After some excitement with temperamental showers, we had breakfast and set off to Essex Farm, the site of a field hospital that has become famous because the Canadian surgeon and poet John McCrae worked. He famously wrote the poem In Flanders Field that has become emblematic of the early part of the First World War. Importantly for us at Royds, Essex Farm is the site of the the memorial to the West Rising Regiment, many of whom came from Huddersfield and the surrounding area.
We then travelled on to the German cemetery at Langemark, one of the most solemn places we visited. Sheltered under trees, the dark grave markers rest on the ground, some named, many unnamed. At the rear of the cemetery, sculptures of four soldiers pay respect to their fallen colleagues. It was here that Charlotte and Victoria laid a wreath as we all stood in silence to think about soldiers who died fighting in the enemy trenches.
Just down the road was the Colne Valley Cemetery, which we like to visit as it has a name that is so close to home for people at Royds Hall. The cemetery is named after a trench that stood where the cemetery now stands, beautifully kept. Soldiers who fought in the area named all the trenches after places that they were familiar with.
It was time for a break and so we called into Ypres to have lunch and do a bit of shopping. Lots of chocolates and a wide variety of trinkets were purchased in the city but we were all impressed by the beauty of the place that was rebuilt after the destruction of the war.
After the walk in Ypres, we travelled to the huge Commonwealth cemetery at Tyne Cot. The huge rows of gravestones were overwhelming as we read name after name of the young names that lost their lives in the battle of the Somme. At the back of the cemetery, there are walls of even more names where Xara managed to find one of her relatives. Once more we paused to lay another wreath on behalf of the school. Hassan and Naveed placed the wreath on the stone of remembrance as we contemplated the soldiers buried in the cemetery as well as those who were treated at the hospital at Royds Hall.
After a quick meal back at the hotel, we went into Ypres to attend the Last Post at the Menin Gate. Ryan and Claudia were able to lay the school’s wreath as a guards’ band played and thousands watched. It was the 29714th Last Post and was a poignant end to the day.