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Remembered Today:

History of School Battlefield Tours


Mark Hone
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In connection with an article I am writing, I would be interested in any information people might have about organised school battlefields tours before the upsurge of the 1990s. I began my annual tour in 1994 but there were already schools doing them regularly at that time. I have heard of quite a few in the 1980s and have met at least one person who visited the Menin Gate with his school in the 1970s. I visited the D-Day landing beaches as part of a school French trip in 1972 but we never got near World War One sites. I remember trying in vain to persuade my parents to take me on a Midland Red coach tour which included Vimy Ridge and Ypres. I have already found evidence of some school visits in the inter-war period. Bury Grammar School toured the Belgian battlefields in August 1939!

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I first went as a teacher with the Dragon School, Oxford in 1989. Have done over 100 now with 3 other schools!

Chris

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I tried mailing you but your messaging box was full, Mark.

Les Coates (author of the 'Active Learning in Humanities' series of books including titles on Ypres and the Somme) and the late Roger Bastable led tours to Ypres from The Holy Trinity School in Crawley, West Sussex, from c.1979 onwards when I was a pupil there. Thanks to them I got my first trip 'out there'. They followed this with a first school trip to the Somme in 1983 after I had made several trips there with my father and persuaded them it was a good idea!

They also had a colleague, who was a local Sussex WFA member, Bill Caudwell, who taught history at Collier's School in Horsham and they did tours for the students there back into the 70s.

The Ypres Times - the Journal of the Ypres League - has several accounts of schools visiting battlefields in the 20s/30s but I think these were more pilgrimage trips rather than the sort I went on and you now organise for your students.

Hope that helps?

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From something my father once said I think some of the masters from Wellingborough took some pupils across to the French battlefields in the 1930s (that's the Public School not the Grammar School). It's quite possible that this sort of thing was happening in an ad hoc fashion in many schools. I would think the currency controls in the imediate post WW2 period would have killed it off.

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Thanks for that. Sorry about my Mesenger Inbox. No matter how much I clear it, the next time it claims to be full! I've still got those Les Coates books. They were some of the first teaching resources I purchased. My gut feeling is that the first post-war school trips date from the 1970s but I am mindful of Mr. Hone's First Law of Innovations: 'you can always find an earlier example'. Of course it all depends how you define a 'battlefields tour'. My trip to the D-Day Landing Beaches in 1972 consisted of a visit to the museum in Arromanches as part of a tour lasting nearly a week with no other military content.

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  • 4 months later...

A belated mention that the article appeared in the last edition of the WFA Bulletin, if anyone is interested. The article is anonymous, not because of cowardice or false modesty on my part but because apparently my name was accidentally missed off when the magazine was put together for printing! The captions I provided for the accompanying photographs were also not included but they were not crucial.

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Bit late - but I have only just noticed this topic. I have a press cutting recording visits by 350 schoolboys to French villages that had been adopted by their home towns. This is June 1923 and they were able to tour battlefield locations and CWGC cemeteries.

MC

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Our secondry school organised a trip to Ypres in April 1972 ,about 12 on the trip ,the week previous the IMW then off to Belgium for the weekend .

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Thanks for this. There were obviously a few schools conducting battlefield tours in the 1970s but I haven't found any evidence of earlier trips in the post war period.

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Thanks for this. There were obviously a few schools conducting battlefield tours in the 1970s but I haven't found any evidence of earlier trips in the post war period.

This was almost i am certain our schools first trip to the battlefields of the war up to then it was the normal fare of Swiss lakes and mountains ,and day trips to Calais to pratice French on the locals , this trip was in conjunction with the trip to the IWM , in the middle of our year studying the Great War ,it was only a whistle stop tour but day in Ypres , the Gate a fair bit of the salient and Tyne Cot , then evening in a dockside bar in Ostend with the sports teachers .
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  • 3 weeks later...

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