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Turriff Academy Trip to the WWI Battlefields in France


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Title: Turriff Academy Trip to the WWI Battlefields in France

Turriff Academy Trip to the WWI Battlefields in
France Belgium
Wednesday 25 June to Thursday 03 July 2008
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them
Y Ravine - British Cemetery - The Somme
The Western Front
Since 1992 over 500 hundred pupils have visited
the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials which
mark the line of the Western Front. In June 2008
you too joined this roll of honour
Why did we go? In our course we study the causes,
course and consequences of the 1914-1918 war.
It is an opportunity to see for ourselves the
places which are now just grey images in
textbooks or mere statistics
1 in 4 who served were killed
Local History
Day 1 Wednesday June 25th 2008 - we leave for
France at 7pm
Rain forced us inside for our roll call before
departure on our coach
August 7th 1914 - Turriff Railway station
1978 Turriff Veterans at the British Legion
We follow in their footsteps
We needed to find out what it was like over in
France and Belgium between 1914-1918. In our
folders there was background information about
why the war started, why it became a stalemate
along two opposite lines of trenches and why so
many men were killed along these battlefield
On the way down to London the pupils find out
about why there was war between 1914-1918, where
it was fought and how it was fought.
It was a popular war. But few could have imagined
what they were about to get into.
Due to the huge casualties the Imperial War
Graves Commission was set up in 1914 to organise
identification and burial of the soldiers killed.
A comrade pays his respects in 1919 at the
original Ramparts Cemetery Ypres. Note the wooden
crosses, replaced in the 1920s with stone.
A no repatriation policy for soldiers killed in
Belgium and France meant that the IWGC built
hundreds of cemeteries along the sites of the
Between 1918-1940 the original war cemeteries
were rebuilt by the IWGC.
The cemeteries are now well cared for by the CWGC
gardeners. Many of whom are descended from
soldiers who had been the original IWGC gardeners.
The aim is create the feeling of an English
Country Garden with flowers and green grass
calm and welcoming.
Each cemetery contains a Register and Visitor
Stories behind the stones - CWGC cemetery grave.
Soldiers were buried where they fell. The
Headstone design
Cemeteries, Memorials, Museums, preserved
battlefields now show where the soldiers once
fought along the Western Front between 1914-1918
Between 1918-1960 the battlefields were cleared
many times for bodies and war debris.
Land was given by Belgium and France in
perpetuity to Britain. Hundreds of cemeteries
were built between 1919-1930s.
The remains of at least 15 soldiers are still
found every year and they are buried with full
military honours. Sometimes these remains can be
identified and descendents found.
As we were to find out the Old Front Line is
littered with cemeteries,memorials and the
effects of the 1914-1918 war. We were about to
step back in time.
The evidence would be clear to see.
Day 2 - Thursday 26th June 2008 - after an
overnight journey from Turriff and breakfast we
then headed for the Imperial War Museum!
We were ready to examine the exhibits, models and
original artefacts.
Busy finding facts in the Imperial War Museum
We found out about the start of the war, its
popularity amongst the public and where the
soldiers were sent The Western Front
Lunchtime in London
After lunch we went on a tourthe London Eye,
Parliament and Downing Street were packed into
the busy afternoon
London TourWe went for a walk up Whitehall and
saw the cenotaph (memorial to soldiers killed in
battle between 1914-2008
We also saw the area known as Horse Guards
Parade. Turra Girls, Kate and Caitlin tried to
take home a soldier as a souvenir!
We then drove down to Dover for the 7pm Ferry and
sailed over to Calais
We watched Titanic on the Ferry
We then made our way up to our Hotel in the
French city of Lille. Thankfully our Ferry and
Hotel were improvements on the WW1 trenches!
Day 3 Friday 27th June Tour of the battlefields
of the Somme.
A bit of geography
Our Base in Lille
Area we toured on Friday Saturday evening
10am 2008
7.30am 1916
Teddy Collingham looks after the memorial and the
wood nearby which contains the remains of
trenches. Some have been reconstructed. These
trenches were home to the Ulster regiment.
Turra loon- Sam Church was kitted out in 1916
British uniform.
We were given a tour of the trenches and bunkers
in the wood and saw the remains of where the
fighting took place.
