Senior School Boys' Battlefields Tour

Senior School Boys' Battlefields Tour

The 24th annual BGSB Battlefields Tour visited Belgium over the first weekend of the October half-term break. 

The theme of the tour this year was the terrible fighting which raged around the city of Ypres in the latter half of 1917, which has gone down in history as the infamous Battle of Passchendaele. 

As always, the tour focussed on the stories of Old Boys of the School and relatives of people on the tour caught up in these terrible events. 

Visits were paid to the graves or places of commemoration of the old boys who died at Passchendaele, including the 1914 School Captain, John Hartington MC, an original member of our Cadet Corps in 1892, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Boardman DSO and 19-year-old fighter pilot Jack Binns. 

A comparison was taken at the grave of old boy Walter Rostron with the poignant photograph of his parents visiting the grave in 1924. 

Alex Bringloe was photographed at the grave of his great-great grandfather, Ernest Bringloe, who was killed in September 1917. The group also visited the battlefields themselves, to gain a faint inkling of what the conditions must have been like, including the superb reconstructed German trenches at Bayernwald and Pond Farm, fought over several times during the war. 

The young farmer, Stijn, is a World War One enthusiast and he showed us the vast collection of weapons, equipment and other relics which he has recovered from the surrounding fields. 

Pride of place in his collection is his full-size working replica of the British tank which was abandoned in the area on 31st July 1917. At Pond Farm, an eyewitness account of the fighting there, written by BGS old boy Thomas Floyd, was read out. 

On the Sunday night of the tour the School Captain, Vice Captain and Senior Cadet laid a wreath commemorating the fallen old boys during the nightly Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. This was the 14th time the School has been privileged to take part in this world famous ceremony before ever-larger crowds. 

On the last day the group visited the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in the world, Tyne Cot, which stands on the infamous Passchendaele Ridge itself. Here, eight Old Boys of the school are buried or commemorated. 

James Bishop played the Last Post in their honour, their names were read out and a Silence observed. Our final stop was at the village of Passchendaele itself, the scattered ruins of which were finally captured by Canadian troops on 6th November 1917.  

Inside the church is a lovely memorial stained glass window donated by the people of Lancashire in honour of the local soldiers who fought in the area. The coats of arms of Bury and other Lancashire towns are included. As the group went to place our ceramic poppy, specially made for the tour by Miss Gore, on the small altar beneath the window, the group were astonished to see, still in place and cared for, the wreath we laid on the 2002 Battlefields Tour. 

The BGSB Battlefields Tour is now one of the longest running School trips of its kind in the world and, as far as we know, unique in featuring a different itinerary each year and taking pupils of all ages. Next year's tour, the 25th, will commemorate the last desperate battles of 1918, when the tide of war swept one way, then the other, before the eventual allied victory.

Click here to see a full photo gallery from the trip.