The PAC Battlefield Tour

As the significant National remembrance day, ANZAC Day approaches, several senior students from Years 10, 11 and 12 will be reflecting the battlefields by taking part in a journey, The 2018 Battlefield Tour, from 14 April to 28 April 2018.

In previous years, PAC students have taken part in this wonderful opportunity to experience the journey of the Anzacs from the beaches of Gallipoli, to France and Belgium. A previous Tour experience has been captured in an article by Ron Pippett, Prince Alfred College Teaching & Learning Leader, Senior History and History Tour Co-ordinator.

The 2015 Battlefield Tour – Exploring the Past.
By Ron PippettPrince Alfred College Teaching & Learning Leader, Senior History.

“Twenty Prince Alfred College students and three staff chaperones returned from an incredible journey that encompassed a fascinating exploration of battlefields, monuments, interpretation centres and historic landmarks from Turkey to France and Belgium.

The 2015 Battlefield History tour was a great success, with boys bringing back many memories, souvenirs and colourful tales to share with families and friends. Our first port of call was the ancient city of Istanbul, a bustling, bewildering hub catering to 17 million inhabitants. Our Turkish guide touched on the vast history associated with this region dating back to the Bronze-age Hittites and Assyrians, Alexander the Great, the Romans through the Byzantine era followed by the Ottoman Empire to the present. Despite this impressive history, quite palpable to the group through ancient ruins on streets, roads built through Roman aqueducts and the awe inspiring Blue Mosque, the Turks actually see the Gallipoli battle as a pivotal part of their national story. It is a key reason why Australians are so welcome in this land which was once enemy territory. This warm Turkish reception was undeniable when we visited a local high school in Eceabat and the boys were treated like movie stars! The hotly contested game of basketball was followed by a charming international exchange of chocolates and stickers – and Facebook profiles. Meanwhile, staff discussed contemporary pedagogical matters, drawing comparisons between Australian and Turkish curricula.

The Gallipoli experience was profound. From our first investigation of the beaches along Anzac Cove, the boys were captivated as they contemplated exactly what had happened here 100 years ago. Certainly, looking up from the rocky beach to ‘the Sphinx’ and Shrapnel gully made for some sombre and thought-provoking reflection. We started our Anzac tributes here with Brady Miell recounting the incredible story of his two forbears – one his great grandfather and the other his great-great grandfather – who may not have known each other but were buried next to each other at Ari Burnu. A generation later, their descendants would inter-marry and create an amazing link between the two soldiers. Some passionate and sincere Old Scholar tributes were offered at Beach cemetery and Lone Pine and then there were inspections of the Nek battlefield, the Turkish positions at Chunik Bair and the remains of trenches through here, all of which captured our imaginations. A solemn tribute to VC winner, and perhaps the most famous PAC Old Scholar, Hugo Throssell, was delivered by Lochie Delbridge and Stewie Harris only metres from where he carried out his incredible acts of valour. Paris was our next destination, where the boys were given a brief dissertation on the French Revolution and then walked it! From the place de la Bastille, along the Seine to Notre Dame and the Louvre, into the Tuileries gardens we then looked out at the place de la Concorde where thousands were guillotined during the French Revolution, including Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette. An Eiffel tower climb and a cruise along the Seine finished an eventful day. Fitbit calculated we all walked 14.6 kilometrs that day! Another sunny day in Paris saw us head onto the Metro which some tired legs welcomed. Inspecting the decadent glory of the extraordinary Palace of Versailles allowed the boys to understand the origins of the French Revolution much better than any history book or documentary film could. The boys were quickly brought back to the Great War theme, with our journey into the Somme valley where we investigated the tragic battle of Fromelles. More than 2000 young Australians lost their lives here in just more than 24 hours. The infamous German corporal Adolf Hitler was involved in this battle too. A number of boys discovered bits of shrapnel and bullet casings on this battlefield before we bunked down in Lille for the night.

The Menin Gate ceremony at Ypres has been held at 8pm every single night, 365 days a year – since the 1920s. It was here Lachy Zanker and Braiden Ousey marched up to leave a wreath from the PAC community. The Ypres museum, In Flanders Fields offered a poignant look at the horrors of war and how this town had been devastated by it. That night, Ray Brown read John McCrae’s famous poem by the same name. The final stage of our tour took us to Villers Bretonneux for the Dawn Service on Anzac Day. The group were all up at 2am to get to the service on time, with about 6000 Australians participating. Appropriately, the rain came down on this chilly April morning but the words and images were quite inspirational for us all. Ray Brown and Tom Geyer were given the duty of laying a PAC Community wreath during the ceremony. Later that afternoon, we noticed an Aussie Rules game taking place and visited the VB School there where the sign ‘Do not forget Australia’ has remained for many years.

The long journey home was a time for reflection and contemplation. Studying, living and breathing history tends to do that. The boys had a wonderful experience, with many stories to tell and photos to share.”

Ron Pippett
Prince Alfred College Teaching & Learning Leader, Senior History.