On this tour we will be looking at the Battle of the Somme which took place from July to November 1916.
We will examine why the battle took place and why the first day in particular became the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. We will look at the preparations that the Germans had made and why the challenge for the British was always going to be difficult. We will also examine the lessons that were learned from the battle and how those lessons helped the Allied Armies to eventually defeat their German foe.
You will be met by your driver and coach at your chosen departure point early morning before making our way to Folkestone via Maidstone Services where your guide will meet you. We make a brief stop at Maidstone Services for you to use the toilet facilities and to purchase snacks and drinks.
Our Channel Crossing will be via Eurotunnel to Calais and we hope to arrive in Calais by early to mid afternoon.
On arriving at Calais we will drive down to the Somme region. En route we will play a DVD which looks at the actions of one of the 'pals' Regiments that took part on that fateful first day — 1st July 1916.
On arrival in the area, subject to time constraints, we will go first to the Serre Road No 1 CWGC cemetery at the northern end of the Somme sector.
Here we will look at Britain's 'New Army', how it was raised by the appeal of Lord Kitchener and their experience on that desperate first day of the Battle. We will also look at the story of the 'boy soldiers' who should not have been fighting at the ages they actually were. Many were only 16 years old and we will visit the grave of one of these.
We will then make our way up to the Sheffield Memorial Park sited on the British front line. The Sheffield Memorial Park remembers the men of the British Army's 31st Division who served with the Pals Battalions. Of the 12 battalions in the 31st Division, all but two were recruited from Yorkshire, one of these being from Durham and the other from Lancashire.
We will see the challenge they faced on the first day of the battle, the failure of the week long barrage and the carnage that ensued as they left their trenches to advance up the slope towards the enemy. We will also examine things from a German perspective — what was the bombardment like for them and how were they able to get their machine guns into action so quickly?
We continue to our accommodation to check in before we enjoy our evening meal.
We will start by visiting Newfoundland Park where it is still possible to walk through the preserved trenches that were occupied by the British in July 1916. Here we will discover the sad story of the Newfoundland Regiment on that fateful day in 1916.
On the way to the enormous and moving Thiepval Memorial we will find time to stop at Ulster Tower to reflect on the initial success of the 36 (Ulster) Division on the 1st July which was later doomed to failure due to the inflexibility of the battle plan. We will be able to have refreshments at the café at the tower and look around the small museum and chapel dedicated to the Ulstermen.
Packed Lunch — we will aim to arrive at Thiepval Memorial at around noon where you will have time for your packed lunch.
Not only was the village the key to the Germans defences, the monument is the largest of all the Commonwealth Memorials to some 73,000 British and South African soldiers who fell in the Somme area and whom have been denied the honour of an individual burial by the ravages of war.
After leaving Thiepval we will drive to Pozieres Ridge where the Australian's fought with such courage and tenacity during July and August of 1916 and we will stop at the site of the Tank Memorial. Here we will discuss the introduction of this new weapon, how the Allies finally worked out how to use it properly. In doing so we will look at the actions of the Canadian Corps in August 1916.
We will then retrace our footsteps back to the first day of the battle and visit Lochnagar Crater. Here we will discuss the impact of mining during the Great War and see for ourselves the effect of what one 'mine' can do.
We will then head towards the southern end of the Somme sector and look at the poignant memorial to the Devonshire Regiment at Devonshire Trench. We will look at Captain Martin's deep misgivings before the battle and how he was assured it would be a 'walkover'. Whilst there we will pay tribute to the poet William Hodgson whose poem which finishes with the line:
His sense of foreboding about the battle to come is palpable.
From Devonshire Trench we travel northwards looking at the second phase of the Battle of the Somme and consider the 'battle of the woods'.
We will look at the story of High Wood and how an opportunity to take it without loss was missed. We will discuss the cavalry charge that took place and wonder at the madness of men who pitched horses against machine guns!
We will then head to Delville Wood close to the village of Longueval. Delville Wood was the location of the South African Brigades greatest trial during the Great War when on July 15th 1916 some 3,000 men of the Brigade entered the wood and five days later less than 200 were able to answer the roll call. The South African Memorial is now located in the wood. It would take almost a month for the Wood to be finally captured by the BEF.
We will then return to our accommodation to freshen up before taking our meal at around 6.00pm.
The itinerary today will depend upon time allowed and the distance to your drop off point.
After we check out of our accommodation we will look at the Battle of Arras in 1917 and in particular at the stunning Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge where lessons so painfully learned the year before were put into action.
We will stop first the Wellington Quarry, (la Carriére Wellington) for a tour of the tunnels used in 1917.
The original caverns of Arras were created in the Middle Ages and were expanded by the military engineers during the First World War. These tunnels, now open to the public, were dug by the New Zealand Tunnelling Company Sappers after their arrival in France in early 1916. The New Zealanders linked many of the old caverns and put in electrical lighting and running water. Hundreds of men were able to safely live in the tunnels during the Great War.
We will then visit the German Cemetery at Neuville St Vaast and compare the way in which Germany commemorates those who fell during the Great War to that of the British.
On arrival at Vimy Ridge we will discuss the battle on Easter Sunday 1917 which resulted in the Canadian victory. We will examine the new tactics that were used and visit the newly completed Visitors Centre. We will also have the opportunity to explore the preserved trenches that were the Canadian and German front lines on the morning of 9th April 1917 and see the effects of the mining activity that went on in the sector.
We will then drive up to see the magnificent Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge where it will become obvious why this ridge had to be taken by the Allies.
We make our way back to Calais for our Channel Crossing and onward journey home.
Full board 3* accommodation with 2 x breakfasts, 2 x lunches, 2 x evening meals included.
£320.00* GBP per person based on two people sharing a room.
Single occupancy £75.00 per person.
Deposit £100.00 per person.
Full board hostel style accommodation with 2 x breakfasts, 2 x lunches, 2 x evening meals included.
£225.00* GBP per person based on shared rooms.
Up to 4 adult staff will go free of charge and will either have a single room or share a twin room.
Deposit £50.00 per person
Upgrades are available for 4 star accommodation in the centre of Arras, subject to availability.
Upgrades for meals are also available, however, we feel we have chosen the best meals available for this tour.
* Price based upon pick up between mid to south Wales, along the M4 corridor & London. There may be an extra charge for coach pick up north and south of these areas. Please ask for details.
* Price is based on a minimum of 40 paying passengers.
Please note — We can customise the tour to visit graves of relatives that are close to the routes we are visiting; personalise it on a local basis around particular regiments or tailor it for medical, history, football or military groups etc.