Downlands GCSE students travel to Belgium for one-to-one lesson

The students listening to Martin Featherstone at the Railway
The students listening to Martin Featherstone at the Railway

A group of year ten GCSE history students from Hassocks were transported to the first world war front line in Belgium.

The students from Downlands School visited the German Bayernwald trench system on a slight hill above Ypres (now called Ieper) in Flanders.

Jonathan Watson laying the wreath for his uncle

Jonathan Watson laying the wreath for his uncle

They learnt how the German soldiers built trenches, how just the minor rise in the ground gave the German army such an advantage and how different the experience had been for the Allied soldiers.

The students could see the path of the Allied trenches in the landscape which now are the paths of streams.

The students visited Hill 60 where they learnt about the deadly and treacherous work of the miners in creating a system of tunnels under the trenches.

Explosives in these tunnels were devastating for both sides and have marked the landscape with enormous craters.

The students learnt about the devastating effect of war – the weapons used, the devastating injuries and how disease had a huge 
impact on the numbers who died.

They learnt about the uniform Allied troops wore – how at the beginning of the war, they wore cloth caps and only later received the tin helmets, how the uniforms were not waterproof or comfortable.

The students also visited the Menin Gate, the memorial to the missing in action.

Finally the students visited a war cemetery to lay a wreath on the grave of the great, great uncle of one of the students - Jonathan Watson.

Martin Featherstone, an ex British Army guides, played The Last Post, from his i-Pad.

Jonathan Watson (left) then laid a wreath for his uncle, followed by a minute’s silence by the group.