In Flanders Fields

On Friday, the choir had a day off from any Masses or concerts, so we decided it would be important to visit some First World War museums and sites. 

Our first stop was a small field with many graves of soldiers killed in battle, including many unknown heroes. Seeing the graves of these men, who were brothers, sons and fathers, struck a chord for us, preparing us for the solemnity of the day. After paying our respects to these soldiers, we made our way through a pathway towards our next destination.

After a short walk filled with a silence, we reached our next stop, and it took our breath away. Hundreds upon hundreds of white stone tombstones, spread across a large field… A powerful sense of reverence washed over us as we looked upon the sacrifice of those people who made our lives as they are today. The choir thought it to be a good idea to sing for those buried at the cemetery. We sang For The Fallen, written in remembrance for all those killed in war. I think singing these words in this place has deepened our perspective of the horrors of war.

After these two stops, we filed back into the bus to visit a World War I museum. I personally think this was the best part of the day. There were thousands of objects from the war, and touring around the museum gave us a more intimate insight to what life was like in the trenches. Looking at carefully preserved photographs, shoes and journals of soldiers produced the feeling of sorrow. Seeing these personal items, it dawned upon us these people had families and people who cared about them, and we reflected on how those families must have felt at hearing that their son is dead, his location perhaps unknown.

The best parts of the museum were the interactive experiences. An underground dugout recreated the tight and claustrophobic feeling of having to be underground, when you can hear bombs going off above. The other experience was a trench, with makeshift bunkers and periscopes located along the path. Although not exactly as they would have been, walking around this trench gave us a good idea of how miserable it would be to live in one of them for weeks at a time. 

I think it is important to know Australia's history, and the history of the other countries that fought alongside us in wartime. Hearing that 12,000 people died in a battle is one thing, but seeing each and every grave of those soldiers in Tyne Cot deepens our respect tenfold. We cannot truly understand what war is like unless we experience the closest thing to it. Visiting all these places on our day off was the right choice, and one I don't think any one of us will regret.

— Oisin O’Sullivan (year 7)

Benoît Deheegher, of the International Gregorian Chant Festival, Watou, kindly took us to visit some of the Flanders Fields.

Samuel and Noah at Polygon Wood Cemetery.

Antonio and others from Saint Mary’s Cathedral Choir at Polygon Wood Cemetery.