It was spooky to see Sam in the trenches and
stand by the cemetery!
Sam fends off the advances an officer and a
We had some rations at Ulster Tower café and
thanked Teddy for his tour
We toured the preserved battlefield near the
village of Beaumont Hamel. On July 1st 1916 the
Newfoundland regiment suffered severe casualties.
We listened to their story and visited the
cemeteries and memorials in the park.
Y-Ravine Cemetery where loons fae Fyvie and Turra
51st Highland Division Memorial
Grave of Turriff soldier visited by Bryony Gauld
There was then time to visit Albert Museum and
chill out in the town
Albert was the forward base for the British army
on the Somme. Today the town has a museum in the
basements of the church.
We were given a tour of the museum and then a
demonstration about fighting during WW1 by a
local guide
There was a chance for more dressing up by
Catherine Ferguson.
After breakfast on Day 4 - Saturday 28th June Mr
Baird gave us a chance for a rest at Bagatelle
Theme Park.
After a hard day in the trenches we returned to
our base in Lille for tea.
In the shade from 30 degree heat!
After our visit to the theme park we made our way
back to Albert there was some time for a snooze
on the way.and dreams of more cemeteries and
After tea in MacDonalds we then went to
investigate Lochnager Mine Crater. Blown by the
British at 7.28am on July 1st 1916 just prior to
the battle.
60,000 pounds of explosive set off this mine. It
was meant to cause chaos and help the men
attacking the German trenches
This crater near the village of La Boiselle is
called Lochnagar. It was bought by an Englishman
to prevent it being filled in. It acts as a
memorial to the men who attacked here on July 1st
The village was on the road from Albert to
Bapaume was attacked at 7.30am July 1st. The
underground mine blew up at 7.28am - just short
of the main German trench line
La Boisselle village 2006 German Front Line July
1st 1916 Lochnagar Crater today
We spent time investigating the area around the
crater and the memorials to those killed in July
We then went to Gordon Cemetery. Ninety soldiers
were killed on July 1st 1916. The cemetery is now
where their front line had been.
We sat and listened to the story of 1st July 1916.
We then visited the site of the memorial to the
pipers of WW1.
Finally on the evening tour we went to visit the
Thiepval Memorial - it is here that the names of
the 72,000 soldiers killed in the Somme but who
have no known grave are carved on the giant
We investigated the panels and then watched the
sunset on the Somme.
Ross and Kate tell us the story of a young
soldier whose name is on this panel.
Examining the panels and cemetery at the memorial.
Turriff loon on panel 15 B
Day 5 - Sunday 29th June - we said goodbye to the
French Hotel and then headed up the Western Front
to Notre Dame de Lorette and then Vimy Ridge, the
battlefields dedicated to the French and
Canadians who fought here in April 1917.
We travelled towards Arras and visited Notre Dame
de Lorette which is where the French soldiers
We then travelled 2 miles further to Vimy which
is a small village near the to the city of Arras.
The battlefield near the town was given to
Canada and is now preserved. Trenches and tunnels
reveal the past. A memorial dominates the ridge.
The Tunnels and Trenches provide an insight into
how the ridge was won in April 1917 by the
Canadian soldiers.
Visit to the Vimy exhibition
We then made our way up the Western Front and by
7pm we reached Ypres in Belgium. Our hotel was
called the Menin Gate Hotel and unsurprisingly
was located right beside the Menin Gate Memorial.
The hotel would be our centre for the tour of the
Western Front around Ypres.
Like the soldiers we had travelled up the line
from the Somme, stopped off at Souchez to see the
massive French cemetery, museum and battlefield
at Notre Dame and , then visited the tunnels,
memorials and trenches at Vimy before reaching
Ypres in Belgium
After our arrival we unpacked and then headed
into town for tea. After tea we had a walk around
the town and then went back to the Hotel to relax.
Birds eye view of the Menin Gate memorial to
55,000 soldiers missing in the fields around Ypres
From October 1914 it became vital to hold the
town of Ypres to protect the channel ports from
German invasion. If Ypres had been lost the
Germans could capture the ports and stop supplies
coming over the Channel.
