This morning we visited Essex Farm, site of John McCrae's field hospital. We saw the bunkers that were used as operating rooms, triage stations and dressing rooms. This site was the inspiration for McCrae's poem, In Flanders Fields, which Daria read to us.
We followed this with a visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest British military cemetery in the world. We spent a solemn half hour here, wandering through the rows of graves and considering the price paid for our freedom. The pupils were given small crosses to lay at the foot of a grave of their choice. Kyle chose a 19 year old. Others chose unknown soldiers, expressing a desire to honour their sacrifice.
At Langemark, we had chance to see 1 of only 4 German cemeteries in Belgium. Here, there are 40,000 men buried in a mass grave- many of them were under 20 years old. These were the troops that, having just joined up, faced the much smaller but highly trained British army. We took time to read some of the plaques, and to contemplate the scale of the cost of the war for all sides in the conflict.
Lunch was sandwiches -big ones!- in the cafe next to the Hooge trenches. We then spent some time walking in the actual trenches where soldiers fought. Our tour guide brought a decommissioned Lee Enfield rifle- we enjoyed taking shots - photos that is!
We crawled through the German bunker that the British captured in 1916, before jumping on the coach and heading to Ypres.