A moving and hugely educational experience that brings this earth shattering struggle vividly to life.
Strategically vital Ypres was doggedly defended by the British army from 1914 to 1918. The site of sustained fighting, there were five massive battles around the town over this period, the most famous being the Battle of Passchendaele in which total British and German casualties are thought to have been around half a million men. Only two hours coach journey from Calais it gives many dramatic insights into the war whose centenary is now being remembered.
The numerous monuments museums, cemeteries and preserved trenches make it easy for students to appreciate the scale and horror of an event that has done much to shape the world they have inherited.
The town itself was almost totally destroyed by German artillery but has now been totally rebuilt. The In Flanders Fields museum, named after Colonel McRae’s famous poem and housed in the old Cloth Hall, is an excellent start for your tour – it tells the whole story of the invasion of Belgium and the four years attritional trench war that followed.
The Menin Gate is an imposing war memorial dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died nearby but whose bodies have never been identified or found. A moving ceremony to recall their sacrifice takes place every evening at 8pm. Talbot House opened by army chaplains provided rest and recreation to all soldiers coming in, regardless of their rank, is now a museum and Christian foundation.
Students can also visit many original trenches including the British fortifications at Hill 62 and the German at Bayernwald. See the explosive power of the mines that were tunnelled under the lines by visiting Hooge Crater, measuring 120 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Visit Tyne Cot, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war, and appreciate the sheer scale of the slaughter.
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