Spring Newsletter 2015 - page 5

A small section of the graves at Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world
As part of a government initiative to
commemorate the centenary of
WW1, two students from GTS and
myself were given the opportunity
to visit a range of WW1 battle sites
and memorials. I was joined by
two Year 11 pupils, Oliver Mathews
and Harry Lambert, who earned
their place on the trip by producing
outstanding pieces of writing on
why it is important to remember
The trip started from Exeter, on
Friday 13th March, where we were
joined by staff and pupils from
other schools from across Devon
and Cornwall. First stop on the trip
was a stopover in Ashford, Kent.
We were given a pre-trip briefing
where we investigated WW1
information relating to local soldiers
involved in the war and we
examined artefacts such as shells,
barbed wire cutters and bayonets.
Early on Saturday morning, we
headed for Belgium via the Euro
Star. First, we visited Lijssenthoek
originally next to a field hospital;
the cemetery contains 10,800
graves, covering 30 different
nationalities and holds the grave of
one of only two women killed in
action on the Western Front, a
nurse called Nellie Spindler.
Later, we visited the death cells at
the town of Poperinge, where men
were held before being executed
for charges, such as desertion. Over
the course of the three days spent
in Belgium and France, we visited a
range of graves and museums
which all gave a great insight into
life for ordinary men and women
during the war, including a visit to
the infamous battlefields of The
Somme, where on July 1st 1916,
20,000 young British soldiers were
slaughtered, making it the worst
day ever in British military history.
The ceremony of the last post,
held at the Menin Gate in the town
of Ypres, was especially thought-
provoking and memorable for the
fact that this takes place every night
in Ypres at 8.00pm, and involves the
closure of the main road to
remember those whose bodies
have not been recovered from
On the final day, we visited the
Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is the
largest commonwealth cemetery in
the world; here we saw the
memorial to John Smale, a young
man from Torrington who lived in
New street.
Being exposed to the horrors of war
to such an extent did make all three
of us reflect on the apparent
pointlessness of this conflict and
the war that would supposedly end
all wars.
Bill O’Donnell,
GTS History
1,2,3,4 6,7,8,9,10,11,12
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