“From Battlefield to Blighty”
Battlefield Medicine on the British Western Front, 1914-1918
BESPOKE SCHOOL TOUR
Max. Walking Distance
Medics in the line of fire
The Great War was a time of rapid innovation and dramatic change in medicine, as the large numbers of casualties concentrated the efforts of the Army, surgeons, doctors and nurses to find new and more effective ways of processing and treating wounded soldiers. A century ago, these developments saved the lives of countless thousands of soldiers, and many of the technologies, techniques, treatments and therapies are still used in hospitals today.
Inspired by conversations with teachers across the UK, we are delighted to offer a school tour designed specifically to support the Historic Environment Study of the new Edexcel History GCSE ‘Medicine Through Time’. This three-day tour around Ypres explores the treatment of British casualties of WW1 by interpreting local sites of medical significance and discovering the memories and accounts of the soldiers, doctors and nurses involved. There is no substitute for following the casualty evacuation chain on the ground, and our visit to the Ypres Salient will take in the locations of Regimental Aid Posts, Advanced Dressing Stations and Casualty Clearing Stations mentioned in the Edexcel specification. Further exploration of the topic will be undertaken through handling and using original artefacts in interactive learning activities, looking at the weapons and the nature of the wounds they caused, as well as how the trench conditions impacted upon the lives, health and treatment of Tommies on the Western Front. We will also consider how technological and medical advances improved the care for wounded British soldiers during the Great War, and how the impact of those advances continues in medicine today. To establish the medical focus of this tour in the wider context of the British sector of the Western Front, we include visits to key locations of general Great War interest and importance, including the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Langemark German Cemetery, Talbot House and the Passchendaele Memorial Museum. If desired, the From Battlefield To Blighty Tour can also be extended from its core three days around Ypres to include key locations around Arras and/or the Somme. Schools taking this tour with Zeitgeist tours can also book a unique in-school First World War Battlefield Medicine workshop (offered by our partners Frontline Living History) at a special price – it’s the perfect preparation for the tour, and a great way to engage your students with their learning to inspire even greater achievement. Please ask Zeitgeist Tours for more information when making your booking.
The Plan of Operations
From 1914, the Belgian town of Ypres stood as a bastion against German attempts to advance and capture the Channel coast and ports and cut off the British Army from its supply routes. British and Empire forces defended the town and its surrounding countryside for four hard years, at the cost of tremendous loss of life on both sides of No Man’s Land. Ypres is famous today as the location of the Menin Gate – the memorial to 54,000 men who fell defending the town but have no known grave, and the site of the nightly Last Post ceremony which draws visitors from all over the world – but the town itself and the fields and villages around it offer much more to our understanding of the First World War
Your school will be accommodated in quality youth hostels in Belgium and France
(details to be discussed as part of the bespoke tour package)
Travel by luxury coach from school to the Ypres Salient, via either Eurotunnel or ferry. We begin our tour by visiting the locations of Casualty Clearing Stations at Mendinghem and Lijssenthoek Military Cemeteries, discovering the role of Casualty Clearing Stations in the casualty evacuation chain and hearing from those who worked in and experienced them during the war.
After a short drive, we reach the town of Poperinge, home of the world-famous Talbot House, better known to Tommy as ‘Toc H’. This everyman’s club offered a brief respite from the horrors of war, and was a place where soldiers could meet and relax, regardless of rank; students will explore the possibilities of life out of the line. If time allows, we will also take a short walk to the Town Hall, which still houses ‘death cells’ where at least eight men spent their last hours while awaiting execution for desertion and other crimes.
In the afternoon, we move closer to the old front line, visiting a former Advanced Dressing Station at Vlamertinge and the three military cemeteries at Brandhoek, where we will visit the grave of Captain Noel Chavasse, RAMC – one of only three men ever to win the Victoria Cross twice.
Our day ends in Ypres with a visit to the In Flanders Fields Museum, before settling into our dedicated school accommodation in the town centre.
After breakfast, we set out on the short journey to Essex Farm, where we explore the role of the Advanced Dressing Station and place it into context in the wartime landscape. Any visit to Essex Farm has to mention Colonel John McCrae and his famous poem In Flanders Fields, composed at this site in 1915; but there are many other personal stories to be found here too. Time permitting, we will make a short visit to the nearby preserved Yorkshire Trench on our way to Langemark German Cemetery, the only German cemetery in the Ypres Salient and the last resting place of over 44,000 German soldiers. From Langemark, we move on to the Passchendaele Memorial Museum at Zonnebeke, where students can discover more about that infamous battle, experience an underground dugout complex and explore reconstructed trenches. Our final visit for the day is to Tyne Cot Military Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing. The biggest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world, Tyne Cot is the last resting place of almost 12,000 men – 8,400 of which are unidentified – and is also home to a memorial listing the names of almost 35,000 men who fell in the Ypres Salient after mid-August 1917 and who have no known grave. Tyne Cot also contains four German pillboxes, one of which was used as an Advanced Dressing Station after the area was captured in October 1917. After our evening meal in Ypres, we will attend the moving Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, where your school will have the chance to participate by laying a poppy wreath to commemorate those who fell in the defence of Ypres.
Your final day will begin with some free time in Ypres, giving students the chance to explore the town and to visit a Belgian chocolate shop. From there we will take the short drive along the Menin Road to Hooge, where we can explore the First World War history of the area by visiting a fascinating museum full of historic artefacts including a Great War ambulance, original trenches, bunkers and mine craters, and the substantial Hooge Crater Cemetery.
David Allton is an experienced teacher, re-enactor, historical interpreter and tour guide, with a lifelong interest in the Great War. After setting up Frontline Living History five years ago, he has travelled the country giving talks, displays, presentations and workshops about the First World War to audiences of all ages, specialising in working with school groups. He is particularly interested in the British soldier’s experience of the war, and in the organisation, development and impact of British battlefield medicine between 1914-1918.
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Why travel with Zeitgeist Tours?
Your comfort matters to us. An army marches on its stomach so we pride ourselves in sourcing for you high quality food, drink and accommodation for reasonable prices. Not just a 'tour' - go on a battlefield holiday.