The Perse School

Year 11 Historians tour the First World War Battlefields

12 Nov 2013

Fifty-six Year 11 pupils and six members of staff spent five days on the History Department’s annual tour to the Western Front of the First World War during half-term.

The group was based in Ypres for the first two days and visited keys sites in the city and in the Salient. Highlights included seeing the famous preserved trenches at Hill 62 (Sanctuary Wood) and attending the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. On the third day the group explored the Somme battlefield, focusing on the events of 1st July 1916, when the British Army suffered the worst losses in a single day in its history. Seeing the excavated British front-line trenches in Thiepval Wood and the preserved battlefield at Newfoundland Park gave students a profound sense of the reasons for the British failure. The tour then moved south into the French zone of the Front, in order to gain an understanding of the Franco-German conflict. A full day was spent visiting important areas of Verdun, including the atmospheric Fort Douaumont and the vast French cemetery. The day ended at the Butte de Vauquois. The Perse is the only British school to visit this unique site, where the pupils explored the underground shafts and tunnels constructed by French and German engineers.

On the journey back to the Channel the group stopped in the French village of Humbercamps where the grave of an Old Persean, Humphrey William Devereux, who was killed a few days before the opening of the Battle of the Somme, is located in a small British cemetery. As is customary on these occasions, a wreath was laid by students and  Devereux’ life was commemorated.

The tour both reinforced the work done for the First World War IGCSE topic and provided a sobering reminder of the scale of losses suffered by all nations participating in the conflict.

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