, my whole family was shocked.”