A visit to the war graves and Menin Gate

War graves and the Menin Gate

It was an early start for both students and staff when our coach left ARK William Parker at 6.15am heading towards Ypres in Belgium to visit war graves.

Tyne Cot had the most graves. The graves of soldiers who could not be identified, of which there were far too many, were inscribed with "A Soldier of the Great  War". None of us could contemplate what these men and women had to endure, both young and old. We knew it would be an emotional experience, seeing thousands of white graves standing still, evenly apart like the soldiers that they were, on parade.

We all felt privileged to be part of this great trip. The boys felt proud and we were proud of them. Their behaviour and attitude was outstanding throughout the day. The boys were so enthusiastic to learn and all day they were asking questions. They showed respect for the men and women who fought and lost their lives for what we are today.

When Munro Scott read the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written by John McCrae; you could have heard a pin drop.

We went to a few war graves, but the one that stood out the most was the German cemetery. It was cold, dark and flat; all the graves where on top of one another. Thousands of bodies cramped into burial chambers; no head stones; so impersonal.

The day drew to an end with a ceremony at the Menin Gate; a daily service which hundreds of people attend. Alison, Tyler Smith and Zak Boutwood had the great honour of laying the ARK William Parker Academy wreath.

I asked Tyler afterwards how he felt; he said "I felt so proud, it was an honour to be part of a special ceremony.  This is a once in a lifetime achievement, one that may never happen to me again".

The day was a fantastic experience and I had the pleasure of spending time with some well behaved, pleasant, polite and respectful boys. I would like to thank Una Reid and her department for a day that we will never forget.

Jackie Clarke