Western Front for Schools
This is an itinerary that we operated for a school from Surrey to accompany their studies of World Wars I and II that we will be operating for the third time this year. They were particularly interested in studying the human side of the conflicts, so we visited the best preserved trenches at Sanctuary Wood, the tunnels built by the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, the V1 and V2 site at La Coupole and, arranged for two of the students to lay a wreath during the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, probably the highlight of the trip.
We use a hotel on the Menin Road about two miles outside Ypres. It is right in the middle of a major battlefield with trenches, craters and pillboxes in its grounds. As it is out of town it reduces the temptation for students to "go walkabout". It is also next door to a Six Flags theme park and a visit there can be included should you wish.
Depart school for Dover where we take the ferry to Calais. Our first stop will be at La Coupole which was constructed as a massive, concrete, underground bunker for the launching of V1s (pilotless planes) and V2s (rockets) aimed at England. In the later stages of World War II, Hitler believed that, by firing large numbers of these at London, he could force Britain to surrender. The V2 was the first rocket to be used and Hitler’s scientists emigrated to the USA at the end of the war and led the American space programme. Today La Coupole is a museum on the history of rocket technology and another section on the German slave labour programme, part of which was used to construct La Coupole. We will continue to Ypres to our hotel the Kasteelhof t’Hooghe.
We will start today with a brief walk around the grounds of our hotel. This was a hotly contested part of the battlefield and there are several mine craters, pillboxes and trenches to see. We will then visit the best preserved trenches and museum at Sanctuary Wood followed by a moving visit to the Tyne Cot Cemetery at Passchendaele on the slopes of the 1917 offensive. We then go into Ypres for lunch before visiting the “Flanders Fields” museum in the Cloth Hall. In the evening, we will take part in the wreath laying at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menen Gate. The Menen Gate was on the road along which all the British soldiers left Ypres to fight. It now has inscribed on it the names of 70,000 men who died in the Ypres Salient and whose bodies were never found. Every night (except during the German occupation of World War II) since the end of World War I, there has been a ceremony of remembrance at 8pm.
This morning we will go to the museum in Mechelen (sometimes known by its French name- Malines) which was the Nazi HQ in WWII where all 25,257 Belgian Jews were assembled before being taken to Auschwitz. Only 1,207 survived until liberation. In the afternoon we make the short journey south to Brussels.
This morning we head off to Bruges where we will go on a boat trip around the city before having some time to buy souvenirs. We will then head for our ferry back to England.