Monday 9th May 2011
We left school at 7:45am this morning and arrived at Folkestone just after 10am for our 11:20am Channel Tunnel crossing. The crossing was smooth and as hard as the boys looked they couldn’t see any fish out of the windows! We arrived in France at about 1pm French time and headed to the pretty seaside town of Hardelot where we sat on the beachfront and ate our lunches. The boys played on the beach and some found crabs (both dead and alive!). We left Hardelot after about 45 minutes and headed for the Chocolaterie de Beussent where our senses were tantalised by the scent of chocolate. We watched the demonstration about chocolate; from where it comes and how it is used to create chocolates, and were then able to try one (or two). They were delicious and acted as a catalyst for most of the boys to part with some Euros in order to take such chocolate delights back to England!
At about 4:30pm we left the chocolate place and drove to Le Touquet. The boys were amazed by the large beautiful homes in both Hardelot and Le Touquet and were even more amazed at the superb location of our hotel! We unloaded the suitcases and the boys discovered their rooms. All the boys are happy with their roommates and they all merrily inspected each other’s rooms for balconies, fixtures and fittings! Dinner of chicken, chips and chocolate éclairs was served at 6:30pm and Mr Biggs is supervising a game of football on the beach. The boys will write some journal this evening before heading to bed as we have a busy day looking around Etaples tomorrow. The weather has been great- sunny but not too hot; perfect French Trip weather!
Tuesday 10th May
The boys were all up and raring to go this morning. Breakfast consisted of a variety of cereals, bread and some delicious French jams. All were devoured eagerly. The fun started with a room inspection. There was clearly a diversity of opinion as to what constitutes a tidy room, but eventually we set off for Etaples for our first visit of the day. Etaples is a working fishing port and we began our exploration of the town with a visit to the fish market. The boys were fascinated by the different stalls, each run by the wife of the captain of each boat. They were also impressed with the skills of the women as they gutted and filleted the fish speedily, though it was a bit too much for some!
We continued to the main market where the boys had to find various items and list their names in French. It was at this point that Ben Scranage began haggling (en français, naturellement!) and secured some good deals on sunglasses. The variety of goods on sale was great, but the cherries seemed to be a particular favourite!
Following lunch, we visited the British military cemetery at Etaples which, with in excess of 12,000 people buried there, is the largest in France. The gleaming rows of Portland stone gravestones in the immaculately-tended grounds provided a sombre reminder of the devastation of war, and the boys were very moved. So very many countries throughout the world were involved. Parvaaz was interested to find the grave of a Sikh soldier, Ben listed the names of some of the soldiers who had fought in the same regiment as his grandfather, Miss Mackenzie pointed out the grave of a Major who had been awarded the V.C., whilst the graves of volunteer nurses were a reminder to all that both men and women gave their lives for their countries.
We then returned to the centre of the town where the boys were divided into three teams for a town trail. They were given a possible fifty-seven things to locate and identify, in French, and the element of competition brought out the best in them. At the time of writing, Miss Mackenzie is still marking the last entry, but the marks for this, along with the other quizzes throughout the week, will be added together to see the ultimate champions of “Town Trail Extreme”!
Our final visit of the day was to E. Leclerc, a hypermarket on the outskirts of le Touquet. The boys scoured the aisles to find answers to various questions. None of them came away empty-handed! We then returned to the hotel for football, dinner and journal writing. We are now going for a walk around le Touquet before bed. The weather has been lovely and the boys are enjoying immersing themselves in French culture.
Wednesday 11th May 2011
Today we went to the Somme where we visited the Lochnagar Crater, the Thiepval monument, the Ulster Tower and the Beaumont Hamel New Foundland Memorial. We had a very enjoyable and moving day and to illustrate our feelings we have published below some of the boys’ thoughts, feelings and poetry:
The world wad full of war and violence.
The war to rule them all.
Some men fighting to defend their families,
Others fighting to destroy them all.
The cries of the screaming men,
As they fall down to the ground,
Life stops in a spiral of bullets,
Silencing their sound.
Explosives falling from the sky,
As men see, in their blood tinted eyes,
Bodies ripped apart,
Stopping endless cries.
Thoughts on today at the Somme
Today we visited Thiepval, we looked at the walls reaching the sky with the names of all of the missing men whose bodies have not been found engraved on each face. There was a cemetery at the back. Looking at how many people died for other people moves you. Walking around the Lochnagar crater you see the gravestones of the people who died in the explosion. It makes you realise how brave these men were. I would hope to be as brave as them.
Today we went to the battlefield of the Somme. It was very sad, moving, shocking and amazing. We saw some of the weapons used and we walked through the trenches. It was scary to imagine that such a peaceful place was once full of death, mud and violence.
