Birkbeck College students visit WW1 battlefields and war graves during trip to Belgium

Birkbeck College students travelled to Belgium as part of a WWI trip.
Birkbeck College students travelled to Belgium as part of a WWI trip.

Students from Birkbeck College in North Somercotes took a solemn trip into the past when they visited the WWI battlefields in Belgium.

The half-term trip included a trip to the battlefields and a stay at the Menin Gate Hostel in the town of Ypres in the Flemish province of West Flanders.

The first day was spent visiting the recently renovated Flanders Field Museum and then touring the local cathedral and church of St George, dedicated to soldiers from Britain.

In the afternoon the party travelled to Hill 62 to see part of an original trench system and then to the largest British and Commonwealth cemetery of the First World War, Tyne Cot.

Here the scale of sacrifice was very visible with nearly 12,000 graves, many with no names, and around 35,000 names on the memorial wall for soldiers who have no known grave.

Day two meant an early start in order to travel to Vimy Ridge.

Entering the tunnels, the party experienced a first-hand feel for the cramped, dark and damp conditions that soldiers endured.

It was surprising to many students to learn just how close the two opposing sides were, only 25 metres apart in some places.

The next stop on the itinerary was to the memorial for Canadian troops overlooking the ridge: a huge and beautiful monument erected to commemorate the loss of over 11,000 Canadian troops who have no known grave.

Upon return to Ypres, students spent time shopping in the local chocolaterie and experiencing restaurant cuisine.

During the final evening, a moving ceremony at the Menin Gate, a memorial to fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers, was attended.