We all proceeded to the ferry and smoothly crossed into France. Here was where we picked up our fabulous tour guide, Mike. From there we went to have some food and see the Menin Gate.
After supper, despite the rain, which seemed to follow us from Shropshire, we attended the service where the Last Post was played and poppy wreaths were placed. That service has been happening every day since 1927 (excluding 1940-45, due to World War Two).
The second day was much milder, and the sun came out as we visited The Canadian Vimy Memorial, The Somme battlefield, Thiepval, the Lochnagar Mine Crater and the deep tunnels of Arras.
We drove further into France in the morning and saw the spectacle that was the Vimy memorial to dead Canadian soldiers. The statue of Mother Canada mourning the loss of her children was quite humbling.
When we later arrived at the battlefield of the Somme, we saw some genuine Allied trenches and walked the same walk they had done on 1st July 1916 to the German front line. The memorial at Thiepval was also very humbling, and we learnt the backstories of some of the students from Shrewsbury School whose names were inscribed on the walls.
We also had a small service of our own, when Sam Unsworth (S) read a poem by Revd Cyril Alington, previous Headmaster of Shrewsbury, and Emma Cocliff (MSH) placed a poppy wreath to commemorate the soldiers that fell at the Somme.
A slightly lighter visit to the Lochnagar Mine Crater followed. But even this gave us the knowledge that German soldiers here were sent 5000m into the air and were disintegrated. The shockwaves from this were felt in Coventry.
Finally, to end the day we went 20 metres underground in the city of Arras, where Allied troops waited for days before triumphing at the Battle of Arras, in April 1917.
We concluded our trip on Saturday. We went to Langemark Cemetery where over 40,000 Germans are buried. There was a stark contrast between the Allied cemeteries and the German one we visited. Due to many reasons, Germany simply couldn’t afford great monuments to honour their dead.
The trip finally ended with a mass raid of a chocolate shop in Belgium.
George Stanford-Davis (O 3)