Ypres Battlefields School Trip

Over the weekend, some of Rossall’s year nines and tens embarked on a trip to Ypres,
Belgium for a tour of the Battlefields of WW1. They were taken around several significant
sites allowing them to truly understand the experiences of those who fought in the war. In
addition to learning about the war, they were able to pay their respects to old Rossallians
who gave their lives for our country.

They were first toured around some of the significant sites of the war and areas preserved
to show the conditions near the front lines. Hill 60 allowed a clear visualisation of the battle,
understanding the mental battle that soldiers must have fought, seeing what was to come
ahead of them, to see the positions of advantage and disadvantage, to be able to imagine to
strategy and ingenuity required to overcome the obstacles of the environment. The
Spanbroakmolen Crater, also known as the Pool of Peace, was a stark representation of the
mass destruction of the war, the brutal indiscrimination of attacks that caused scars that are
still present in the earth today. To see a place nicknamed the Pool of Peace that really
represents the tragedies of a lack of peace. Croonaert Wood and Sanctuary Wood allowed
them to experience part of life in the trenches. Accompanied by the wet winter, Rossall
students could truly place themselves in the soldiers’ shoes, better understanding the
significance of their sacrifice for us.

Students were also given the memorable opportunity to watch the Last Post ceremony at
the Menin Gate. As the trumpet sounds settled to stillness a minute was taken to remember
them, to hear the Larks sing and appreciate the stillness that could only be present because
of them. Rossall was able to lay a wreath and honour those old Rossallians who died in the
war along with others who paid their respects. The ceremony was moving and left a lasting
impact on those who attended it, allowing all to reflect on the sacrifices made.

Students were able to further their reflections by visiting some significant cemeteries. They
were able to consider the difference between the Commonwealth cemeteries with their
white, individual gravestones, tall crosses and arched entrances and the German cemetery
with its grey, grouped gravestones and the countless rows of names. The German
Langemark Cemetery had a significant impact due to its large numbers. The gravestones
held many names and further names were listed on stones around the cemetery. Deaths
can often be referred to as numbers however it is important to remember that each name
represents an individual experience, and individual pain and an individual sacrifice.

Rossall was able to convey the significance of an individual experience by taking students to
the graves of old Rossallians. They paid their respects and furthered the understanding that
each child that went to war was once very similar to the current students at Rossall.
Reference was made to Thomas Samuel Gent, an old Rossall student who died aged 21. He
had gained a scholarship into Oxford though chosen to go to Trinity, was an excellent
athlete, had gained his soccer blue and had ambitions and a future just like any child today.

To be able to individualise the sacrifices made and picture them in a situation so close to
their own, students were able to truly come to terms with the gravity of the war and its
effects. In Tyne Cot cemetery students were tasked to find the graves and names of old
Rossallians so that the school could lay a cross. Passing the soldiers whose plaques were
marked with “unknown unto God” reminded them that not everyone can experience the
closure Rossall, and its community, is able to experience.

It is important that we not break faith with those who died and that we continue to honour
their sacrifice, be that laying a wreath, taking a moment of silence, or everyday appreciating
the freedom and justice we can now enjoy. Rossall students paid their respects, but the
experience will remain with them forever, reminding them of the sorrow, tragedy and
significance of the war and its soldiers. They shall not sleep, though poppies grow, in
Flanders fields. “We will remember them”.