On Thursday 4th December eight Sportsafe employees from all the regional offices took part in the 4th annual team day which was a trip to Belgium. The trip included a War Graves and Battlefield Tour an evening meal, a trip to the Ypres Christmas Market and the incredibly moving Last Post Ceremony.
The day started at 5:45am at Colchester North Station with many bleary eyes and slightly tired faces. The journey to Ypres was made by coach and took around five and a half hours through the channel tunnel and then driving onto Belgium. The team, finally arrived in Ypres just before lunch time.
The first stop of the day was Tyne Cot War Grave, where over 11,800 British and Commonwealth soldiers are buried, and a further 35,000 names of missing soldiers are presented on a series of stunning walls in the cemetery. This was a humbling experience for the team as many did not realise the scale of loss during the war. Throughout the tour the guides were fantastic giving insights into what soldiers on the western front went through during the First World War.
Langemark German Cemetery was the next stop for the day. This was a contrasting experience to that of the commonwealth war graves as it was a series mass graves rather than individual graves. It contains the remains of over 44,000 soldiers including a single mass grave of 25,000 men. This cemetery felt a lot darker and foreboding than Tyne Cot as there were no poppies, no large expanses of grass nor any individual graves. The whole team were shocked at the number of names and people that were buried in such a small area.
In the evening the team went for some food in the centre of Ypres and had the chance to visit the Christmas Market held in Grote Markt Square. The market was full of food, festive items and of course Belgian Chocolate. All the stalls were dressed as mini Swiss Chalets with very pleasant stall holders who certainly had a better grasp of English than our teams French.
The trip was rounded off with the incredibly moving Last Post Ceremony held at the Menin Gate. The Menin Gate is a large British and Commonwealth war memorial engraved with the names of 54,896 soldiers upon its arches. At 20:00 hours every day the local fire brigades buglers respect the fallen, by playing the Last Post which is a traditional military bugle call to signify the end of the combat day. Wreaths of poppies are then laid which our team observed. This was one of the most memorable aspects of the day and was a fitting way to end such a good but meaningful team trip.
Overall the people who attended said it was a great day and enjoyed the experience, although the team did not get back to Colchester until the early hours. This team day was aimed to thank our employees for all their hard work over the year and give the team a chance to build some new relationships. Phil Lutas said “It was a great day out, I’ve never worked for a company before that offers its staff such great experiences.”
Thank you to all the team that attended, our next team day is on December the 10th where 12 of our team are off to London to see Made in Dagenham the musical. Below are some photos from the team day.