Ypres & Somme Self Drive Tour

Ypres & Somme Self Drive Tour
Ypres & Somme Self Drive Tour
Ypres & Somme Self Drive Tour
Ypres & Somme Self Drive Tour

The Western front

The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.

Tour Details

This is a Bespoke self-drive Tour

Between 1915 and 1917 there were several offensives along this front. The attacks employed massive artillery bombardments and massed infantry advances. Entrenchments, machine gun emplacements, barbed wire and artillery repeatedly inflicted severe casualties during attacks and counter-attacks and no significant advances were made. Among the costliest of these offensives were the Battle of Verdun, in 1916, with a combined 700,000 casualties, the Battle of the Somme, also in 1916, with more than a million casualties, and the Battle of Passchendaele, in 1917, with 487,000 casualties.

To break the deadlock of trench warfare on the Western Front, both sides tried new military technology, including poison gas, aircraft, and tanks. The adoption of better tactics and the cumulative weakening of the armies in the west led to the return of mobility in 1918. The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was made possible by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that ended the war of the Central Powers against Russia and Romania on the Eastern Front. Using short, intense “hurricane” bombardments and infiltration tactics, the German armies moved nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the west, the deepest advance by either side since 1914, but the result was indecisive.

The unstoppable advance of the Allied armies during the Hundred Days Offensive of 1918 caused a sudden collapse of the German armies and persuaded the German commanders that defeat was inevitable. The German government surrendered in the Armistice of 11 November 1918, and the terms of peace were settled by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.


Day 1

Drive to: Folkestone and catch the Eurotunnel to Calais.

Lunch in France

Drive to: Arras in the Somme.

Visit: Carriere Wellington, Guided tour at 15.30

From November 1916 to March 1917, 500 tunnellers from across the world in New Zealand developed and interconnected a vast network of underground galleries in the south-east of Arras. The objective was clear: to move as close as possible to the enemy lines and thus exploit the advantage of surprise. On 9 April 1917 at 05:30 hours, English time, after spending a week living cheek by jowl underground, 24,000 British soldiers erupted from the tunnels, taking the German front lines by surprise. The assault marked the start of the Battle of Arras which mobilised forces from across the Commonwealth until the 17 May, over a 20-kilometre front line stretching from Vimy in the north to Bullecourt in the south.

Stay at Arras

Dinner in Arras.

Day 2

Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. More than 3 million men fought in this battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Breakfast: The Hotel

08.30 Meet the guide at the hotel

Then drive to:

  1. Pozières
    • Windmill Site
    • Introduction to the First World War and the different offensives in the area.
    • Tank Memorial
    • Animal War Memorial
  2. Ovillers-la-Boiselle
    • Lochnagar Crater
    • The underground war:
    • we visit one of the largest preserved craters on the Western Front.
  3. Bécordel-Bécourt
    • Dartmoor Cemetery
    • Personal stories: the Tommies of the Somme.
  4. Fricourt
    • German cemetery
    • The German perspective
    • + focus on aviation and the Red Baron.
    • Lunch: at Auchan Villers
  5. Beaumont-Hamel
    • Newfoundland Memorial Park
    • Trenches and original preserved battlefield.
    • The sunken lane
    • Traces of war in the landscape
    • + divisional and battalion memorials.
  6. Thiepval
    • Ulster Tower
    • Northern Ireland’s National War Memorial
    • Memorial & Anglo-French cemetery
    • Memorial to the missing and visitor’s centre.
    • Stay in Arras
    • Dinner in Arras

Day 3

Breakfast at: The Hotel

Drive to:  Ypres

10.00 Meet the guide

  1. Canadian Monument at Hill 62 for an overview of the fighting in the Ypres Salient
  2. Sanctuary Wood Museum and its preserved British trenches.
  3. Essex Farm Cemetery and its preserved dressing station bunkers – the site where Lieutenant – Colonel John McCrae wrote the iconic In Flanders Fields poem.
  4. Langemark German Cemetery, containing the burials of circa 44,000 German Soldiers
  5. Canadian Brooding Soldier memorial at Vancouver corner and the story of the first gas attacks on the Western Front.
  6. The morning then concludes with a visit to the iconic Tyne Cot Cemetery, with circa 12,000 graves it is the largest British and Commonwealth military cemetery in the world, and of course is beautifully kept by the gardeners of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Lunch: Hooge Crater museum

  1. Visit to the German command bunker at Zandvoorde.
  2. Hill 60 preserved battlefield and the awe-inspiring Caterpillar Crater and the story of the Battle of Messines ridge.
  3. The monument of the Christmas Truce in 1914.
  4. We conclude the tour at the stunning Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing which records the names of over 11,000 men of the British and Commonwealth forces missing in that sector with no identified grave, and the story of William Hackett VC, the only Royal Engineer tunneller to receive a VC in the Great War.

Menin Gate Ceremony, every night at 8.00pm this moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate in Ypres. The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ypres and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.

Stay in Ypres

Dinner in Ypres

Day 4

Breakfast at: The Hotel

Visit the: Cloth Hall, Museum and Cathedral in Ypres.

One of the best and most interesting museums is the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’ in the Cloth Hall.

Afterwards visit the Cathedral which can be found behind the Cloth Hall.

Lunch in Ypres

Return Home via Channel Tunnel at 14.30.


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Ypres & Somme Self Drive Tour
4 days
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