Grim reality: learning about war on international battlefields trip

Forty-five QE boys gained some sobering insights into war on a History department trip to the French and Belgian battlefields of World War I.

The boys, all from Year 9, visited locations including trenches around Ypres and the sites of the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele. They explored original dugouts, as well as some of the support tunnels that ran towards the front line during the Battle of the Somme.

History teacher Matt Dunston said: “The pupils were taken aback by just how close the two sets of trenches were to each other. They have been studying the tactics and weapons of World War I and so this experience really highlighted how senseless the slaughter was.”

""Pupil George Raynor added: “I couldn’t believe how grim the conditions were in the trenches and how dangerous it would have been to have lived in them for weeks at a time,” while Samir Shah said: “When you learn about something in a war or a battle in a lesson, it sounds really cool and exciting, but to see the real places where people fought and died was totally different.”

During the visit, the boys saw several cemeteries and memorials, including the Menin Gate, which bears the names of Old Elizabethans who fell at Ypres. 2017 is the 100th anniversary of a number of World War I events, including the Battle of Passchendaele: commemorative ceremonies were taking place while the boys were there.

""The last day of the trip was dedicated to World War II. The boys visited two rocket production and launch sites which the Nazis used to bomb London. “They were shocked at the size of the sites and at how industrialised warfare was by 1945,” said Mr Dunston.

Pupil Chen Liu said: “The World War II rocket factories were just awesome. I hadn’t really thought about the scale of it all before.”