Centenary of World War I
With the events of World War One now commencing over 100 years ago, there is no better time than now to take your students to the location of some of the most significant battles in history. Reading about the horrors of war is never as impactful as going to the place where it happened and absorbing the surroundings and atmosphere. By taking your students on a battlefields trip, the events of WW1 will be put into perspective and made real.
Here at Adaptable Travel, we can arrange your bespoke Belgian Battlefields trips to Ypres and The Somme with assistance from our expert guides. We have also created our own innovative Project Battlefields student and teacher resources to accompany all of our battlefields school trips to Ypres and The Somme. The impact and significance of WW1 is the foundation of most modern history courses and our school trips are a fantastic way for pupils to experience this first-hand.
We want to highlight to you why Ypres and The Somme are particularly important when it comes to understanding the history of WW1 and why it’s important to take the time to digest all the events that happened:
Why students need to understand World War I off paper as well as on paper
Learning the required curriculum content for WWI is, of course vital, but what our school battlefields trip offer is a deeper understanding of context; similarly, visual aids are key in a lot of student’s learning. WW1 was described as the ‘War to End All Wars’ and more than 70 million military personnel including 60 million Europeans were mobilised in one for the largest wars in history. Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war.
The war pulled in all the world’s economic great powers including the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic, the UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria-Hungary and later, Japan, the US, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, encompassing key politics and empires of the time.
Ypres occupied a strategic position during WW1 due to its geographic location, sitting on the path of Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France from the north. Belgium’s neutrality was guaranteed by Britain and it was Germany’s invasion of Belgium which brought the British Empire into the war. The German army surrounded Ypres on three sides and bombarded it throughout most of the war. In the First Battle of Ypres, the Allies captured the town from the Germans but the Second Battle of Ypres was triggered by Germany’s use of poison gas for the first time. Mustard gas, also called Yprerite (named after Ypres) was used for the first time near Ypres in 1917.
Of all the battles in Ypres, the largest, best-known and most costly in human suffering was the Third Battle of Ypres where the British, Canadian, ANZAC and Frenches forces recaptured the Passchendaele Ridge, taking a terrible amount of lives at the same time. Whilst this is impactful just reading it, standing on the ground where all these men fell should make sure all the hard facts stick with your students not just for their exams, but for life.
Why Battle of the Somme?
The Somme Offensive was fought by the armies of the British Empire and France against the German Empire. This was supposed to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the biggest battle of the First World war on the Western Front. As famously known, more than 3 million men fought in this battle and 1 million of these men were wounded or killed, resulting in it being one of the bloodiest battles in human history. It is key for history students to understand this and by seeing where it all happened, they should understand the horrors in full.
On the first day of the Somme, there was a big defeat for the German Second Army which was taken out of its first position by the French. This day was also the worst day for casualties and the worst day in the history for the British army with a total of 57,470 casualties which occurred primarily on the front.
Most notably for students, the Battle of the Somme is also significant due to the importance of air power and the first use of the tank. By the end of the battle, British and French forces had penetrated 10km into German-occupied territory which meant they had taken more ground than any of their offensives since 1914. The Somme remains the most harrowing place-name in the history of the British Commonwealth and will resonate with your students on its centenary.
Find out more about our Project Battlefields learning resources here and meet our fantastic expert guides here.