On the 29 September the UV girls were lucky enough to embark on the Trenches trip; for all of us I think 5:30 am was an early start!
We were off and collecting our guides at Maidstone before we knew it, and it was not long before we were on the Euro Tunnel, buzzing for the two exciting days ahead of us. We drove to Ypres, where we visited Lijssenthoek. Here, we learnt the causes of the Great War and 1914 battles; our guides spoke about their personal experiences fighting in wars, which was both intriguing and moving. We then moved on to Langemark German Military Cemetery, where we learnt of the slaughter of innocents and the significance of Hitler's 1940 visit and the links to the causes of World War Two.
The German cemetery was certainly more eerie than the English, with small grave stones and a more sombre atmosphere. I think one of the highlights of day one was visiting Bayernwald and learning about the German trench system; the teachers were probably re-thinking the idea of taking us there after we all entered the trench but took longer than we thought trying to make our way out again. Soon after, we visited the Essex Farm CWGC and Advanced Dressing Station, which was fascinating as well as horrifying as our guides relayed a few gruesome stories to us. The most moving part of the day however was visiting the Tyne Cot Cemetery, which was a moving experience for us all, giving us beneficial time for reflection as well as some of us finding some familiar names. After an exhausting day, we were treated to a chicken and chip supper and some free time; ironically most of us managed to make our way to one of the many Belgium chocolate shops! We finished the day with the Last Post Ceremony held every night at the Menin Gate; Wycombe Abbey also had the great privilege of being able to have some girls lay out two wreaths on behalf of the School as an act of remembrance. I assure you we could have not packed anything else into the day, so it was off to our hotel before another early start the next morning!
Day two was dedicated to the Somme. Our first stop was to Serre and Sheffield Memorial Park, to learn of the Battle of the Somme and going over the top on the 1st July 1916. Our break for lunch was enhanced with a show and tell of weapons and soldiers' uniforms, which Rola and Minna were lucky to try on to show us all. Next it was Newfoundland Park where we actually walked across the preserved battlefield and saw many conserved trenches. The penultimate stop was to the Lochnagar Crater to witness the huge impact the shells had on the land and the soldiers fighting. Sadly, the trip was coming to an end. However, the best was definitely left till last, as the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme was certainly a once in a lifetime experience. I was utterly blown away, I'm sure like the others, by the enormity and beauty of the monument. Luckily, we were given plenty of time to find relatives and take in the amazing artefact.
Thank you so much to Dr Tullis and the History department as well as all the other teachers who gave up their time to take us on such a magnificent trip. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for us all.