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Posted on March 16th 2017

History Battlefields Tour 2017 - Report


The First World War Centenary Battlefield Tour commenced in the Spring Term, where two Year 9 GCSE students went across to Belgium to study the battles of the First World War in more depth.

Claire Mellor and Decora Harriet took off with Ms Bryce to study the impact the war had on ordinary people firstly by researching the lives of two soldiers who are from East Dulwich. We then noted the location of their graves and were then going to make sure we visited them upon on visit.

Ordinary people

On the first day of the tour there was a large focus of the ordinary people and how they were affected by war. Upon arrival at Ypres, we went to study the Passchendaele battle at the museum. We also visited Lissenthoek cemetery, which was very close to the Ypres Salient. We then used the military historian to unlock the graves and find stories of those who were buried there.

Claire particularly found interesting the story of Nurse Nellie Splindler who worked in the hospital nearby during the first battle of Ypres but who was killed by a German shell attack shortly after departing from her home in Wakefield, England. This is just one of many stories from one cemetery.

Interpretations challenged

The next day had a large focus on the Somme and we travelled to the North of France to question whether it was really a disaster for the British Army. Decora really found it interesting to start looking at the dates and nationalities of the graves from the first offensive on 1st July 1916. The more cemeteries we visited we soon became able to piece together what happened. This became apparent at Vimy Ridge when we studied the land and graves to discover this was taken by Canadian corps as part of the Battle of Arras.

Overall, the experience of the battlefields tour was extremely insightful in changing perceptions of the  First World War. Both our students asked intuitive questions, challenged interpretations and used the historians on the visit to develop their knowledge.