Day 6 - Monday 30th June we were ready for our
Tour of the Ypres Salient
Between 1914-1918 there was constant fighting
around the town. Over 300,000 British and
Commonwealth soldiers were killed in the fields
around this little Belgian town. Today the
reminders of the past are clear to see.
The Ypres Salient
On Monday we started our investigation of the
trenches, battlefields, cemeteries and memorials
in the Ypres Salient with our guide Wouter from
the In Flanders Field Museum Many of the villages
were sites of terrible fighting. Almost a million
men died in the area around the town of Ypres
Before we met Wouter we visited St. Georges
Church which was built in the 1920s from funds
donated by schools, universities, army regiments
and individuals from Britain. The Church was
used by people whilst visiting Ypres to see the
graves and memorials of family members killed in
the war. Many ex-soldiers came to the church to
remember friends and colleagues. Every item in
the church is dedicated to a soldier killed in
the war.
Our next visit was to the famous Cloth Hall
inside there is a brilliant museum called In
Flanders Fields.
The rebuilt Cloth Hall today
The Cloth Hall 1916
The Cloth Hall burning from German shell fire in
Working hard on the exhibitions about poison Gas
using Wilfred Owen Dulce Et Decorum Est
There was plenty to see. While a group were
around the Museum another were taken up into the
education rooms at the top of the Cloth Hall.
Wouter, the education officer from the Museum
gave each group in turn an introduction to the
effects of the war on his town during 1914-1918
Variety of exhibits in the museum
It was then time for lunch in the courtyard of
the Museum al fresco! After a busy time in the
museum we were ready for some bully beef and hard
tack biscuits!
WW1 Rum Jar
Time for a bit of rest before our tour of the
Ypres salient with Wouter. It was a hot day
factor 30 handed out by the staff to avoid any
sun stroke!
Visit 1 - Essex Farm Cemetery - John McCrae - In
Flanders Fields poem - 1915
After lunch Wouter accompanied us on the coach
for our tour of the Ypres battlefields. This
first stop was where Canadian army doctor, John
McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields The
poppy later became the symbol of sacrifice and
Grave of John McCrae
In Flanders Fields the poppies blowBetween the
crosses, row on row,That mark our place and in
the skyThe larks, still bravely singing,
flyScarce heard amid the guns below. We are the
Dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw
sunset glow,Loved, and were loved, and now we
lieIn Flanders fields.
Wouter took us to see the graves in Essex Farm
cemetery and told us stories about the lives and
bravery of the soldiers buried here.
Then Now
Visit 2 Yorkshire Trench Wouter then took us
to see the remains of an original trench system
recently discovered during work building a new
factory. Excavators found the remans of dozens of
soldiers when building the factories.
Visit 3 German Cemetery near the village of
Apart from wreaths there were no flowers on any
of the graves.
In May 1940 Hitler visited this cemetery where
many of his comrades from WWI were buried.
Flat grave stones - often with between 2-8
soldiers buried beneath each stone
This visit was to a large German military
cemetery built in the 1920s. At the entrance is a
mass grave to 25,000 German soldiers another
42,292 soldiers are buried here. The 4 bronze
statues represent the Army, Navy, Air-Force and
Tunnelling servicemen killed in WWI. The cemetery
contrasts with the layout and atmosphere of
British military cemeteries.
Visit 4 French Cemetery
Wouter took us to a French military cemetery to
show us the combined efforts of the French to
protect the town of Ypres.
Wouter pointed out a number of particular graves
to tell the story of each soldier. One had
recently been found in Yorkshire Trench and
reburied here with his comrades.
Visit 5 Hill 60 and Caterpillar Crater
We then left the French cemetery and drove 2
miles to the south of Ypres to Hill 60 this was
a high piece of ground (60 meters) and fought
over time and time ago as it could give either
side a vantage point. Thousands of soldiers were
killed in an area no bigger than a football
Tea-Break at Hill 60 café which was a terrible
part of the battlefield originally.
Wouter then took us out onto the preserved
battlefield near the café. Shell craters, machine
gun pill boxes, mine craters reveal the dark past
of the landscape.
French cemetery
This is a pool in the remains of mine crater
Then and Now Images of the same spots in 1917
and 2008
Hill 60
Wouter showed us the battle scars around Hill 60.
