Last weekend, we made a very successful start to our 2016 spring tour season with five coaches, carrying representatives from 48 schools visiting the battlefields.
Three coaches started their tour on Friday, with another two coaches departing on Sunday. At Ashford, the group prepared for the forthcoming tours with a range of briefings, activities and sessions which included conducting research on a local soldier who had been killed on the Somme in 1916 and an artefacts handling session.
The second day saw the groups travel to Ypres with visits to Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, where the groups looked at medical care and developments in the First World War and also the theme that 'every headstone tells a story'. That evening the groups attended a moving Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, where a number of students laid wreaths.
The third day saw the groups visiting the Somme battlefields, with some groups visiting the Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle and the 'new' CWGC cemetery at Fromelles on route. On the Somme, the groups spent time visiting sites including the preserved battlefield at the Newfoundland Memorial Park, Delville Wood and of course, the Thiepval Memorial.
The final morning was spent reflecting on what remembrance means today and included visits to the German military cemetery at Langemark and the largest British military cemetery in the world at Tyne Cot. Some groups also took part in the Flanders government memorial project 'Coming World Remember Me'.
Feedback from both teachers and students has been very good and bodes well for the remained of the season which will be busy with a further 200 schools taking part in tours.
Teacher feedback - Feb 2016
"I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing experience this week was. I have been on four previous battlefield tours and this one was superb - beyond my wildest expectations and my students were blown away."
"... the weekend was seamless in its organisation and implementation. The sites we were able to visit were very moving and thought provoking."