Follow in the footsteps of the British and Commonwealth forces in the First World War as they face the might of the Kaiser's Imperial German Army along the Western Front. Visit some of the most significant sites along the frontline including those in the Ypres Salient, the Somme, the Meuse-Argonne, and Verdun.
An In The Footsteps® Western Front tour is the perfect introduction to the battlefields of the First World War and will take you on a journey of discovery as you visit some of the most significant sites along the frontline including those in the Ypres Salient and the Somme. Your expert guide will tell you about the momentous events that took place and recount some of the stories of the heroic deeds carried out by the soldiers who fought in the trenches. You will have the opportunity to pay your respects to the fallen at the Memorials and Cemeteries visited as well as attend the world renown Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate.
Join one of our team of battlefield historians on a tour of the Western Front battlefields, follow the action and see how the battle developed.
On day one we visit: —
Essex Farm Cemetery and Advanced Dressing Station — Essex Farm Cemetery contains some notable graves including a Victoria Cross winner and one of the youngest soldiers to be killed in the war. The nearby Advanced Dressing Station is famous due to John McCrae and the poem 'In Flanders Fields' which was written there. It is an excellent location to discuss the way in which casualties were handled during the First World War.
The French Memorial near Pilckem — This memorial commemorates the French 45th Algerian and 87th Territorial Divisions that were stationed along the northern edge of the Ypres Salient when the Germans mounted the first major gas attack on the Western Front on 22nd April 1915. It is an excellent location at which to discuss the use of Chemical weapons during the First World War.
The Welsh National Memorial — The Welsh National Memorial is dedicated to all Welsh men and women that were affected by the First World War. It commemorates the farmers, miners, railroad works, nurses, mothers and fathers who gave up their sons, in fact all Welsh men and women, and not just the soldiers that fought in the war. It is not, therefore, a memorial dedicated to the 38th (Welsh) Disivion that attacked up this ridge on 31st July 1917 at the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, but does provide an excellent spot at which to talk about the events of 31st July 1917, the first day of that great battle.
German Military Cemetery at Langemark — One of only four German Military Cemeteries in Flanders, Langemark contains the remains of some 44,000 German soldiers who fell during the fighting in the Ypres Salient. It is an ideal place to pause and consider the German fallen, and to pay our respects to them.
The Canadian Brooding Soldier Memorial — Located near Sint Juliann, the Canadian Brooding Soldier Memorial commemorates the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (which later became the Canadian 1st Division) that was in action on this spot over the period of 22nd to 24th April 1915. They held this position, which was on the left flank of the British Army, when the German Army launched the first ever large-scale gas attack against the French 45th Algerian and 87th Territorial Divisions who were on the left of the Canadians. It is an ideal spot at which to discuss the Second Battle of Ypres.
The 5th Australian Division Memorial, Buttes New British Cemetery and New Zealand Memorial to the Missing — The obelisk is similar in style to the other Australian Division memorials of the First World War including the one at Pozières on the Somme in France. It stands on the Butte of the pre First World War Belgium Army Rifle Range that in 1917 was the dominating ground within the area. At the base of the Butte, to the right as you enter, is the Buttes New British Cemetery and New Zealand Memorial to the Missing. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,103 soldiers, many of who were recovered some time after they had died. Only 428 of these are identified, which means that over three quarters of the burials are men 'Known Unto God'. Most of those buried here died in the Third Battle of Ypres. The Australian 5th Division memorial is an ideal place at which to continue discussions about the Third Battle of Ypres.
The New Zealand Memorial at 's Gravenstafel — The obelisk is similar in style to the other New Zealand First World War memorials including the one at Mesen (Messines). It honours the men of the New Zealand Division that fought here during the Battle of Broodseinde on 4th October 1917. It is an ideal place at which to continue the discussion of the Third Battle of Ypres, linking the Australian action at Polygon Wood with the final phase of the battle, the capture of the village of Passendaele.
