To commemorate the Armistice celebrations, we sent our Head Boy Raphael and Deputy Mohid to visit the First World War battlefields as part of the UCL Institute of Education First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme. The boys have have written about their time in France and Belgium here:
“100 years ago, World War 1 ended. One century. There is not a single person alive today who fought in the war. 100 years ago, Britain and its allies not only won the war but successfully altered human history for the better. People may think that 100 years is far too long to still bring it up, that the past is the past, but that is absolutely not the case. This was something we learnt on our trip, a trip specifically devoted to educating our generation on remembering the importance of our ancestors’ sacrifice, a message that really hit home for us both.
Another figure now: 10 million. 10 million died for our freedom, laying down their lives for us to have the opportunity to live our lives today, free from the terrors they faced. From afar, with more than 7 billion people on Earth, this statistic may not seem so intimidating but that is so very different when you are actually there and can actually see where they fell, hear how they died, see the weapons that killed them.
Over the course of the four days we spent in Belgium and France, we went to around six sites each day, visiting museums, memorials, battlegrounds and cemeteries, at every step learning yet more tragic and sometimes unbelievable facts about the Great War and its many aspects. It was a wonderful and sobering experience that we are very lucky to have had. Many people assume that our generation couldn’t care less about the sacrifices of people decades dead but the atmosphere while we were there absolutely did not reflect that, with every single one of us humbled by what we experienced and the price that had been paid for our success.
Observing these places wasn’t the only aspect to our tour, with war literature being a major theme and our final day culminating in a memorial service marking exactly 100 years to the day that the legendary poet Wilfred Owen was killed, a week before the Armistice was signed. It was an honour to be invited to this ceremony which really cemented our understanding of the relationship between, war, poetry and people’s opinions of war. Our understanding had slowly grown as the trip went on as we studied different aspects of poetry and writing at each location, and the opportunity to attend the momentous event really furthered our perception.
The things that we learnt there we will carry with us and share with everyone we meet forevermore, for which we thank the school and the organisers for this once in a lifetime chance.”