This comprehensive Tour enables the traveller to see and experience all the major British Expeditionary Force (BEF) battlefields on the Western Front, encompassing the Ypres Salient, Vimy Ridge and the Somme. The first three nights are at the excellent Novotel In Flanders Fields, Ypres and the following two nights at Hotel Mercure in Arras. This Tour will be guided by Siobhan McGinn (MA British First World War Studies) whose research subject is alcohol on the Western Front.
Very early! Galloways Coach starts from Galloways depot at Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk IP14 5RR and picks up two travellers as arranged directly with Galloways.
05.15hr Coach pick up at bus shelter outside Crown House, Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).
05.45hr Coach pick up Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA.
06.15hr Coach pick up The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.
07.00hr Coach pick up Esso Dartford Service Station, 474 Princes Rd, Dartford DA1 1YT.
08.00hr Pick up at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone Kent CT21 4BL.
09.20hr Eurotunnel from Folkestone.
11.00hr Arrive Calais.
12.00hr Our first stop is over the border at the Belgian village of Oeren. We will have our pre-arranged lunch at De Leute café which as well as having links to WW1 offers a choice of ten beers from De Bie Brouwerij. The afternoon is devoted to the Belgian war effort and in particular the tensions in Flemish soldiers fighting for Belgium on this front. To do this we head up the road on foot to Oeren Churchyard to have a look at some Belgian Army graves and the famous Heldenhuldezerkjes, or Heroes Headstones. We hope to have a look at the unusual stained glass windows in the church depicting these particular Flemish cultural milestones. Siobhan will tell us why these headstones were so provocative in the First World War and what happened on this spot in 1918.
14.45hr We travel the short distance to Alveringem where we visit the Kapelanji or Vicarage, now a museum*, where controversial priest Cyriel Verschaeve lived during the First World War and we will hear about his part in the Flemish Front Movement and later Nazi collaboration. We’ll visit his famous study where he wrote and entertained Flemish supporters in WW1.
15.30hr Arrive at the cafe De Snoek, (The Pike) also in Alveringem attached to the Museum of Thirst in the Great War housed in a First World War brewery. This brewery was reasonably safe behind allied lines out of the range of most German artillery and like other breweries which survived in this area prospered by brewing weak beer for Allied troops. We don’t have time to visit the brewery museum today but will visit the attached café. The beers here are considerably stronger today than they would have been 100 years ago. This superb little café is run by the lovely Francine and her team and we can have a crack at Francine’s fabulous beer list of over 150 choices.
17.30hr Arrive at Essex Farm Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery (CWGC) just north of Ypres which was a WW1 Advanced Dressing Station where Canadian Military Doctor John McCrae is said to have penned his poem In Flanders Fields.
18.00hr Check in to In Flanders Fields Novotel in the heart of Ypres. Travellers have the evening free to explore Ypres, armed with a copy of Podge’s Ypres Bar Guide and map. Travellers can take in the moving last post ceremony at the Menin Gate. This is an imposing white memorial gateway inscribed with the names of more than 54,896 men whose have no known grave and who died in the salient up to 16 August 1917. There was not enough room on this gate to record all of the names of the missing so the names of those who were known to have died after that date appear on the panels at Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery, a further 35,000. This site was chosen because of the thousands of men who passed through this spot on their way to the battlefields. It is most famous for the last post ceremony performed by the Belgian Fire Service which takes place every evening at 20.00hrs.
10.00hr Following a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel we head off by coach for a day devoted to behind the lines morale and discipline in the BEF. Siobhan will tell us about BEF military discipline, Courts Martials and punishment in the Poperinge area in WW1, one of her research subjects.
10.20hr Our day begins at Poperinghe New Military Cemetery CWGC where the largest concentration of soldiers 'shot at dawn' are interred.
11.00hr Arrive at that fantastic WW1 survivor, Talbot House (Toc H)* in this town behind the lines. We will visit the house and museum and have a cup of tea! Plenty of time to have a look around this deeply atmospheric place where soldiers came in their hundreds for letter-writing, relaxation and for services in the attic church, which you can visit.
12.50hr Leave Talbot House and follow Siobhan on foot across the square to the Town Hall Courtyard to look at the Execution Post there and go into the 'death cells’ nearby.
13.30hr Set off by coach from Poperinge and travel the short distance to Sint Sixtus Abbey at Westvleteren site of the military execution of Herbert Chase on 12 June 1915. A brick wall within the monastery still shows the scars but is not open to the public. Today, as during the First World War, the monks still brew in the monastery and we will call in at In de Vrede (Peace) café attached to the monastery where we can sample their world famous beers and have a spot of lunch if desired.
15.45hr Leave In de Vrede.
16.30hr Arrive on the outskirts of Ypres for a visit to the Brewery Kazematten, a new brewery housed inside the Vauban-constructed casemates or caverns, originally part of the ancient city fortifications and which formed much needed shelter in WW1 for troops. It was here that the Sherwood Foresters set up the printing press on which they produced the famous trench journal The Wipers Times. We will have a brewery tour* and a beer tasting*.
