Ypres & Somme Tour

Ypres & Somme Tour
Ypres & Somme Tour
Ypres & Somme Tour
Ypres & Somme 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.

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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 (estimated), the Battle of the Somme, also in 1916, with more than a million casualties (estimated), and the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres), in 1917, with 487,000 casualties (estimated).

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

Meet at London & Middlesex Rifle Club at the world famous Bisley ranges. Live firing of WW1 Lee Enfield rifles. Catch the coach to Mons.

Day 2

Visit the sites of the Battle of Mons and the retreat of the BEF. After lunch visit Saint-Symphorien Cemetery where the first and last troops of the Great War are buried. Also, the first soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, is buried just a few feet from the first German recipient of the Iron Cross. Coach to Arras.

Day 3

Visit the German War Cemetery Saint-Laurent-Blangy. The cemetery is the last resting place for 31,939 German soldiers who died in the Great War, including graves of Jewish soldiers are marked with headstones bearing the Star of David. After Lunch visit The Wellington Quarry. The New Zealand Tunneling Company was based in this part of the underground tunnel system during the build-up to the Allied offensive, the Battle of Arras 1917, which was launched in the early hours of 9 April 1917.

Day 4

Battle of the Somme Visit Lochnagar Crater. The Lochnagar mine was an underground explosive charge, secretly planted by the British during the First World War, ready for 1 July 1916, the first day on the Somme. Visit Thiepval.  After the War ended, Thiepval was chosen as the location for the Memorial to the Missing to commemorate those who died in the Somme sector before the 20th of March 1918 and have no known grave. This is the largest and most imposing of the Memorials to the Missing, and visiting here is a moving and sobering experience. After Lunch visit Ulster Towers and the very moving sight of the Sunken Road at Beaumont Hamel.

Day 5

Drive to Ypres. Visit the site of the famous Football match and Christmas cease fire at Plugstreet. After lunch onto Tyne Cot which is the largest British Cemetery on the Western Front with 11,953 burials, followed by Sanctuary Wood, which is one of the few places on the Ypres Salient battlefields where an original trench layout can be seen. In the evening we visit the Menin Gate Ceremony.

Day 6

Visit the Cloth Hall, Museum and Cathedral in Ypres. After lunch return home.

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Ypres & Somme Tour
6 days
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