Last year’s winners of the Grand Prize at the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria Annual Conference, offered by Latitude Group Travel, was St Patrick’s College, Ballarat. This prize, which reduced the cost of a student History tour, meant that these students from country Victoria got to head to the other side of the world to witness, first hand, the sacrifices made by our World War I diggers. The College’s inaugural History Tour to France, Belgium and Germany and to explore the Western Front was timed to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the Great War. The group recently returned from their tour during which they visited the Normandy D-Day landing beaches of WWII, Paris, Versailles, many sites in the Western Front, including the Somme, Villers-Bretonneux, the Victoria School, the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot Cemetery, amongst several other important Australian cemeteries, and much, much more – all detailed in this stunning video.
The video is well worth watching. Evocative, beautiful and engaging, the video also goes into black and white when the students are engaged in reliving a day as a digger. After a visit to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 and an introduction to the events and conditions in which the men at the front attempted to survive, the students and their expert guides took to the road. They followed the route along the old Ypres-Roeselare railway track taken by a platoon from the 3rd Australian Division during the major assault of 4 October 1917.
All the students were fully clothed and equipped as an Australian unit from that time, therefore including uniform, kit and rifle – and they ate the exact rations of so long ago. The guides went into the details of the military story of 4 October 1917, but personal involvement is the most important element of this activity, as each platoon member stepped into the shoes of an Australian who was actually there and they walked in the footsteps of their predecessor from 100 years ago. On the way, the students learned more about the person and at the end of the day, at Tyne Cot Cemetery, they found out what finally befell their soldier. It is a sobering confrontation!
The video covers virtually all of their experiences during the History Tour and will give you a great insight into just some of the experiential learning activities and sights that they took in. A great time was had by all, according to the College’s Head of Humanities, Jen Casey. The students really connected with much of what happened in the World Wars, particularly through their cemetery visits, where they visited graves of Old Collegians and students’ family members, through the “day as a digger” program and from a visit to the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy. They also laid a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate. The group was even invited to civic celebrations by the mayors of Dortmund and Dusseldorf. What an extraordinary honour!
Please enjoy this fantastic insight into their tour!