History in Belgium - WW1 Battlefields
As the site of some of the biggest battles of WW1 and today the home of cemeteries and memorials, an educational trip to Ypres and the surrounding area will help your students understand the devastating outcome of war. Your group will visit and discover sites of pivotal events that changed the course of WW1, as well as pay respect to the many brave men and women who gave their lives during this time of world conflict. Tour durations are flexible from 1 day to 4 day trips – please contact us to discuss your needs and request a bespoke tour itinerary.
10:00 ZONNEBEKE (Passchendaele)
Start the day at the heart of the Third Battle of Ypres, or ‘Passchendaele’ as it is more commonly known. The name alone is a symbol of senseless military violence and so the museum seeks to provide a reminder for future generations. The dug-out tunnel with communication and dressing post, headquarters, workplaces and dormitories, provides an idea of how the soldiers had to live underground, like moles, because there was nothing left above. It’s impressive, as is the museum with its collection of historical artefacts, images, movies and dioramas. Complete your visit to the museum outside in the trenches before heading into the park that surrounds the museum.
14:00 TYNE COT CEMETERY
With its arched wall and colonnades in white stone, the Missing Memorial of Tyne Cot Cemetery instils respect. This is the largest military cemetery of the Commonwealth in continental Europe. Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried here – whites crosses, placed row after row. On the memorial wall are the names of the 34,957 soldiers who fell after 16th August 1917 and whose graves are unknown.
15:00 LANGEMARK CEMETERY
Just 4 miles way is the village of Langemark, the home of one of four German war cemeteries in Flanders.
The cemetery holds the remains of more than 44,000 soldiers, half of which are in a mass grave. Among those buried at Langemark are over 3,000 cadet and student volunteers, which is why the cemetery is also known as Studentenfriedhof.
16:00 IN FLANDERS FIELDS MUSEUM, YPRES
This recently renovated museum located in the former cloth hall of Ypres focuses on the personal stories of the invasion, the trench war and the remembrance ceremonies since the armistice. The Bell Tower offers views over the former battlefields.
18:00 MENIN GATE
The Menin Gate is by far the most famous Commonwealth war memorial in Flanders. On its white walls are engraved the names of 54,896 soldiers whose bodies were never found. Since 1928, each and every day (apart from during WW2) the Last Post is sounded just outside these walls.
20:00 THE LAST POST
At the end of the day this final experience is very emotive.Four buglers – in the uniform of thevoluntary fire-fighters of Ypres – stand in line and play the emotive notes of the Last Post, a final farewell at the end of a soldier’s earthly labours and the onset of their eternal rest.
10:00 TALBOT HOUSE
We start the second day in Poperinge on a somewhat lighter note. It’s here that Talbot House can be found, a large house in the middle of the town that was known as Every-Man’s Club, where soldiers of all ranks would visit. The interior is still as it was 100 years ago, with comfy chairs, desks to write letters home and a library.
11:30 DEATH CELLS
Poperinge was also a place of execution and the courtyard of Poperinge Town Hall is a painful reminder. Shell-shocked soldiers, who did not know what they were doing, fled the battlefields and were shown no compassion by their officers, often being court-martialled and then facing death by firing squad.
Lijssenthoek is the second largest war cemetery of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. As a centre where casualties were brought to be treated, many lost their lives and more than 10,000 are buried here.
16:00 THE YSER TOWER
This 83m high tower can be clearly seen across the Yser Plain. An impressive building, it is both a monument and WW1 museum at the same time. On its base walls is written ‘NO MORE WAR’ in four languages and inside you will find a 22 floor museum.
17:00 TRENCH OF DEATH
One of the most evocative reminders of the war in the Yser Basin, at just over half a mile long was a network of trenches which was regarded as one of the mostdangerous positions along the western front. Situated just 55 yards from a German Bunker, it was subjected to almost constant fire from German snipers and machine guns.
18:30 GERMAN MILITARY CEMETERY
Here you can stand in front of the world famous sculpture by Kather Kollwitz, ‘the Grieving Parents’. The actual parents of an 18 year old volunteer Peter Kollwitz, who died aged just 18 years old, he and 25,000 other young German soldiers are buried here.