The Great War

An Introduction to the Western Front

  • Spend an entire day discovering the haunting Somme battlefield
  • See the collections at the unique Wellington Quarry Underground Tunnel Museum in Arras
  • Meet the man who found the British tank, known as ‘Deborah’, on the Cambrai battlefield

Visiting both Belgium and France, we follow the old trench lines along which Europe’s youth sacrificed themselves for the four devastating years of the conflict. This tour provides an expert and deeply personal account of a global conflict, one which irrevocably changed the course of 20th century history, as well as the lives of the millions who fought ‘in Flanders Fields’.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We meet in London before heading to Dover, where we make our crossing to Calais. Upon arrival, after freshening up at our Ypres hotel, we walk to the Menin Gate, which was built to commemorate the 50,000 men who fell in the Salient and have no known grave. Every evening, the town’s fire brigade sound the Last Post in tribute to those who died here. After the ceremony, we return to our hotel for dinner.
Hotel: Hotel Ariane, Ypres
Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Day 2

This morning, we visit the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum, housed in Ypres’ meticulously reconstructed Medieval Cloth Hall. Here, we find the story of the First World War in the West Flanders region presented to us in exhibits and collections. Then, we leave Ypres for Essex Farm Cemetery, where the Canadian doctor John McRae - author of ‘In Flanders Fields’ - treated the wounded. After a visit to the German Cemetery at Langemarck, we pay our respects at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, the largest on the Western Front, before driving out to the ‘Pool of Peace’ at Spanbroekmolen. This water-filled crater is the site of the largest of 19 mines detonated before the battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917. In 1914, it was the site of a windmill, but at the end of the First Battle of Ypres, the German Front Line was established here so it saw a lot of change. Finally, we head to Ploegsteert (‘Plug Street’) Wood, site of the brief ‘Christmas Truce’ of 1914 and the battalion HQ of Winston Churchill during his six months in the trenches.
Hotel: Hotel Ariane, Ypres
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3

Today is devoted entirely to visiting the haunting Somme battlefield, where the landscape really tells a story. Shellholes, cemeteries and remains of trenches are a sobering reminder of the horrors of war, and The Remembrance Trail lets visitors explore the main sites of remembrance to be found in this area. We begin with a visit to the front line trenches and memorials to the Pals battalions at Sheffield Memorial Park, before sitting down to a light group lunch at ‘Ocean Villas’ cafe in the village of Auchonvillers. From here, we move on to the Newfoundland Memorial Park, which was given to Canada in gratitude for the sacrifice of the Newfoundlers here on July 1st in 1916, before visiting the Thiepval Museum and Sir Edwin Lutyens’ impressive, unflinching Memorial Arch, inscribed with the names of 72,000 of those who fell and are missing on the Somme. We end the day with a visit to the Lochnagar mine crater at Ovilliers, and a walk into the sinister Mametz Wood, described by Siegfried Sassoon as “a menacing wall of gloom [with] an outburst of rapid thudding explosion”.
Hotel: Hotel Beatus, Cambrai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4

A visit to Vimy Ridge, the scene of bitter fighting during the Battle of Arras in 1917, is how our day begins. Once we’ve had time to take in the site, we move on to the unusual Wellington Quarry Underground Tunnel Museum located in the city of Arras. This unique museum tells the often-overlooked story of the New Zealand miners, who constructed a network of tunnels under the German front lines. Here, we descend into the tunnels themselves and hear stories of hand-to-hand encounters between Commonwealth and German miners deep underground. In the afternoon, we make our way out to Flesquières and hear an account of the Battle of Cambrai, before visiting the British tank ‘Deborah’, and hearing her story from the man who found her on the Cambrai battlefield - and who has also spent many painstaking years researching her story. We return to our hotel later in the afternoon and enjoy some well-deserved leisure time before we have our final group dinner.
Hotel: Hotel Beatus, Cambrai
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5

On our final day, we drive to the village of Ors, the scene of the last battle of the war on November 4th, 1918. No fewer than seven VCs were won in one morning by those storming the Sambre-Oise canal, and among those killed was renowned war poet Wilfred Owen — we pay our respects at a series of sites with which he is associated, including the spot where he died along with his grave. Finally, we return to Calais for our ferry crossing, arriving in London in the late afternoon.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

What's Included

  1. Tour Manager & Guide Lecturer
  2. Meals - Most meals included
  3. Transport - Return ferry crossing and all local travel
  4. Hand-picked hotels throughout the tour

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