Christ Church Cathedral School Travels to the Somme
Posted on July 28, 2016
The first week of the summer holiday was marked by a highly successful and enjoyable French trip, involving 38 boys and four teachers. Having already commemorated at School the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July, with a moving service in the Cathedral and a fascinating morning of history, poetry, and art relating to the battle, we set off to Picardy in the north-eastern corner of France to learn more about the people and places at the heart of this tragic episode in British military history.
Our base was a hotel in Albert, the town nearest to the action. From there, we visited a museum in Albert shaped like a First World War trench; the mighty Lochnagar crater, formed when 27 tonnes of explosive were detonated under the German lines; and Wellington’s Quarry, a series of tunnels beneath Arras where thousands of allied soldiers were billeted. We also explored many of the famous monuments and cemeteries around Albert, including those at Thiepval, Beaumont Hamel, and Delville Wood.
The boys, ranging from Form 5 to 8, showed genuine interest in, and respect for, the places we visited. A few had personal family connections to the Battle of the Somme; all were struck by the poignancy of the sites and the stories they revealed.
In addition to the serious business of the visits on our itinerary, there were plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation. We ate very well in some excellent restaurants in both France and England, while much of our spare time was spent in the hotel games room and the nearby sports field. The boys had no hesitation in parting with their Euros at virtually every gift shop in Picardy, plus a hypermarket on the outskirts of Amiens; some invested in souvenirs and presents for family members, but most preferred instant sugary gratification.
Last year’s French trip went to Normandy; in the summer of 2017 we shall go to Brittany, to see the walled city of St. Malo and the fortified monastery island of Mont St. Michel. I hope many of the boys who came to the Somme will join me again next year.