The Platoon Experience, a unique experience project anno 1917!

A day of living history...

Your group steps into the shoes of an Australian platoon from 1917 and follows the bloody trail to CWG Tyne Cot Cemetery. Based on a historically substantiated story, experienced guides take youngsters from 14 years in tow.

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, we take to the road. We follow 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 youths are fully clothed and equipped as an Australian unit from that time, therefore including uniform and kit. We will go into the details of the military story of 4 October 1917, but personal involvement is the most important element. As each platoon member will step into the shoes of an Australian who was actually there and they will walk in the footsteps of their predecessor from 90 years ago. On the way, you will learn more about the person and at the end of the day, at Tyne Cot Cemetery, you will find out what finally befell your soldier. It is a sobering confrontation!

To continue the theme, your lunch will consist of a warm Tommy Tucker meal, soldiers’ fare anno 1917.

With this project, the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 introduces 'living history' into Flemish education for the first time. This cross-curricular approach focuses on the landscape, literature, techniques and morale, as well as on the history. The project itself was realised in close partnership with the Belgian and Australian Veteran Institutes and the Municipality of Zonnebeke, which converted the former front office of the chateau into an educational room for this purpose.

Note: The 'Platoon Experience' is not  ‘a game of soldiers’, but an ‘immersion project’ for youngsters in order to better understand the tragedy of war in general and the Battle of  Passchendaele in particular. The guides have the right to discontinue the ‘experience’ at any time if a group does not behave in the spirit of those who went before us in 1917.

What can I expect:

  • Target group: + 14 years (from 3rd year secondary education).
  • A museum visit led by a specialised guide, focusing on 1917, Australia and the Battle of Passchendaele.
  • warm meal in military style with a recipe from the First World War.
  • Each participant receives the identity of an actual person from 1917.
  • Each participant dresses as a solider of the time, including all the kit.
  • Expert explanations and clarification is provided with all activities.
  • The walk covers approximately 3 km.
  • Along the route, there are various activities related to a specific aspect of the experiences of the soldiers who fought at that time.
  • Through the activities, the various personalities are put in the spotlight and discussed.
  • At the end of the day, you are confronted with the reality of war with a visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world.

What are the objectives: we have three main objectives in mind with the Platoon Experience:

  1. Knowledge enhancement: by offering the theoretical context of the lessons in an unconventional context and by confronting the pupils with the main elements of the First World War, focusing on the Battle of Passchendaele.
  2. Skills: through the participants experiencing and interpreting the historical information.
  3. Attitudes: encouraging the participants to adopt a critical and historical approach in order to understand current areas of tension.
    • To reproduce the events of the Battle of Passchendaele in their own words.
    • To place the Battle of Passchendaele within the context of the First World War.
    • Being able to describe, in their own words, what a solider in the First World War looked like and the function of his kit. 
    • Being able to empathise with a person who experienced the battlefield.
    • Successfully completing a joint assignment in the group.
    • Insight into the fact your own personality fades away in a military structure.
    • Gaining awareness into the significance of the role the landscape played.
    • Ability to estimate distance correctly.
    • Being able to estimate your own physical abilities.
    • Experiencing the functioning and restrictions of your senses.
    • Systematic reflection.
    • Recognising that war is of all times.
    • Being able to evaluate the importance of actively working on peace.
    • Showing respect for the past and in particular for the fallen soldiers and veterans of the First World War.
    • Being able to deal with responsibility, authority and hierarchy.
    • Learning to persevere and persist to conclude an assignment successfully.
    • Learning to delegate and trying to carry out assignments to the best of your ability.
    • Ability to read maps and orientate yourself.
    • Being able to interpret the function and operation of a platoon in your own words.  

In 2018, the Belgian Act on Weapons was revised. Because there is no clear view yet on the impact on the project “Platoon Experience”, we decided to not use the weapons during the project until further notice.
Besides this change, there will be no alteration on the rest of the Platoon Experience