OVER the Easter holidays some Year 9 pupils were lucky enough to visit Belgium, Flanders Fields.

On day two of our school trip to Flanders, we visited some of the trenches that were built during the First World War. This was a day which particularly stood out for me. When we arrived at the museum, we were escorted into two small rooms before we visited the trenches.

In the first room there was a vast collection of pictures, newspaper articles, and propaganda which dotted the walls. They showed us conditions during the war, and how the government portrayed what was actually a tragic loss to the people at home.

Also, along some of the walls there were chairs and stools lined up next to small wooden boxes, which you could peek into through two small eye holes to look at a picture taken from the war.

When you turned the wheel at the side of the box the picture would change to a different one, and each of the 12 boxes had roughly 10 to 20 images.

The pictures that you could see made a big impact on my perspective of the First World War, and it helped me to further empathise with what the soldiers were required to do. They ranged from pictures that showed the cramped living conditions to pictures that showed injured soldiers and the destruction that was caused by shells.

Following on was another fairly small room, which presented us with a wide range of guns, uniform and armour that was used during the war.

It was an interesting experience, as you could see what soldiers would have to wear in order to stay safe, and it showed you how the style of hats and uniforms varied depending on which country you were in.

There was also a variety of different rifles, pistols, machine guns, daggers and even swords that would’ve been used to attack or defend themselves, and it even reminded me of how far we’ve advanced since the old weapons that were used a hundred years ago.

The weapons that they used during the First World War almost looked quite outlandish and funny to me, as they didn’t at all represent anything intimidating.

Finally, we went outside to walk around the trenches that would’ve actually been used during the First World War. The trenches were tall, and generally quite narrow.

As you were walking through the trenches the walls seemed to loom over you. It felt like you were captive to the trench and soldiers would’ve been helpless if they wanted to escape from oncoming shells that would signal their doom.

The floor was flooded with mud and water, and all through the trenches it didn’t seem to get any better, if you weren’t wearing waterproof footwear then your feet would probably get soaked, so it was easy to imagine how soldiers would suffer from diseases like trench foot.

Occasionally there would be a small, narrow tunnel that would lead you underground and eventually come out somewhere else in the maze of trenches. These small paths were the only places where it wasn’t muddy, but instead there was sharp rocks and unexpected dips on the path.

While underground you were submerged into complete darkness, so if you weren’t careful you could often trip on big stones or rocks. Also, there were often hastily dug- out areas in the side of the trenches were soldiers would probably sleep or store munition and food.

The trenches were big, and it felt like you could easily wander adrift in the labyrinth of tunnels and passages. It was hard to imagine how long it would’ve taken to make trenches so large before you got mown down by the enemy.

The experience of going through the trenches that were actually used was probably the most memorable and breath-taking for me, and I personally enjoyed it.

I wish we had had more time to wander around the trenches.

When we had explored the trenches we got back on our bus after donning our footwear and went to the next fascinating location.

There was one other day that is even more vivid in my memory than the others, and it’s actually the last full day of the trip when we went to visit the graveyards and cemeteries for the many soldiers who were killed in the First World War.

On that day we went to the largest the First World War cemetery in the world. I can still clearly remember the rows and rows of pristine white grave stones that covered the landscape, perfectly lined up.

I can especially remember two gravestones that were actually touching each other, and between them had four different names on them. It was explained to us how the four soldiers had all been blown up by the same bomb shell, and how it was impossible to decipher which limb belonged to which soldier, so they had to bury them together.

I even managed to find one of my ancestors in one the books, who was only 19 years old when he had died during the First World War.

He had a family as well as every other man that fought, which just highlights the fact that so many people would’ve been affected by the casualties of war.

The next graveyard we visited had Canadian soldiers, and there was even one of them that was 14 years old, the same age as I am now. It’s alarming to think that a person like me was fighting in a war between men.

The whole trip was amazing, but these two events were the two I, personally, were enthralled by the most. It has definitely changed my perspective on the First World War and I would even recommend it to people who’ve never been before.

- Ben Copely