Soldiers in a trench in 1916 on the road where
our bus parked by the café at Hill 60!
Café here X
Visit 6 The Menin Gate memorial to the
missing soldiers
Our last visit of the tour with Wouter was to the
special in Ypres called the Menin Gate. It was
completed in 1928 and records the names of 55,000
soldiers who were killed in the fields around the
town between August 1914 and August 1917 but who
have no known grave. They are the missing.
He explained why the memorial is an important
reminder of the sadness of war. We would be
visiting the memorial and taking part in the
special ceremony which takes place each night.
Turriff said many thanks to Wouter for a
breathtaking tour of the Ypres battlefields.
It was then back to the Hotel for a quick break
before tea. After tea we went to the Park to play.
Day 7 Tuesday 1st July 92nd anniversary of
the Battle of the Somme
Dawn Patrol
Not quite 7.30am but we were up and having
breakfast at the same time the troops of 1916
were going over the top in 1916
After breakfast we had time to get our Belgian
chocolate from Ypres town square.
After we had stocked up with chocolates we went
to Bellewaerde theme park between 10am-5pm to
relax after a very busy day on the battlefields
yesterday. Ironically the theme park was built in
an area on the outskirts of Ypres which was once
part of the main battlefield area.
From the top of the roller coaster we could only
imagine Bellewearde during the 1914-1918.
This is what the ground used to look like!
Bellewarde 1917
Yards from the park - trenches from 1917.
Now children scream from the roller coasters.
We then headed into the town of Ypres - the main
British base in the 1914-18 war.
This is the actual road the soldiers would have
marched back on from the battlefields around the
town. They would see the spire of the Cloth Hall
and walk through the Menin Gate which was part of
the defence ring around the town.
The Menin Gate is now a memorial to the soldiers
who never made it back.
The German artillery pounded the town into ruins.
Ypres in 1917
We had tea in Ypres near the Menin Gate
Ypres 2008
Our next visit was most special! We took part in
the Last Post ceremony under the Menin Gate. Held
every night in Ypres at 8pm. The service is
especially for the 55,000 soldiers whose names
are engraved on the panels of the gate who died
in the war but who have no known grave. Their
bodies were either unidentified or lost beneath
the fields around the town.
The bugles sound the Last Post at 8pm and Ypres
remembers the sacrifice made by its defenders
1928 - opening of the Gate and the Menin Gate in
This Bronze relief map shows the town surrounded
by low hills. The German army held the ridge
around the town (yellow line).
The red line shows the Menin Road.
Cloth Hall
Menin Gate
Town of Ypres
We made our way from the town centre along the
same cobbled street as soldiers from Turriff had
done 90 years before.
One Panel. Thousands of names.
Turra Pals in the crowd
Looking up at the panels under the archway
We look on proudly as Cherie Asquith, Gavin
Bruce, Kate Kenyon and Sam Church present the
wreath from Turriff British Legion.
We then spent time examining the panels around
the Gate.
Captain Cameron and platoon salute the soldiers
of the Great War
After the moving ceremony at the Menin Gate there
was then time for relaxation at the Ten Pin
Bowling and Arcade
This image is of soldiers camped yards from the
spot of the above pictures.
No captions required!
It had been a busy day. Theme Parks, Menin Gate
Last Post Ceremony, Bowling and Pool.our troops
were more than ready for Big ZZZs.
Day 8 Wednesday 2nd July this would be our
last tour day
We were getting to be very familiar with the
villages around Ypres.
Today we would focus on Poperinge town hall,
Talbot House, and Tyne Cot. We would then drive
up to Bruges before catching our ferry back to
Emily and Caitlin Thanked the manager of the
Menin Gate Hotel for his hospitality and we had a
final photo taken by the side of the Memorial
We then made our way to the town of Poperinge
15 minutes behind Ypres. This was the main base
for British troops and known as Pop to all the
soldiers. Thousands were camped around the town
waiting to be marched up the road to Ypres and
then out to the trenches surrounding the town.
The town also became popular as a rest area with
loads of cafés and pubs visited by soldiers off
active duty.
This is the main square of the town in 1917. It
was a busy place.
