Belgium Battlefields - Creating the perfect school trip

Battlefields Tours
April 14, 2024

The Belgian Battlefields, around Ypres and the Somme are a classic destination for UK schools.  For years’ schools have been descending upon this sleepy part of Belgium, drawn in large part by the history and significance to both British and world history, and of course the school curriculum. However, despite being a firmly established destination for educational tours, if you have not been it can be hard to picture how all the different locations fit together – here is our guide to help you make the most out of your school trip.

Battlefields sites on school trip

Project Battlefields

Every group who travels with Adaptable Travel will receive, free of charge, our unique curriculum based, innovative ‘Project Battlefields’ student and teacher resources.  These resources have been carefully designed to engage your students, focusing not only on the history but also areas where students can find common ground or interest – child soldiers, role of women in WW1, animals of the war, war poetry and much more.  In addition, there are several activities related to many of the popular sites in the Ypres and Somme area along with well-thought and student friendly illustrations which explore many facets of WW1.  The workbook is a full-colour, printed 52-page booklet packed with information, illustrations, challenges, activities, history, photographs, QR code links, and much more.

To accompany the Student Workbook, you as the group leader will receive an accompanying Teacher Handbook which will help you help your students get the most from their trip.  And finally, you will receive classroom ready PowerPoints which will cover all the main aspects covered in the Student Workbook, to enable you to cover WW1 in a classroom setting.  

Where to stay?

We can offer you a choice of accommodation in and around Ypres offering for a great base to explore the surrounding sites.  All accommodations are built with school groups in mind, meaning you can be sure your group will be happy in the setting, and you can be assured all have been personally audited by Adaptable Travel and pass the School Travel Forum guidelines.  Contact us for a quotation and you can find more information out about these accommodations.

Our Guides

To accompany you on your tour, we provide the services of one of our excellent battlefield guides, all of which are ‘Guild of Battlefield Guides’ registered, which means you can be assured in their knowledge and experience.  In addition, we take pride to work with guides whom we are confident will connect and engage your students to bring the whole battlefield trip to life.

How long do we need?

Adaptable Travel organise school trips which last between 1 day (possible for groups located in the South of England) right up to 5 day trips, which can also incorporate stays in other locations such as Amsterdam or Paris.  The average duration of our Battlefield school trips is 3 days – but the duration and content of the trip is entirely at your discretion.  We are happy to advise based on your budget and topics you want to cover.  Usually a 3 day trip allows ample time to see the main sites.  If you have a three day itinerary in mind, the below is the different sites you could explore within that time frame.

Day 1 - The main sites around Ypres

Depart the UK and arrive in Ypres (via ferry or Eurotunnel).  Your guide will take you to the following sites:

Hill 60: The scene of desperate fighting between British and German armies. During World War I, The British occupied a salient which meant they were surrounded on three sides by the opposing Germans who occupied advantageous higher ground.

Caterpillar Mine Crater: Caterpillar Crater is located near Hill 60, to the south of Zillebeke. The Caterpillar Mine, named for its position along a ridge resembling a caterpillar, is renowned for its role in the Battle of Messines.

Hooge Crater: Hooge is a small village on the Menin Road and was the location of fierce fighting between Allied and Central forces for three years during which the village was totally destroyed. Three large craters were blown at Hooge in June 1916 by the Germans to break the stalemate.

Essex Farm: Essex Farm was the location of an Advanced Dressing Station and now is the site of a Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery. It was used as an advanced dressing station from April 1915 until August 1917. Being based near to the front line trenches, the station gave first aid care to the wounded before casualties were transferred to a Casualty Clearing Station.

Menin Gate and the Last Post Ceremony: Dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers whose graves are unknown, The Menin Gate is a fitting and impressive memorial made up of the names of over 54,000 soldiers who have no known grave carved out of stone panels to form a poignant monument.

The Menin Gate is a memorial to some 55,000 British soldiers killed in the Ypres salient who have no known grave.

Day 2 – Sites around the Somme

Today you will venture slightly further afield, and we recommend the following sites:

Sunken Lane and Hawthorn Mine: At Sunken Lane, students can walk along the trench where soldiers once awaited the battle's start. It's a powerful moment that brings history to life, allowing students to imagine the intense moments before the conflict began. Hawthorn Mine is another significant site, known for the massive explosion that marked the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.

Newfoundland Park: Arguably one of the most important WWI sites situated along the Old Western Front, Newfoundland Park exhibits a vast area of trenches where soldiers from all parts of the UK and Newfoundland lost their lives during the fighting of 1916.

Thiepval Memorial: The Thiepval Memorial is a colossal brick structure that commemorates the names of over 72,000 British soldiers whose bodies were never found and have no known grave.

Musee Somme 1916: Located in the medieval chateau of Peronne, this museum is dedicated to the multi-cultural aspect of the war demonstrating British, French and German Exhibits.

There is also the option to swap Sunken Lane and Hawthorn Mine for the popular Vimy Ridge on route to the Somme.

Vimy Ridge and Canadian Memorial: The Canadian Memorial on Hill 145, Vimy Ridge, overlooks the battlefield of 1917, where one of the fiercest battles of the First World War took place. The Canadian Memorial Park contains a striking monument, a cemetery, a small museum, tunnels and trenches. This is a highlight of any trip to the Somme.

Day 3 – Final visits and home

After breakfast and enroute travelling back to the UK, you should have time to visit more significant battlefield sites.

Langemark German Cemetery: This cemetery is one of the few German burial sites in the Western Front region, and it provides a different perspective on the war compared to Allied sites. At Langemark, students can see the somber layout, marked by dark stone and the mass graves of many soldiers, including many young student volunteers who fought during the early stages of World War I.

Tyne Cot Cemetery: Tyne Cot Cemetery is the resting place of 11,954 Commonwealth Soldiers and is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world. Each grave is marked with a simple headstone hewn from White Portland Stone. Standing tall and arranged in straight rows to signify soldiers on parade, Tyne Cot Cemetery is a place of peace and tranquillity.

This is followed by an afternoon trip to the excellent Passchendaele Museum.

Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917: Revently renovated, this is set up in the historical castle of Zonnebeke just outside of Ypres the Memorial Museum tells the story of the war in the Ypres Salient with special emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele 1917, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War. The museum has a large collection of historical artefacts, images and movies and offers visitors the chance to descend into a replica British dugout, complete with bunks, communication posts and an operating theatre.

If there is scope for a later channel crossing home, you may be able to also visit Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

Other visits worth noting are:

Sanctuary Wood Museum: One of the few places on the Ypres Salient battlefields where an original trench layout can be seen and of all the sites it gives the best impression of conditions in the trenches. Preserved by the Schier family since 1918, the site also houses a small museum containing an excellent collection of wartime photographs and relics.

In Flanders Field Exhibition: Housed in the former CIoth Hall in the historic heart of Ypres, Flanders Fields is a perfect starting point for an exploration of the Ypres salient. This interactive museum allows students to experience the brutality of World War I through a series of multi-media exhibitions and is an essential stop for even the shortest tour.

Adaptable Travel can tailor an itinerary based around the exact requirements of your group, so don’t forget to contact us and our expert team, who have personally inspected all the battlefield sites, will be happy to help you construct your perfect school trip itinerary.