For this tour we will be looking at Ypres and the battles that took place around the town between 1914 and 1918. We will examine why it was so important for the British to hold onto this key place and what would have happened had Ypres fallen.
We will also look at the military developments in the area and how both sides sought to break the stalemate of trench warfare through the introduction of new techniques and weapons.
We will go behind the lines and look in particular at how medical techniques developed to cope with the terrible injuries and sheer numbers of wounded on this front.
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.
As we approach Ypres from Calais, subject to time constraints, we will make our first stop some eight miles behind the front lines.
Lijssenthoek Cemetery — at this first stop we will examine the work of the medical services in the First War. Lijssenthoek stands on the site of Remy Farm where there were a number of casualty clearing stations during the war. The site gives us the opportunity to examine the medical developments which came out of the First War — some of which are still being used today.
The cemetery also contains the grave of a female nurse — Nellie Spindler who was killed near here. In discussing her story we will recall the work of female nurses during the war and also consider how their contribution and those of other women during the war years advanced the cause of female emancipation.
The cemetery also contains the graves of a top sportsman whose name would be known to all of us should he have been alive today. There is also a General buried here giving lie to the Blackadder theory that the generals lived miles behind the lines and never exposed themselves to danger. Here too are a VC winner, a 'shot at dawn' as well as the graves of individuals from 30 different nationalities.
We will then continue to Essex Farm — site of an advanced dressing station and famously where Canadian Surgeon John Macrae wrote 'In Flanders Fields' — a poem which was the inspiration for the adoption of the poppy as the flower of remembrance and how this came about.
We will also visit the grave and tell the story of Valentine Joe Strudwick, a lad from Dorking in Surrey who was only 15 when he died in battle. In doing so we will examine why so many underage boys fought in the trenches in World War 1.
We continue to our accommodation to check in before we enjoy our evening meal.
The tour today will look at some of the major battlefield sites around the Ypres Salient. This patch of land was the scene of three major battles during the First War and thousands of men from both sides died here.
Passing by the new Welsh memorial to the Welsh soldiers that died on the Salient and telling the poignant story of Hedd Wynn as we do, we will drive to the German Cemetery at Langemark and look at how the Germans remember their dead.
Here we will also discuss the First Battle of Ypres and in particular how 3000 German students came to be buried in the cemetery. With only rudimentary training these boys came up against the fighting skills of the professional soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force — a force that by the end of 1914 was almost wiped out.
We will stop then at Vancouver Corner — the monument to the Canadian actions which held the line here during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. It was here that gas was used for the first time on the Western Front and when the French defenders broke and ran from it, the Canadians stood firm with only rudimentary gas protection.
We will then proceed to Tyne Cot — the largest British military cemetery in the world. Here we will discuss the Third Battle of Ypres also known as Passchendaele — a name synonymous with the horrors of industrial warfare, of mud and death.
At Tyne Cot you may visit the grave of Arthur Conway Young who's grieving parents put the epithet 'Sacrificed to the Fallacy that War can end War' on his headstone — a rare anti-war message. We will also consider how Susanna Moorhouse from Yorkshire must have felt when she received news that her husband Harry and her son Ronald were both killed on the same day during the battle — a story of sacrifice and heartbreak.
After lunch we will make our way over to Hill 60 and consider the battle that took place here in 1915 and 1917 and how five Victoria Crosses were won at this place.
We will look at the work of the tunnellers and see the craters which resulted from their efforts. With trench warfare creating a stalemate new ways had to be found to overcome the enemy — tunnelling was one of them.
We will then head for Sanctuary Wood where we will visit the museum with its eclectic mix of First War memorabilia and the series of reconstructed trenches which will give us the opportunity to look at life in the trenches and the routines which were established. It was near here that the Germans introduce another new weapon in this war — the flame thrower.
We return to our accommodation to freshen up before heading into Ypres to attend the Menin Gate ceremony. This takes place every night under the Menin Gate which is the memorial to those who died on the Salient but have no known graves. You will have a chance for 3 of your group to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate - by pre-arrangement.
Our evening meal will be taken in Ypres town centre.
The itinerary today will depend upon time allowed and the distance to your drop off point.
After we check out of our accommodation we start the day by making our way down to Messines Ridge scene of the successful assault in 1917. We will look at the New Zealand memorial and the remains of the German blockhouses in the old front line.
We will then go on to Ploegsteert or Plug Street as the Tommies knew it. Here we will look at the imposing memorial and then go on to the Khaki Chums Cross. This memorial commemorates the 1914 Christmas Truce when men from each side met in no-man's land and briefly forgot about the war.
Heading back towards Ypres we will make our way to Poperinghe — back behind the lines and a place of rest and recreation for the men on the front line. It was from here that the leave train departed for 'blighty'.
A packed Lunch will be arranged for today.
In 'Pop' we will look at the Death Cells and execution post and reflect on the 300 or so men that met their end in front of a firing squad composed of men from their own units.
Our final location, if time allows, is to stop by to visit Tubby Claytons — Talbot House or Everyman's Club. Here we look at the facility developed by the Reverend Tubby Clayton for the fighting men. Open to all, the motto over the door read:
We will make our way back to Calais for our Channel Crossing intending to arrive back between 7.00 - 8.00pm.
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 £30.00 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 3 or 4 star accommodation in the centre of Ypres, 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.