We sat down with four of some of the amazing teens that took part in the Passchendaele memorial to get insight into their experience. Prerna, Fadheelah, Daisy and Harry give us the details on Belgium, teary moments, community… and waffles.
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So what did you know about Passchendaele before you went there?
Prerna – I knew that it was one of the battles of Ypres but what I didn’t realise was that the battle of Ypres was actually a series of little battles. I also knew that it was a small town in Belgium but other than that I didn’t know much about it at all.
Fadheelah – I knew about it vaguely and knew that it was somehow connected to WW1 but nothing more.
Daisy – I knew that it was in WW1 but we did a bit research to find out what Passchendaele was about. But before signing up to go, I hadn’t heard of it.
Harry – I really didn’t know about Passchendaele because I didn’t do a lot in history. But I knew it would be a great experience to learn about it so I grasped at the opportunity.
What was it like being in Belgium?
Harry – I thought it was amazing. The location and the way they run things in that city. They run things differently.
Prerna – I just fell in love with Belgium! The way that they have rebuilt themselves was to kind of respectfully remember the war while also moving forward. The roads are still cobblestones but there was a lot of beautiful architecture that I was in awe of!
Daisy – I fell in love with the architecture in Belgium because I’m really interested in architecture. It’s a really flat place compared to where I live – very, very hilly.
Prerna – And the waffles were cheap and the chocolate was amazing!
What are some of the important things you learned?
Prerna – I imagined the No Man’s Land would be really, really big but in reality it was quite small. It was like 6km away from each other. We could have walked between the two and it would’ve taken us less than ten minutes.
Daisy – I learnt a lot! On one of my free days I went on a tour of the medical sites of the war. I was educated about what the battlefields were like and how difficult it was to treat people. We also went to a museum where we were able to look further into the battles of WW1. It was quite hard hitting knowing what they had to go through.
Harry – I learned a lot from the people there. We got the opportunity to speak to people who were descendants and hear their stories. I met someone who was cycling to every WW1 memorial and the cemeteries. I thought that was incredible. He gave me his contact details so I’ll keep in touch.
Give me one highlight about your experience.
Daisy – On Monday at the cemetery, I stood outside and waited for the buses so I could welcome everyone. I just thought that was lovely. I got to talk to the people and they were just so happy and smiley and well… it was just so nice.
Prerna – The people of Ypres were the best possible people I could ever meet and the food! The waffles and ice cream and the coffee…
Fadheelah – I saw it on TV and thought it looked amazing and I was so excited to see my mates on BBC.
Harry – My standout moment was when I was doing the leaf bearing and there was a point when all of the poppies fell from the sky and it looked absolutely amazing. We weren’t expecting this. When it happened, we got so teary on the inside. We couldn’t cry properly because we had to stay professional but it was emotional. It really showed what the remembrance ceremony was really about.