Camaraderie on centenary

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Camaraderie on centenary

Lower Fifth Battlefields trip

The focus of this year’s Lower Fifth Battlefields trip was the centenary of the infamous Third Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele. The visit was made more poignant by the recent discovery that Old Exonian 2Lt S.J. Hannaford had been killed in this campaign on 5 October 1917.

His name has recently been added to the war memorial in the Chapel. The whole group was fortunate to visit his grave in Cement House Cemetery near Langemarck on Friday 13 October to pay their respects and to lay a wreath.

This connection to Exeter School was not lost on the children and added even greater relevance to our trip. We were also able to get a wider contextual understanding of the war on the whole Ypres salient with a visit to the excellent Passchendaele Museum, where Mr Keyes was able to dress two students in a WW1 uniform and discuss the nature of the Tommy’s kit and equipment as he went into battle. The scale of human loss and suffering was reinforced by visits to Tyne Cot and the Menin gate, as well as Thiepval on the following day.

The nature of the underground war was also explored with a visit to Hill 60 on the northern edge of the Messines Ridge. This was reinforced 24 hours later as we travelled to the Somme where Miss Hodgetts and Mr Keyes explained the horrors of the first day of the battle as we visited the mine crater at Hawthorn Ridge and empathised with the last moments of many unfortunate soldiers who prepared to go over the top from the Sunken Road at Beaumont Hamel.

We then walked through the village to Newfoundland Park where the Newfoundland Regiment suffered 70% casualties on 1 July. Wellington Quarries at Arras allowed us to appreciate the further use of mining skills in helping troops get to the front line via extensive tunnels. We completed our day at Vimy Ridge where Reverend Tom led a service of remembrance in front of the majestic Canadian war memorial whilst Lower Fifth Former Will Toms expertly played The Last Post on his trumpet.

Our trip was completed by a short visit to the centre of Bruges to allow some time for relaxation in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, although thoughts of Belgian chocolate were probably foremost on most people’s minds.

Head of History Giles Trelawny said this was an excellent experience and the Lower Fifth were very good company.

“I hope the memories of what they have seen, and the camaraderie they enjoyed, will stay with them for a long time to come,” he said.