The Somme was fought in the year 1916
Having been battled by the Allies and the Germans
Everyday was hell for the soldiers
Shell after shell killing their comrades
Over the trenches the soldiers ran
Machine guns killing line after line
Making mounds of bodies fallen to death.
Eventually the battle came to an end.
I thought the Somme was very incredible. I was grateful to the soldiers and the trenches were amazingly built. The English had a hard test as they were heading uphill. The Germans had better weapons, clothes, trenches and experienced soldiers whereas the English were the total opposite, so it looked like the Germans were going to win, but then the Scottish came and somehow finished it off and defeated the Germans. The names of the missing soldiers who they couldn’t find, have been engraved on the walls of the Thiepval Memorial.
A sneak attack,
All went wrong
In the Battle of the Somme.
First the Lochnagar Crater.
The English tunnelled under No Man’s Land under the German lines.
60,000 pounds of explosives,
Over 200 deaths
Leaving a crater 100m wide
Where they were ambushed by the Germans.
Then, a cemetery, the Thiepval Monument
Where the names of 73,383 unfound soldiers are written.
Only one way to pay your respect; the Thiepval.
Then, the Ulster Tower.
A replica of a tower in Ireland with a load of bits and bobs; bullets, guns, shells and barbed wire, all at the Ulster Tower, plus an ice-cream shop for your pleasure.
War is a horrible thing
I wish it could stop
Too many families have lost children
It’s just not fair
I would not dare
To join such an affaire
Because death is unfair
It takes what for what parents most care
Because at the end there are many a grave
For those who were brave.
Hole in my heart
My friends, all dead,
Me, I’ll soon be joining them.
The Germans are approaching,
I did something noble,
What did it achieve?
They’ll all die anyway.
I need to buy them some time.
Up I rise, Messmaker, my gun
In my hand.
I peer over the top of the trench,
I duck back down and run.
Bullets whiz past my head.
Time slows down.
I shoot some more.
The danger’s over, except
Hole in my chest.
I just have time for a prayer
Before darkness enfolds me.
The men in the trenches
Were really noble and brave
To die for us all.
I dreaded the time
When the call would be shouted
And the charge would start.
Thursday 12th May
Down to breakfast we all went at around 8:30 only to discover that vandals had smashed the windscreen on the coach. Thankfully they had not gained access to the coach but it meant that we could not use the coach today and had to rely on another French mini bus which took us to our destinations. It was a great shame that such a thing could have happened in such a beautiful French town but you will be pleased to hear that the three drunken young men have been arrested for the crime.
We started our day at the Le Touquet market which the boys enjoyed looking around. We were then taken to the picturesque walled town of Montreuil-sur-mer where the boys carried out 2 town trails which they very much enjoyed. We had lunch next to the town walls before heading to the goat's cheese farm which the boys absolutely LOVED and all wanted to take home either the one day old kid, a baby rabbit or a baby chick! (see photos!). We all learned about how cheese is made and tried the delicious cheeses at various ages. It was good to see the boys taste and try new flavours - it was very adventurous of them!
We returned to the hotel where the boys were given some free time in Le Touquet before heading back to pack suitcases and prepare for the final room inspection. We have been very impressed with the boys' rooms and they found it easier to find their things as well as pack as their rooms have been tidy all week!
We had our last meal and now Mr Biggs has taken them to the beach for a last walk and play along the beach.
We have all had a brilliant week, with lots of French learned and lots of fun had. The boys have been a pleasure to take away and apart from a long sleep required this weekend, Mr Biggs and I thoroughly enjoyed the week and we hope the boys have made some memories which will last forever!
With the coach driver sitting next to me as I write this, he has asked for me to add how well-behaved and polite the boys have been and how he is disappointed not to be able to drive us back tomorrow (we have arranged other transport for tomorrow as the coach cannot be used with the windscreen as it is).
Friday 13th May
After our last breakfast, we loaded up the minibus and trailer which was to take us to Nausicaa and set off at around 9:30am. We arrived by 10 at France's National Sea Life centre where we spent a couple of hours. It was a huge place, full of the most amazing creatures; fish, sharks, sea lions, penguins and crocodiles as well as a couple of lizards and some huge tortoises!
We had lunch in the park next to the aquarium and then left to go to Cité de l'Europe- a huge shopping centre where we spent around 45 minutes spending the last of our money. Our new coach had arrived and the coach drivers swapped our luggage from one vehicle to the other, before we turned the corner out of the shopping centre and drove into the Eurotunnel area, ready for our 3:20pm crossing.
We arrived safely back in England by 2:55 and had a good drive back to the school where we arrived by 4:50pm. All the parents were happy to see their children again and thanked the staff for taking the boys away and looking after them. The parents kindly gave Mr Biggs and Miss Mackenzie a card and gift as a thank you which was very generous, especially as they had enjoyed the trip and look forward to many more in the future.