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News > School News > Our 28th Battlefields Tour visited the area of Ypres in Belgium

Our 28th Battlefields Tour visited the area of Ypres in Belgium

13 Jun 2022
School News

31 Year 7 and Year 8 pupils, accompanied by four members of staff, took part in the School's first overseas trip since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. Travelling to Belgium via the Channel tunnel, the party visited a variety of sites telling the story of the terrible fighting which raged in this now peaceful area between 1914 and 1918.  Many of the sites would be familiar to previous generations of Bury Grammar School students.   

Amongst the places we visited were Messines, where we heard the first-hand account of BGS old boy Bert Minton, who was seriously wounded during the defence of the town in October 1914, the Bayernwald preserved German trench system, the massive Spanbroekmolen mine crater and the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, with its atmospheric recreated underground dugout complex and trench system. After two years with virtually no British visitors to the area, the always-friendly Belgian people were understandably delighted to see us return.  It was particularly good to have our traditional cup of tea at Talbot House, 'Toc H', the all-ranks club in Poperinge, founded in 1915; a living museum which only survived permanent closure during the pandemic with a crowd-funding appeal.

As always, our tour included visits to the war cemeteries which dot the Belgian landscape and act as a permanent reminder of the terrible cost of war. These included Essex Farm Cemetery, where the Canadian doctor John McCrae wrote the famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'; the German Cemetery at Langemark; Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world and Brandhoek, where the most highly decorated BGS old boy of World War One, Colonel Tom Boardman is buried, not far from the double Victoria Cross winner, Captain Noel Chavasse.

As before, emphasis was laid on the multi-national and cultural nature of the British Empire (now Commonwealth) forces which fought at Ypres, with visits to the graves of soldiers from the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, amongst others. We ended our tour by laying a wreath on the grave of the 1914 Bury Grammar School Captain, John Hartington, at the massive Lijssenthoek Cemetery.

On the last night of the tour, we attended the world-famous Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. This is held every evening at 8 o'clock and the tradition continued unbroken, even during the strictest periods of lockdown when no spectators were allowed. We were proud to take part in the ceremony for the 16th time and after the volunteer Belgian buglers had sounded the Last Post, pupils laid a wreath in memory of all those who fell in the fighting at Ypres. It was sobering to reflect, as we walked around the preserved trench systems of a century ago that, in the same week, the BBC had posted a film of Ukrainian soldiers fighting in almost identical structures.  

Mr Hone would like to thank his colleagues Miss Halstead, Mrs James, Mr O'Sullivan and Miss Mallory for their invaluable help in reviving the BGS Battlefields Tour after two years in which it seemed that there might never be another one, and to the pupils, for their enthusiasm and interest throughout the tour.

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