Poignant and evocative visit to the Battlefields

Block 3 pupils set off on a History tour of the battlefields of Belgium and France (Ypres and The Somme) early on the wet morning of 11 February. Their interest this year had been sharpened by a superb talk from Jeremy Paxman on WW1 the week before and the extensive media coverage of the centenary of the outbreak of the war. With terrible weather resulting in our ferry having to be towed out of Dover by a tug to ensure that it did not hit the harbour walls, we then headed for Ypres. The group settled in to the Salient Hotel before walking to a nearby restaurant for chicken and chips, returning to the hotel for a quiz, where students’ general knowledge impressed us and Nick Meigh’s group won. Day two saw us effectively travel down the Western Front, pausing at Notre Dame De Lorette (the French National First World War Cemetery) and the mightily impressive Canadian Monument and trenches at Vimy Ridge. Lunch was spent in the attractive market town of Arras (near where the poet Edward Thomas died) and then we explored the battlefield area of The Somme, visiting Thiepval Memorial, Beaumont-Hamel and Lochnagar Mine Crater in the village of La Boiselle, the weather turning from sunshine to storm force winds. In our party was Maud Bonham-Carter, the great, great granddaughter of Herbert Asquith, Prime Minister of Great Britain at the start of the First World War. Asquith’s son, Raymond had been killed in the war. We were also tracing Bedalians and in an extraordinary coincidence, the grave of Bedalian William Alexander Forbes was found, in the growing darkness of a fading day, directly in front of Raymond Asquith’s grave. We left tributes written on small poppy crosses. We also tracked down the grave of student Minna Whitby’s great, great uncle in a beautiful secluded cemetery surrounded by woodland, Flat Iron Copse. This was a special grave since although there was a headstone, his body was not beneath it but his comrades knew he had been killed in that field and thus he was granted a full memorial. We ate that evening at ‘Le Corner Pub’ in Albert (the pigeon English title a reminder of the war when British troops occupied Albert) returning to Ypres that evening. On day three, we explored the magnificent Cloth Hall Museum, and toured the sites around Ypres, including Tyne Cot Cemetery and Langemarck (the austere atmosphere of the German Cemetery contrasting strongly with the uplifting whiteness of British Commonwealth War Graves). That evening, we attended the moving Last Post Ceremony under the arches of The Menin Gate. Block 3 students Amelia Pike, Olly Brewer and Ed Adams laid a wreath to commemorate the 65 Bedalians who had died in the war. The wreath had been made by the family of Ed Adams. The following morning we headed back to Calais, from where we made our connections to return to Bedales that afternoon. The tour provided a poignant and evocative few days with the manifold issues of the war seeming as bright and powerful as ever, despite the passing of 100 years. View photos.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

Battlefields visit 2014

Battlefields visit 2014

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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