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Tyne Cot cemetery

Tyne Cot cemetery, Belgium

Statistics become real

Harry, from the Chase High School in Malvern, talks about learning the true human cost of the war.

When I first decided to go on this trip, I thought it would be just another one of those 'see the interesting sites', 'week off school' trips, but when I got there it turned out to be the most thought provoking trip I have ever been on.

We were all history students, so we already knew a lot about World War One, all the facts and figures, but when you get there, you learn about a more personal side to the war.

We left school at 8:15, English time, in the morning and due to some missed ferries and traffic we did not arrive there until 9:00, French time, so we did not have a chance to do anything on the first day.

However on the second day we got up early to walk down to the canal in Nieuwpoort, and heard about how the Belgians halted the German advance by flooding parts of their country.

We heard about how the British had tunnelled under the town and how this was still a problem today.

World War One memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette

Memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette

We visited many cemeteries throughout the trip: Tyne Cot and Notre Dame de Lorette, both awe inspiring in their size and design, and the numbers of people buried there, especially at Notre Dame de Lorette, because as the graves are back to back, there are actually twice as many as you think there are.

When you learn about the numbers of people who died, you do think it's amazing, but it is just a number, until you see all the graves and all the names written on the war memorials.

Seeing all this starts to break down the statistics into names and people who all died doing what their generals told them to do - some not even sure of why they were doing, except that it was for their country.

I personally think that the two most memorable cemeteries were the German cemetery Langemarck and Authuille for different reasons.

The German cemetery Langemarck was memorable because of how different it is:

It is a lot more peaceful, because it is surrounded by trees, feels sort of sheltered and the graves are flat on the ground.

German gravestone

Grave from Langemarck German Cemetery

The most amazing thing about it though was the mass grave in the centre.

This grave, probably no more than three metres by five metres, contained the bodies of nearly 25,000 men, all in this one mass grave.

Authuille was memorable because it was the most peaceful cemetery we went to - there was no one else there, and it was a little way from the road, so you could not hear the pervading sounds of traffic, like in some of the smaller cemeteries we visited.

The war memorials could only be described as amazing, the memorial on Vimy Ridge was massive, and made me wish I had remembered my sunglasses.

Harry Scholefield from the Chase High School

Harry Scholefield

It was shockingly bright, and you cannot go past it without stopping and thinking about all those who died, and the reason why it was built.

I personally had a great uncle who died fighting in the First World War, and I attempted to find him, but couldn't him on the Thiepval memorial, which was a shame.

Overall I think that it was an amazing trip, being able to see the memorials and hear the last post at the Menin Gate.

This is a memory that will stay with me forever, that every day people are reminded of the war - which is how it should be, because it would be a shame if people were to forget what had happened.

If you have an interesting story about World War 1, involving a member of your family, we'd love to hear it.


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last updated: 16/10/2008 at 14:18
created: 11/09/2008

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