The Canadian Memorial at Passendale — Passchendaele, or Passendale as it is now spelt, was the village that became the final focal point of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. It is the name by which the final stages of the Third Battle of Ypres is known, a name that has become synonymous with the blood, mud and horror of the First World War. It is a place that is ideal to discuss the climax of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.
Zonnebeke Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 Museum — With its reconstructed underground dugout and trenches this museum is an excellent place to discuss many aspects of the First World War and presents the historic story of the First World War in a poignant and vivid way. Its rooms provide an overview of the five Battles of Ypres using historical artifacts, letters, posters and other documents, as well as the uniforms of the various armies that fought in the Ypres Salient. The unique Dugout Experience allows the visitor to discover how the British went to live underground in 1917, an oppressive experience that creates a disconcerting picture of the miserable and claustrophobic living conditions at that time. The reconstructed German and British trenches in the Chateau grounds, along with their replicated shelters, give the visitor a vivid understanding of what trench warfare was like.
Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery and Memorial — This is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the World. The name Tyne Cot, or Tyne Cottages, was the name given to a barn which stood near the level crossing on the Passchendaele-Broodseinde road by the Northumberland Fusiliers. That barn become the centre of five or six German blockhouses, or pill-boxes, that stood in the vicinity and were captured by the 3rd Australian Division on 4th October 1917 during the advance on Passchendaele. The cemetery contains the graves of 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War, of which 8,373 are unidentified. The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of the cemetery and commemorates nearly 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and New Zealand who died in the Ypres Salient after 16th August 1917 and whose graves are not known.
The Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate — On the evening of your day spent touring the Ypres Salient you will have the opportunity to attend the world famous Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate at 8:00 pm. The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ieper (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. In 1928, a year after the inauguration of the Menin Gate Memorial, some of the more prominent citizens in Ieper decided that some way should be found to express the gratitude of the Belgian nation towards those who had died for its freedom and independence. Mr P Vandenbraambussche, the Superintendent of the Ieper Police, suggested the daily sounding of the Last Post - the traditional salute to the fallen warrior - at the Menin Gate Memorial, which standing as it does where the old city gate lead to the Ypres Salient battlefields and the Menin Road was, he believed, the most appropriate location. It was through the old city gate that so many British and Commonwealth troops had passed on their way to the Allied front line. From 11th November 1929 the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate Memorial every night and in all weathers. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20th May 1940 to 6th September 1944. Throughout this 'silent' period the daily ceremony was continued at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. On the very evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate, in spite of the heavy fighting still going on in other parts of the town. This poignant and moving ceremony is one that the visitor should not miss.
Our day's touring complete, we head back to Arras and your tour hotel.
On day two we visit: —
Spanbroekmolen Pool of Peace — The Spanbroekmolen Pool of Peace, also known as Lone Tree Crater, is the site of the largest of the 19 mines blown by the British Army in the early hours of the morning of 7th June 1917 that signalled the beginning of the Battle of Messines. It is 88 feet (26 metres) deep, with a diameter at ground level of 250 feet (76 metres) and a rim of 90 feet (27 metres). The crater is now full of water due to the high water table and the clay soil in the area. The mine crater was purchased for Toc H by Lord Wakefield in the 1920s, to be preserved as a memorial site on the Ypres Salient battlefields, and has subsequently been named the 'Pool of Peace' and is still the property of Toc H in Poperinge. It is an ideal place at which to discuss the beginning of the Battle of Messines.
The Miners Memorial at Wytschaete — Standing close to the church and village green of Wytschaete, the miners memorial is an ideal place at which to discuss the underground war during the First World War.
The Island of Ireland Peace Park — This memorial site is dedicated to the soldiers of Ireland, of all political and religious beliefs, who died, were wounded or missing in the First World War. It was officially opened on 11th November 1998 by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and King Albert II of Belgium. The tower was built as a symbol of reconciliation by An All-Ireland Journey of Reconciliation Trust and the support of the people of Messines (now called by its Flemish name Mesen). The design is that of a traditional Irish round tower dating back to the 8th century. It is 33.5 metres (110 feet) high. As part of the design the inside of the tower is lit up by the sun only on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This is the time at which the Armistice was declared and the guns fell silent on the Western Front after four years of fighting. It is an ideal place at which to discuss the side-by-side attack by the 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) Divisions on 7th June 1917.
VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial — VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial was constructed in 1920 — 1921 and contains the graves of 410 Australian soldiers who were killed during the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916 and whose bodies were found two years after the Armistice on the battlefield. It is not a mass grave as the remains of each individual soldier were buried separately. It is an ideal place at which to begin our discussion of the Battle of Fromelles which took place in the vicinity on 19th to 20th July 1916.
The Australian Memorial Park Fromelles — The Australian Memorial Park is dedicated to the memory of the Australian soldiers who fought and died on this spot during the Battle of Fromelles which was fought on 19th to 20th July 1916 and is located on the German defensive line that they attacked. It was opened on 5th July 1998 by the Australian Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Honourable Bruce Scott, MP. Also in attendance was the Australian Minister for Defence, the Honourable Ian McLachlan, AO, MP. It is an ideal place to continue the discussion of the Battle of Fromelles and the bringing in of the wounded at the end of the battle.
Fromelles (Pheasants Wood) Military Cemetery — Designed by Barry Edwards, Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery is the final resting place of 250 Australian and British soldiers whose remains were recovered in 2009 from a number of mass graves located behind nearby Pheasant Wood. It was completed in July 2010 and is the first new war cemetery to be built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in fifty years. The cemetery was officially dedicated on 19th July 2010 in the presence of Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor General of Australia; His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales; government representatives, relatives and 5500 spectators. It is an ideal place at which to discuss how Lambis Englezos, a retired Australian schoolteacher, went in search of the missing of Fromelles.
The Vimy Ridge Memorial Park — The Memorial Park is administered by Veterans Affairs Canada and is dedicated to the Canadian Corps that recaptured this important high ground in the Battle of Vimy Ridge from 9th to 12th April 1917. It is located in an area where a section of original Allied and German trenches has been preserved using concrete sandbags and duckboards. It has a new Visitor Education Centre that was officially opened on 10 April 2017 and the Grange Subway, which is part of an underground network of tunnels that were dug in preparation for the battle. The Memorial Park is open for visiting at all hours and is one of the few places on the old Western Front where visitors can walk through an 'original' section of Allied and German Front Line Trenches. It is an ideal location at which to discuss the contribution of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War and particularly the part they played during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial — The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is dedicated to all Canadians who served their country in battle during the First World War. Some 60,000 Canadians were killed during the First World War of which 11,168 fell in France and have no known grave. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial bears the inscribed names of these missing Canadian soldiers who were killed in action in France but whose remains have not been found or identified.
Our day's touring complete, we head back to your tour hotel in Arras where you are free to enjoy your evening.
On day three we visit: —
Newfoundland Memorial Park Beaumont Hamel — The land that forms the Memorial Park was purchased by the Dominion of Newfoundland after the First World War and was named after the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which had provided a battalion of 800 men to serve with the British and Commonwealth Armies, to commemorate the tragic part it played in the action of 1st July 1916. The site is also a memorial to all the Newfoundlanders who fought in the First World War; particularly those who have no known grave. It is here we begin our discussion of that fateful day when 100,000 men went over the top to being the Battle of Somme on 1st July 1916.
Ulster Memorial Tower Thiepval — The Ulster Memorial Tower stands on ground that was part of the German frontline during the Battle of the Somme between July to November 1916. It was erected close to the site of the Schwaben Redoubt, a German strongly fortified position, that the 36th (Ulster) Division attacked and eventually captured on 1st July 1916. It stands opposite Thiepval Wood from where the 36th (Ulster) Division made its historic charge on the that fateful first day of the Battle of the Somme. It is an ideal location to discuss the trials and tribulations of 1st July 1916 assault, particularly what was achieved and how this shaped four and half months of fighting that followed.
