In 2009 a pupil from Abbey Grange won a Leeds City Council and the Royal British Legion poetry competition supporting their Chelsea Flower Show garden. A British Legion 'Poppy Travel' study trip to the World War 1 trenches in Belgium and France was the first prize awarded to our school. Thirty pupils and four members of staff found the experience memorable and moving. Here are some of their thoughts.

 

"This has been one of the best trips I've been on. Not only did I have an amazing time with my friends I was seeing in real life something that I love studying.  I witnessed many battlefields and I saw the battle in my head and it really brought home the horrors of the First World War.  The cemeteries really touched my heart.  Just seeing one cemetery with thousands of graves is emotional enough.  But seeing that many cemeteries each with thousands of names really opened my eyes to how many people died. I found it heartbreaking but wouldn't have changed my experience for the world. "

 

Bronte

 

I really enjoyed myself on this France/Belgium Trenches Trip.  It was very interesting and seeing the battle fields and trenches really put it into perspective for me.  It was really moving and quite hard to believe that those horrific battles happened where I was standing and the fact so many people died.  It was very personal and finding some of my family made it quite exciting, also having the opportunity to put a cross and poppy beneath the name of my family member.

 

Thank you so much

 

Katherine

 

The trip to France and Belgium was such a great experience and really put things into perspective for me and helped me with my history coursework.  The trip made me realise how horrible the conditions in the trenches were and the number of unknown graves.  It really made me realise how horrific it was and I am very grateful for the experience.

 

Natalie

 

 I enjoyed this trip thoroughly, it was an amazing experience.  Through the trip I have learnt to appreciate my life and see how much people care for others.  I found it emotional when I found a person who I lately was informed was a family member. This meant a lot to me and so made the war feel more personal to me.

 

Olivia

 

 I really enjoyed the France/Belgium trip.  When we went to the trenches and dugouts it really brought it alive.  Seeing all the graves and how many lives were taken was really shocking, and I couldn't get my head round it.  The Menin Gates also put everything in perspective, all the names of people missing was really upsetting.  When I found my Great Granddad's grave, it was really surreal and exciting.

 

Sophie

 

When you are taught about history, death and such, you can't really grasp it properly until you have been there or seen those things, like the millions of deaths in World War I. It was so hard not to deny how many cemeteries we went through.  You think there are only a few big cemeteries in certain areas.  Also the difference between the British and German cemeteries.   You can only feel the coldness and brutality in both cemeteries.  You can only grasp this concept and emotion through being there and knowing what happened and the reasons behind.  It was unlike anything I have seen and felt before.  There is a new meaning to the phrase 'We will remember them'.

 

Catriona

 

When I learnt about the First World War, I never really took on just how many sacrifices and how horrific it actually was.  Just walking around the cemeteries like Tyne Cot made me realise just how many people died. The ceremony at the Menin Gate held every night is very special and we have to be grateful for that.  Looking around the trenches just made things so surreal.  I could actually hear all the bombs and mines, people screaming in agony and charging all around me.  I'm really grateful for this experience and adventure, but no matter what we do, it will never be justice for both the British and German heroes.  We have to remember these people and we will.

 

Julie

 

This trip was magnificent because it really got to the heart.  When I learnt all about WWI it was just amazing.  I all ready new some stuff about WWI but this stuff was more detailed.  Everything I learnt was really amazing but also horrifying.  It was really interesting about the soldiers having rest from the front line.  I just felt really distressed thinking that the soldiers had to go back to the front line and maybe never return.

 

Charlotte

 

I was very moved by the trip to France and Belgium.  It really brought home the reality of life in World War I.  The most moving parts were the large cemeteries and memorials, such as Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate because the sheer amount of graves and names was overwhelming.  It's hard to believe that so many people were killed.  Going to the German cemetery was also upsetting; because each of those people were killed by someone on our side yet don't have the same honours as ours. Talbot House was the best.   After going around the battlefields and cemeteries you could really appreciate how the soldiers enjoyed their rest. Having researched soldiers from my church I feel proud to be able to take my discoveries back there and spread the remembrance.

 

Eleanor

 

The thing about this trip I liked the most was learning about how soldiers really lived. I didn't know much about the soldiers so to find out all about it was really amazing.  I now know how horrific it really was.  The other thing that will stay with me is how the British and German graves were so different.  It really showed how the Belgians thought of the enemy and how long it lasted after the war. In general I really enjoyed the trip. I've taken so much in. It was so contrasting. It will help me in my History GCSE so much.  I feel confident on passing questions on World War I.  The last point was that I liked having a tour guide to explain everything in much more details.  Thanks Frank.

 

Amy

 

Before I came on this trip I knew a little about World War I; but didn't really know about what it was like to be a soldier in the war.  Now I have been on this trip I have learnt that to have been a soldier in the war was very emotional and horrifying.  On the trip I really liked going to Menin Gate because just seeing all of those names on the walls you begin to realise just how many soldiers went to war and died.  I really enjoyed the service there because, there was a long silent pause and by doing this everyone had time to reflect and to really realise those who died.  By going to the trenches I learnt that it must have been really hard for the soldiers to have survived there in all types of weather.  On the whole I have learnt a lot on this trip and have enjoyed my time in France and Belgium

 

Amie

 

Before this trip I knew the facts about the First World War; however I never felt a true connection to the scale of it.  Places like Tyne Cot, Thiepval and the German cemetery really helped me to get my head around the numbers and it's the first time that the statistics have meant something. Flanders museum and Talbot House made the stories more personal, and when we were playing the piano in Talbot House, it really brought the whole thing the life.  I will never forget Menin Gate and the ceremony there. The last post gave me goose-bumps as it echoed through the arch.  I had the most incredible time and am starting to understand the extent of the horror.  I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to go on this trip.  Thank you.

 

Yasmin

 

This trip was fantastic!  It finally allowed me to properly relate to the places I have learnt so much about. I feel so privileged to have been able to visit the trenches and specifically visit the grave of someone I researched. Although the statistics are shocking, for me to put things into perspective, the details were just as important which is why the research was so important to me.  My best bit was retracing the steps that the Leeds Pals would have taken, it just made me appreciate the bravery they showed. This trip is something I will never forget.  Thanks.

 

Jessica

 

The trip was really good because it allowed me to actually visit the sites that we had learnt about in the classroom and it was a trip I will remember for the rest of my life. Seeing pictures of trenches and memorials was one thing, but actually being there was totally different.  What shocked me most was the amount of unknown soldiers listed at the Menin Gate and Thiepval.  Sometimes I can't believe that so many people were killed because the statistics were so large.  These past four days have been fantastic.  Thanks a lot.

 

Daniel

 

The trip was really good.  It allowed me to experience the places where all the battles I have learnt about were fought. I learned even more about a relation of mine, discovering a connection to a relation of mine, discovering a connection to a friend's relation.  When we visited the battlefields it was really amazing to know that we stood where soldiers had stood.  The memorials let me realise the vast number of casualties and seeing the cemeteries made me realise the sheer number of dead.

 

Matthew