Block 3 students embarked in the comfort of Luckett’s coaches on 10 February, armed with preparation from teachers and Sir Hew Strachan’s lecture, a booklet covering all the sites we were to visit and an anthology of readings connected to World War 1. We arrived in Ypres (where we were staying for three nights) in time to visit the evocative ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’. That evening, after a hot meal, we enjoyed a quiz, won by Chris Bott’s group.
Day 2 saw us travelling down to The Somme, effectively following the line of the Western Front of 1914. We stopped at Notre Dame De Lorette, France’s huge and impressive World War 1 Cemetery and Ossuary. We also stopped at Vimy Ridge, a massive Canadian monument, adorned with mourning sculptured figures and visible for miles around with its preserved trenches and shell holes. We lunched in Arras (where Steep poet Edward Thomas had died, his life sucked out by a passing shell which left no mark on him) and went on to The Somme. Here we visited Beaumont Hammel (the setting for much of Birdsong) and Thiepval memorial to the missing and Lochnagar mine crater at La Boiselle.
Millie Page is the great great granddaughter of Herbert Asquith, prime minister at the start of the war, and we visited the grave of his son, and Millie’s relative, Raymond Asquith. As we had discovered last year, Raymond lay next to W. Forbes, a Bedalian. That evening we dined at ‘Le Corner Pub’ in Albert before travelling back at night to our hotel in Ypres. Day 3 saw us touring the Ypres (‘Wipers’ to the British Tommy) Salient, starting in the town of Poperinghe (‘Pop’ to soldiers) which lay 5 miles behind the British front line and became a rest place for exhausted troops in the War. We enjoyed a film reconstructing, poignantly, an evening’s entertainment for soldiers in the war and went on to explore Talbot House (base of the worldwide Toc H movement) with its roof top chapel and unusual policy of equal treatment for officers (however high and mighty) and ordinary soldiers – “abandon rank all who enter here.”
We then visited nearby Lijssenthoek Cemetery where last year our coach came to grief but this year managed to visit the grave of Maisy Redmayne’s great great uncle. We also paid respects to the Earl of Seafield since his great, great grandson, John Ogilvie Grant, had been prevented from seeing it the year before. That evening we took part in The Last Post Ceremony under the Menin Gate where Mila Fernandez (the great, great granddaughter of the French Commander Marshall Foch – something which greatly impressed our guides) and Luca Ashby-Hammond laid a wreath to commemorate the 65 Bedalians who lost their lives in the war. Luca was also able to trace his great great uncle’s name on the walls of the Menin Gate. The final day saw the now traditional visit to Leonidas Chocolate Shop before our smooth and trouble free return to Bedales. The tour gave the most tangible of links, personal, school-based and national, in this, the 100th commemorative year of the First World War.
By Jonathan Selby, Head of History
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.