19.00hr Siobhan’s will give an illustrated presentation* on her latest work on Alcohol, Morale & Discipline on the Western Front in WW1*, with particular focus on the Ypres Salient and the Somme. This will take place in one of the seminar rooms on the ground floor of Novotel Ypres and will last about 45 minutes.
10.00hr Following a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel we head off by coach for a day in the South Salient.
10.15hr Arrive at Zillebeke CWGC a front line cemetery dating from the earliest days of the war in 1914. Because most of the graves are for officers from 'elite' regiments of the British Army and because many had a title, this has become known as the 'aristocrats cemetery'. This CWGC looks very different to most concentration cemeteries constructed after the war and Siobhan will tell us about the birth and growth of the Imperial War Graves Commission during and after the war and the influential founder Fabian Ware who started the war with the Red Cross. He, along with Imperial architects Edwin Lutyens, Herbert Baker and Reginald Blomfield are largely responsible for the look and feel of British war cemeteries today.
10.45hr Arrive at the infamous Hill 60, an original battle site, much cratered and dotted with original concrete block houses, a particular interest of Siobhan’s. We’ll also have a look at Caterpillar Crater, a huge mine crater created by one of the mines blown by the BEF at 3.10 on 7 June 1917 along with 17 others on the Messines Ridge. It is now a peaceful lake.
12.00hr Pay a visit to the original battle site and trench positions at Hill 62 and Sanctuary Wood. There is plenty to experience here with the trenches which can be walked in but they are a bit muddy underfoot. They also have a Museum which we will visit* which houses some unique objects from WW1, especially the old wooden stereoscopic slide machines with original glass plate photos (some are very graphic). They also have a café for refreshments. The owner of the café died recently and we understand that his somewhat chaotic but unique collection has now had some order imposed on it.
13.30hr Leave Hill 62/Sanctuary Wood.
14.00hr Arrive at Den Ekster (The Magpie) café and restaurant in Dranouter a nice little Flemish countryside café in the hilly Heuvelland area behind the Salient. We will have our pre-ordered meal and perhaps a beer or two from their list of fifty or so choices.
16.00hr Leave Den Ekster for the short journey to the Tourist office in Kemmel to purchase our tickets* and get the code for the entrance gate to Bayernwald German Trenches/Croonaert Wood in Wijtschate to see the view from the other side of the wire. These are preserved German trenches which we can walk around and compare the differences with the BEF trenches at Sanctuary Wood.
17.30hr Leave Bayernwald Trenches.
17.45hr Drop off at Novotel Ypres.
19.00hr In the evening Siobhan will give an illustrated presentation* on the Battle of Vimy Ridge (part of the Battle of Arras 1917) and the Battle of the Somme 1916 to orient travellers for our journey to these battlefields on the following two days of the Tour. This will take place in one of the seminar rooms on the ground floor of Novotel Ypres.
10.00hr Following a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel we check out of Novotel Ypres and head off by coach south on the Western Front through the Loos sector and the area of the BEF 1915 battles, to Arras.
12.00hr We call in for a visit to Brasserie Saint Germain in Aix Noulette in the Nord-Pas de Calais region near Loos, for a tour* and beer tasting* in this modern brewery. They make the Page24 beers which you should see around Arras during our stay there. They are very innovative and have collaborated with some fine breweries, like the Norwegian Nøgne Ø. They have recently started a barrel-ageing programme for some of their beers. They brew a huge range of beers, not only the traditional regional Bière de Garde, but also a ‘Black Edition’ range encompassing Barley Wine, IPAs, Imperial Russian Stout, English Pale Ale, Porters, Dry Stouts, Belgian Dubbel and Tripels, Sour Red/Brown, Chicory beer and Rhubarb beer. Something for everyone then.
14.00hr Next we have an unusual lunch and afternoon stop. We are going to pay a visit Notre Dame de Lorette, France’s National WW1 Necropolis and the world's largest French military cemetery. It is a striking complex and contains the remains of 40,058 French soldiers who died in WW1. About half of these have gravestones but seven ossuaries dotted around the site contain the bones of 20,000 soldiers who died fighting on the Douai plain in three battles:
First Battle of Artois (27 Sept–10 Oct 1914)
Second Battle of Artois (9–15 May 1915)
Third Battle of Artois (25 Sept–15 Oct 1915)
In the centre of the necropolis is a basilica chapel in the Roman-Byzantine style. Unusually the altar is on the outside, and Mass is held here at every Sunday from May to 11 November. The tall tower near the church is a lighthouse and after dark the light at the top revolves five times a minute. The ray of light from the beacon covers a distance of 45 miles. In 1955 a reliquary was placed in this tower which contains soil and ashes from the concentration camps of World War II. Underneath the lantern tower is another crypt-ossuary containing the collected remains of 6,000 unidentified soldiers. This site was begun as a cemetery in 1915 but was enlarged to its current size in the 1920s when French soldiers were moved here from over 150 scattered cemeteries. At the western end of the cemetery there is a plot for Muslim soldiers, and each grave has a headstone instead of a cross which is positioned facing east. North Africans from the 1st Moroccan Division fought in this area during the battles of 1915 for the ridges of Notre Dame de Lorette and Vimy. Outside the necropolis is a new memorial. On 11 November 2014 a huge memorial was inaugurated on which are engraved the names of 580,000 soldiers of all nationalities who died in French Flanders and Artois between 1914 and 1918. The memorial, designed by architect Philippe Prost consists of a ring with a 345 metre perimeter on which are inscribed the names of the soldiers in alphabetical order regardless of nationality, rank or religion.
