‘… the atmosphere that was created was very moving’ – comment by a year 9 pupil after a trip to the Somme, July 2016
The Hundredth Anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Givenchy – when the 55th (West Lancashire) Division fought off a massive German attack – will occur on 9th April 2018. It will be a good moment to visit the ground upon which so many soldiers from the North-West of England fought and are commemorated.
We will explore the landscape by either minibus or small coach (depending upon numbers) and on foot, taking in remnants of the battlefield and the many associated memorials and cemeteries. Real soldiers’ stories will be woven into our visits, giving many opportunities for discussion, reflection and commemoration.
It being the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, I was eager to take a party of my year 9 and 10 pupils on a memorable journey to the battlefields. I was determined that our field trip would be individual, unique, memorable and meaningful for my pupils, especially so as it was to be the last battlefield tour I would lead as a full-time history teacher, because I was due to retire at the end of the year. I planned it well in advance and at the end of May, during the school half term holiday, took my wife on a four-day trip to the province of Picardy in Northern France in order to reconnoitre the walking routes. We stayed in the picturesque village of Heilly and enjoyed the local gastronomy and countryside as much as the battlefield visits. It was the wettest May and early June in France for many a year and my belief that it never rains all day was proved to be ill-founded. However, I am a great believer in persisting with one’s plans to walk the Western Front despite the weather, as I think we should sometimes be made to feel uncomfortable in order to feel a bit more more empathy for the soldiers who served in those conditions during the Great War. The following images were taken during that preliminary visit.
The Golden Virgin in Albert, close to where we stayed.