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WWI Battlefields Trip


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#1 louisecoward

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 09:45 AM

Just a quick question...

My HoD is currently mulling over a visit to Ypres and the Somme next summer. The last time a Battlefields trip was run was 2001, when neither myself nor my HoD where at the school. The best proposed dates our department have come up with is 4-5 days away at the end of June/early July.

Has anyone had any problems securing authorisation from SLT? If so, what things did they say to beat you down? What reasons would you suggest to promote such an educational visit DURING term time as opposed to at the end of the year?

Many thanks,
Louise

#2 Mark H.

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 01:15 PM

One thing that you could do is to make it a very special event, to lift it above simply a 'run of the mill' battlefield tour. The key to this is to find a local, personal angle. The time you have decided to go includes 1st July, the anniversary of the First Day of the battle of the Somme in 1916, the bloodiest day in British military history. Although 2009 is not the 100th anniversary or whatever, there are always special commemorations, such as the moving annual 7-30 am service at Lochnagar mine crater, which youi could attend. Nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day of the Somme, about 120,000 in the whole 4 1/2 month campaign. Even if your school did not exist in 1916 I can guarantee that there will have been large numbers of men from your locality who served and died on the Somme, very probably several of them were killed on the First Day. Via the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's superb online database you can discover where these men are buried or commemorated and, knowing their exact unit from the CWGC records, you will be able to find out details of the action in which they were killed. You may even discover the relative of a pupil going on the tour: in 2006 I took one of my students to the scene of his great-great-uncle's death in the village of La Boiselle on July 4th 1916. From a newspaper obituary and the battalion war diary, obtained from the regimental museum in Lancaster, we knew the exact circumstances and location of his death. He is commemorated, like 72,000 others, on the nearby Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. This visit was featured on ITV news and the national press as part of their coverage of the 90th anniversary Somme commemorations.
I find that this personal angle makes all the difference to school battlefield tours. Not only does this enhance the experience for the pupils but, pragmatically, can make the idea easier to sell to SLT with publicity opportunities etc. You can and should , of course, involve pupils in the research. It is amazing what you can find out if you know where to look. Invaluable assistance can be found on Chris Baker's superb 'Long, Long Trail' website which has sections on tracing World War One soldiers and through the good offices of the thousands of members of the Great War Internet Discussion Foum, who have helped me with endless obscure details connected with my annual October half-term school battlefield tours over the years.

Edited by Mark H., 12 July 2008 - 06:54 AM.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#3 Neil DeMarco

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 12:31 PM

I can't imagine why any SLT would object to you conducting a curriculum-related trip in term time. We've been running a battlefields trip since 1986 and I wouldn't do it outside of the working week.

A few years back (early 1990s), I wrote to the local paper telling them we were visiting the battlefields and cemeteries of the Great War and asked readers to send us details of any relatives buried on the Western Front so we could lay a wreath on their behalf. Two got in touch and we did so and took photographs of the 'ceremony' and the local paper did a feature about the trip when we got back. I went to meet one of the relatives at her home. She was the sister of one of the local men killed, just three weeks before the end of the war. She was five when it happened and still remembered it very clearly into her 80s. I used the story as a preface for a textbook on the war I wrote for OUP.

It was all good publicity for the school and the department, where it matters - in the local community. A year or so later we invited a journalist from the local paper to go with us and got even more good publicity. What sensible SLT would object to that?
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#4 Maria Whiting

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:37 PM

Why don't you ask pupils whether they have any relatives that they have details of who are buried in one of the cemeteries? We do and every year there are at least 2 or 3 who have. The battlefield company we go with the takes them to the grave, we have a short service, lay a wreath and take some pictures. It's very moving and the kids and their families really appreciate. If that doesn't qualify as personalised learning then I don't know what does!

#5 Giles Falconer

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 03:08 PM

Why don't you ask pupils whether they have any relatives that they have details of who are buried in one of the cemeteries? We do and every year there are at least 2 or 3 who have. The battlefield company we go with the takes them to the grave, we have a short service, lay a wreath and take some pictures. It's very moving and the kids and their families really appreciate. If that doesn't qualify as personalised learning then I don't know what does!