Then and Now
As well as being a town for rest it was here,
where the town hall is today, that soldiers
sentenced to death for military crimes were
Here we read an extract from Sunset Song by
Lewis Grassic Gibbon, set in Aberdeenshire in the
years before and during the war. It tells the
story of Ewan Tavendale, husband of the main
character, Chris Guthrie. Ewan is charged with
desertion the night before his execution he is
visited in the cell by his neighbour, Chae
Strachan, now also a soldier. The pupils could
imagine the emotions of the conversation between
the two farming loons as they wondered how the
war had changed their lives.
Standing in the Cell in which soldiers were kept
awaiting their execution.
The Army executed 308 soldiers between 1914-1918.
The wooden bed in the Cell
A recent book tells one story of a soldier shot
at dawn.
It is estimated that 50 soldiers were shot in
Poperinge during the war for crimes such as
desertion. In 2007 all 308 British soldiers are
in the process of being given a pardon. It is
now recognised that many of the soldiers executed
were suffering battle trauma.
In the courtyard outside is the wooden post where
soldiers were taken at dawn, blindfolded, tied
and then shot.
After the sombre visit to the death cell we made
our way up the street to a famous house.
Abandon all Rank those who enter here!
In 1915 an army chaplain called Tubby Clayton
took over a local house and turned it into a rest
area for soldiers. He called it Talbot House
after his friend Gilbert Talbot who had been
killed earlier that year.
Tubby built a church in the attic. The house was
used by thousands of soldiers during the war and
has been left as it was in 1918. Talbot House now
has an exhibition in it.
Toc H Lamp of Peace
After a climb up through the top floor we reached
the attic church built by Tubby Clayton where
thousands prayed before going back to the front
lines around Ypres.
Toc H became a welcome rest place for battle
weary soldiers.
Between 1914-1918 The Ypres Salient witnessed 4
major battles - the worst was the battle for
Passchendaele - June-November 1917. After our
visit at to Poperinge we visited the cemetery
which now stands on the ridge of the battle.
Rain poured throughout June/July 1917 - the land
became a swamp.
The ridge in November 1917
By November 200,000 men had died. Today there are
dozens of cemeteries on the old battlefield.
Today Tyne Cot war cemetery stands on the old
battlefield. It contains 11,871 graves. It is the
largest British war cemetery in the world. Over
70 are unidentified - and simply say A soldier
of the Great War - Known Unto God. A further
35,000 names are engraved on the panels to
soldiers lost beneath the fields on the ridge.
This would be our last cemetery tour and perhaps
a chance for reflection.
The vastness of the cemetery can be overwhelming.
The rows of gravestones, like soldiers standing
to attention during a parade.
Many soldiers who died in the battle during 1917
were never found or their remains could not be
identified this is why so many graves just say
known unto God Many more are remembered by
having their names on the panels at the back of
the cemetery.
Researching - stories from the stones
We found out about Turra loon John Low who went
to our school.
The panel where John Low is remembered
He was born in 1894. He joined the Gordon
Highlanders in Oct. 1914 aged 19yrs. He was
promoted in 1917 and became a 2nd Lieutenant in
the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He was killed in
January 1918. He and his men had just captured a
German position when one of their prisoners shot
John in the back. The soldiers buried him but his
grave was lost after heavy shelling of the area a
few days later. John is now remembered on a
panel to the missing in Tyne Cot cemetery. We
know all about John as his letters and personal
effects have been kept by his family.
We pay our respects to John Low and other
soldiers buried and commemorated in Tyne Cot.
Before leaving we investigated the Cross of
Sacrifice and look back over the fields to Ypres
- 5-6 miles away. The Cross is built around the
German pill box which protected the ridge.
We also visited the exhibition at Tyne Cot. John
Low is also remembered here.
Tyne Cot July 2008
After Tyne Cot we headed for Bruges for shopping
and chocolates.
We enjoyed Tea and the Breakfast on the overnight
Ferry back to the UK. We had earned a bit of
luxury and had a great time on the Ferry.
Day 9 Thursday July 3rd we arrive back in
HOME! We made the short drive up to Dundee for
lunch and then headed back to Turriff.
Well done to the Turriff pals Battalion of 2008
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