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme — The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the rear of the memorial.
The Grand Mine, Lochnagar Crater Memorial — The Lochnagar Crater was purchased by Richard Dunning MBE on 1st July 1978 from the French farmer who wanted to fill it in, a fate that befell Y-Sap its sister mine on the far side of La Boisselle. Dotted around the crater is the Lochnagar Labyrinth, 20 panels that contian information about the crater and some of those connected with it.
Fricourt German Military Cemetery — The German Military Cemetery at Fricourt is the resting place of 17,027 German First World War soldiers who died on the Somme battlefields over the four years of the First World War. The cemetery's origin dates back to 1920 when the French authorities began to gradually clear the debris and the remains of the soldiers who died in action there from the battlefields north of the River Somme. The bodies of German soldiers were brought to Fricourt from some 79 communes in the regions around Bapaume, Albert, Combles, the Ancre valley and Villers-Bretonneux. It is an ideal place to pause and consider the German fallen, and to pay our respects to them.
Devonshire Trench Cemetery — On 1st July 1916 160 of men from the 9th and 8th Battalions of the Devonshire Regiment were retrieved from where they had fallen in action on the battlefield nearby and carried back to the small section of British Front Line trench at Mansell Copse from which they had attacked earlier in the day. Here they were buried by their comrades, and as the memorial stone at the entrance says 'The Devonshires held this trench they hold it still'. This samll cemetery is also famous for the grave of Lieutenant William Noel Hodgson MC, one of the First World War poets.
Mametz Wood — On 7th July 1916 the 38th (Welsh) Division attacked the Prussian Guard units holding this wood in an effort to drive them out. The ensuing battle was to last a week but eventually the enemy were ejected and the largest of the Somme woods was in British hands. The 38th (Welsh) Division memorial stands opposite the wood on a small rise and is an ideal location at which to discuss this epic struggle.
1st Australian Division Memorial at Pozières — This memorial commemorates the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the First Australian Division who fought in France and Belgium in 1916, 1917 and 1918. It was here that the 1st Australian Division attacked in the early hours of 23rd July 1916 to drive the Germans backwards and out of the village. They captured the village and over the next four days they were subjected to a continual German artillery bombardment that resulted in 5,285 casualties and left those who survived dazed. The 2nd Australian Division replaced them to continue the offensive and they in turn were replaced by the 4th Australian Division before the village was finally secure in their hands. The capture of Pozières cost 14,618 casualties, almost as many as they lost in the entire Gallipoli Campaign.
Pozières Windmill — The windmill and German blockhouse located here were gradually reduced to a pile of rubble by French and then British artillery fire. After the war these remains were left to grass over, leaving this small piece of undulating ground as a preserved battlefield site. The capture of the ground at Pozières as far as the German forward command post at Mouquet Farm, which is between Pozières and Thiepval, and the ground at Grandcourt was considered essential to the proposed envelopment and capture of the Thiepval feature. After almost two weeks of bitter fighting the windmill was secured by the Australian Forces of 1st ANZAC Corps on 5th August 1916. The windmill site was so important because it is the highest point on Pozières ridge and the forces holding this particular piece of ground had the advantage of being able to see for many miles in all directions. From here the movement of men, transport and guns would be visible and the side that held this point were able to dominate the surrounding area with their artillery.
The Tank Memorial — Tank Corps Memorial was unveiled by Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas L N Morland in July 1922 and commemorates the part played by the Corps on the Western Front in which tanks participated between September 1916 to the Armistice on 11th November 1918. If was close to this spot that the tank went into action for the first time in the First World War when they were employed during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th — 22nd September 1916). It is an ideal place at which to discuss the tank and other technological advances of the First World War.
Our tour complete, we head back to Arras where we drop you off and bid you farewell.
Please note: Itineraries are subject to change due to operational reasons. Any changes will be advised closer to the time of departure.
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