Au revoir

Au revoir definition, until we see each other again; goodbye for the present.

T set off on his WWI Battlefields trip at the ungodly hour of 6 o’clock this morning. He has been looking forward to this trip for months and I am excited for him. They are travelling to Dover and then taking the ferry to Calais. They will then spend 2 nights at Chateau d’Ebblinghem near Saint Omer from where they will go off each day to visit significant war cemeteries and other places of interest before returning back to school around 6.30pm on Saturday.

T had three trips to choose from this year. We have made it abundantly clear from the word go that skiing is not an option as it would cost more than our family summer holiday (and we are no prepared to sacrifice that) but that if a trip came up that was partly educational and not re-mortgage-the-house-expensive we would consider it. This year the options were French or German week-long intensive language trips to the respective countries, or the WWI battlefields trip. He toyed with the idea of the German trip but after thinking about it some more and hearing about the places they would be visiting he decided to go for the Battlefields. I was so pleased, as I went on this trip in the 5th year (modern day year 11) and had a fantastic time. I hadn’t put any pressure on him to choose the trip but was secretly hoping he would!

After paying the initial deposit and then the balance we have had very little information regarding the trip until the end of the week before last. Being a bit of an organised person (ha ha) I was getting a bit antsy that we hadn’t had any kit list or, in fact, any details at all such as departure time, how they were travelling, where they were staying. I emailed the trip co-ordinator and had a perfectly pleasant reply that the teacher responsible for organising the trip would be in touch. Stop worrying woman, basically. So, when we finally had the details we spent an hour or so looking up where he would be going and staying etc. He is visiting a lot of the places that I remember going to and I am sure he will find it interesting. I don’t think I understood the magnitude of what I was seeing when I went at the age of 15 so I am sure that T will be the same and not really be able to grasp or even begin to understand the huge significance of some of the places he will go to. But I think he will get a lot from it in spite of his age. I was lucky enough to be able to locate the war grave of my great-grandfather when I went and I think that made the trip even more memorable for me and was certainly a big deal for my dad (his grandfather) and my mum (who had been researching our family history for some time).

Included in the list of places they are visiting is a German war cemetery. T’s reaction made me realise how young he still is and how they still see things from a very black and white point of view – he was shocked that they had cemeteries in Belgium for Germans. Surely they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them? Surely they didn’t feel sorry for them? I explained that the Germans lost men in the war too and that although we as a nation didn’t agree with their leaders politics they were still young men the same as out young men and they had families who would grieve just like us. He took this on board but was still a bit sceptical. I wonder how he will feel when he has been there?

The other thing that worried him a bit was whether he would see migrants at the port at Calais. This I couldn’t be very reassuring about other than that he will  be on the coach as they come off the ferry and hopefully the “camps” are far enough away. However, I explained, they are just people and nothing to be afraid of. He replied that he wasn’t afraid, just didn’t want to see children upset and scared. Despite his German comment he is a sensitive boy.

I can’t wait to hear all about it; I will be following on the map to see where he is each day and wondering what he is thinking. He has promised to text me and maybe even FaceTime if the Chateau has wi-fi (the first thing he wanted to know when we Googled the place); but I will be happy with a first-hand recount when he gets home.


Thiepval Anglo French Cemetery, France






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