ACE on Centenary Tour, France. September, 2015.
As part of the First World War Centenary all secondary schools have been given the opportunity to send 2 pupils to the battlefields and war grave sites in France and Belgium. Our own Pete Leidig booked us on this great educational opportunity, all expenses paid by the government.
Myself and Gail Coath, with year 11 pupils, set off for the day, on Friday 2nd October.
The first evening was spent at Grosvenor House undertaking CPD and team building activities plus a full educational program until 9.00pm! We researched a soldier from Prince Rock, one AE Le Gras. We would track him across the trip to the Somme with the Devonshire Regiment.
Saturday morning up at 6.00 to the news that the tunnel is closed! The organisers secured a ferry crossing and we hastily adjusted risk assessments but it all adds to the excitement.
Then it’s into Belgium to Lijssenthoek Cemetery, the swathes of headstones stretch out – the enormity of why we are here hits us all and everybody files off in sombre mood.
In the evening we attend the last post at the Menin Gate, more poignant than ever as the haunting sounds of the bagpipes swirl in the evening air.
Sunday is a full day, off at 7.30 into the country side where our boys once tread the Somme, Ypres and Thiepval Woods. We visit a corner of France that is forever Irish – the Ulster Memorial Tower and meet the best tour guide ever, Teddy, who takes us into the woods to the trenches and front line of battle. In the evening our resident squaddies show the pupils military kit and compare their kit with that of the 1916 soldier – Cameron volunteers to dress up and gets a rousing cheer.
Off at 7.30am to the German Cemetery at Langemark where we acknowledge that we should remember both sides of the trenches in that terrible war.
We move on to Passchendaele which is a fantastic interactive museum with full scale reconstructions of tunnels, trenches and displays which the students absolutely loved.
Finally we arrive at Ty Cot Cemetery. It is a staggering place, the largest British and Commonwealth war cemetery in the world with 11,956 soldiers buried here. We find the grave of AE Le Gras, our soldier from Prince Rock and the pupils lay a cross for him.
There is so much more to add and so many places we visited with so much more emotion but I will stop here and would finally like to congratulate our pupils on their exemplary behaviour and interest. The tour guide was particularly complimentary about them. Gail and I were so proud.
Krakow, Poland. March 2015.
In March, 2015, Mr. Leidig, Mr. Morahan, Mr. Ward and myself took 4 students to Krakow, Poland.
The principal aim of the trip was to educate students on the history of Poland, WW2 and the holocaust.
We started our trip with a guided tour of the city, looking at the architecture and enjoying a drink in a local café set in beautiful grounds.
The following day we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, death camps in operation during WW2. It was a very eye-opening experience, we were shown the terrible conditions that many prisoners had to experience and the awful treatment they received at the hands of the Nazi’s.
We also visited the salt mines, where there were breath taking spaces underground carved out of salt rock. The picture below shows the great hall carved out of rock, with amazing detailed sculptures. We had to walk down 300 steps to get to the bottom and took a miner’s lift back up to the top.
Finally, we visited Schindler’s museum, set in part of Schindler’s factory, the famous work place of many Jewish captives during WW2. The story, based on fact, is that Schindler saved thousands of lives by providing these people a purpose and a place of work. The museum was a brilliantly interactive and visual exhibit, walking through Poland, post and pre- WW2.
We had great responses from the student’s who, I feel, took the value of the trip and what we were trying to convey. They behaved very well and were a pleasure to take on a residential trip. Thanks ladies and gents!