I've done this when going on Battlefields visits too, and can strongly recommend it; also check if any former pupils/staff of your school are buried or commemorated there - pupils find it very moving to see their predecessors' graves.

#6 SteveH

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 08:55 PM

Louise

You didn't mention which age group you intent to take. I take year 10 who are,as part of their GCSE, studying WW1 and do an assignments based on the Battle of Somme and Haig. I consequently sell it to SLT/Governors as an exam-related study trip.

I would also promote it as an opportunity for students to develop their 'spiritual' conciousness. As with other respondents to this thread, we trace the story of 'old boys' and teachers of the school who died in the war. Holding a wreath-laying ceremony at Tyne Cot (Passchendaele) to old boys commemorated there is a moving ceremony in anybody's book. Students invariably respond to this in a respectful and dignified manner. You can also request to lay a wreath at the famous Menin Gate (Ypres) daily ceremony.

In my opinion, all students should pay a vist to these sacred sites. Any SMT which refuses must be a hard nosed, uncaring lot!

Steve
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#7 A Finemess

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 09:44 PM

We do a trip every other year. Every year would be too much. The impact on the kids is always massive and the consequences for personal development, citizenship etc are likewise huge. Also lots of opportunities for links with other subjects, mainly English.

A few tips.

This is a school trip: make them wear uniform. There are practical benefits to this in terms of keeping an eye on them and it encourages a collectivism which the kids rarely experience these days. (It also draws lots of positive comments from other visitors.)

Choose and visit a few former pupils or people from the town who were casualties. This is good for the school and also for the wider community. It's also important that the kids realise that education / school is NOT something that ends at the gate and at 4.00 pm. As has been said, often it's possible to have kids on the trip visiting the grave of a not so distant relative.

Build some form of collective tribute into the trip. You can do this by arrangement at the Menin Gate or at any of the CWGC cemeteries provided you observe the normal decencies. Again IMHO it's all about reminding kids that they are part of a community which owes a debt to these men.

Accept only the very highest standards of behaviour from the kids. Remind them that this is work. They can relax when they are back in the hostel in the evening. (But keep them busy in the evening all the same!) It's always a revelation to me how well the kids behave on these trips. I often wish the "knockers" and cynics could see how well they behave.

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#8 louisecoward

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 09:52 AM

Many thanks for all your replies, its definitely given us areas to think about and what stance to take. The planning of the trip is underway now and we're going to take Year 9 students.

#9 louisecoward

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 09:56 AM

The tour provider we're using is NST - anybody used them before? Good/bad experiences?

Edited by louisecoward, 15 July 2008 - 09:57 AM.


#10 Gorbash

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:49 AM

Used them several times. I highly recommend them!

Make sure you get Murray McVey as your guide; he is brilliant!
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#11 louisebinns

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 12:44 PM

Hey

in the process of organising my third battlefields visit, SLT are usually supportive as long as you try to minimise cover implications by taking support/non teaching staff where you can. Also, consider coming back or leaving on a weekend, they see this as you being willing to give up your own time which goes down well. Perhaps leaving late sunday night, or getting back saturday morning...

NST are excellent - very organised and everything runs very smoothly.

We always wear a school t shirt on the ferry - to keep an eye on them. We only take the best calibre of kids - no muppets allowed, you can also get some excellent publicity for the school by presenting a wreath at the Menin Gate Ceremony, you can book it online and the British Legion do a good category B wreath for about £20.

have a brilliant trip, i have a work booklet for that area if you want to email me and i'll send you a copy.

Louise

#12 Dom_Giles

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:09 AM

Just got back from 4 days at Ypres and somme. Went with Anglia tours - ery good. I would repeat what has been said. Make it personal. Get students to find a relative who is buried in one of the cemetaries you will be going to. Use war graves website.

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