Behind the national necropolis is the Abri Des Visiteurs – The Visitors Refuge which is a café restaurant where we will have our pre-arranged meal. We’ll park up near the restaurant, have lunch then have a look around this vast necropolis at what is in fact only a fraction of the vast French losses of men in the First World War.
17.15hr Leave Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.
18.00hr Arrive at our hotel for the next two nights, the Mercure Arras.
Travellers have the evening free in this pretty town armed with Podge’s Arras Bar Guide. Most bars do not have a beer menu like those in Belgium, so sometimes It’s easier to go and have a look at what’s on tap. Dust off your French!
10.00hr After our buffet breakfast in the hotel we head dead south for a very full day on the Somme battlefields. There are dozens of sites to visit on the Somme so we have chosen some of the most famed areas plus a few of memorials especially requested by some of our travellers.
10.50hr Arrive at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing for a look at this iconic memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and inscribed with the names of 72,246 missing British Empire servicemen with no known grave who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918. There is also a brilliant visitors' centre which opened in 2004 which we will visit.
12.00hr Leave Thiepval.
12.10hr Arrive at the Newfoundland Park Memorial at Beaumont Hamel to have a look at the bronze caribou memorial and the trenches where the Newfoundland Regiment were largely wiped out on the first day of the Battle of the Somme 1 July 1916.
13.20hr Pay a visit to Euston Road CWGC Cemetery at Colincamps for a look at the Pals Battalions, particularly the 12th East Yorks (Hull Pals) and the 11th East Lancashire Regiment (Accrington Pals) and the attack on Serre of 1st July 1916.
14.00hr We will have a light lunch at Ocean Villas cafe and museum in Auchonvillers. This is now owned by Avril and after lunch we can have a look round her small museum*. Sadly the cellars underneath the property which housed a WW1 dressing station are out of bounds to visitors at present. (stop press: whilst in this area we will see if we have time to visit the Accrington Pals Memorial within the Sheffield Memorial Park at Hébuterne, special request from Podge!)
15.40hr Visit Lochnagar Crater at La Boiselle.
16.15hr Visit Devonshire CWGC at Mansel Copse, to hear the story of those who fought here and in particular, Captain Duncan Martin who lies in the cemetery with his men.
16.45hr Pay a visit to the 38th (Welsh) Division Memorial at Mametz Wood - an impressive red dragon holding a piece of barbed wire in its claws.
17.30hr Stop off at Le Tommy Café in Pozières for some light refreshment.
On the way back to Arras we hope to have a quick stop at the site of the destroyed Windmill at Pozières, sacred to the Australians who fought here for the first time on the Western Front. Opposite is the interestingly constructed Tank Corps Memorial. This place was selected for the memorial because it was near here that tanks first went into action with the BEF as a new, surprise weapon against the German Army in WW1 in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916.
19.15hr We return to Arras for a free evening in the town.
10.00hr We check out of our hotel and travel to the impressive Vimy Ridge Memorial and Canadian Park. There is much to see and experience in this huge memorial park which formed part of the Vimy Ridge Battlefield of 1917. The site has tunnels, trenches, blockhouses and of course the striking and stark shining white Vimy Ridge Memorial to the Canadian men who fought here.
12.30hr Leave Vimy Ridge and head north.
13.30hr Arrive in the beautiful border hill town of Cassel. This is said to be the hill which the Grand old Duke of York marched up (and down). It was also used as an observation point in WW1 for army commanders. On the hilltop is a grand equestrian statue of French Marshal Ferdinand Foch who became generalissimo over all Allied forces in 1918, including British and Commonwealth forces. We head first for the new brewery in town Brasserie Mont du Cassel which we shall be visiting for a tour* and a taste of their beer*.
15.00hr Travel the short distance to the beautiful main town square and head for the friendly Café Kerelshof. The café is run by Denis who loves beer, traditional Flemish cooking, folk music and poetry. He offers a superb selection of over 60 beers, in bottles and on tap concentrating on local Flemish and innovative northern French brewers. We will have a pre-arranged group meal here. The café is named after the Kerels who were a group of Medieval Flemish rebels who were massacred for objecting to paying taxes to the French.
17.50hr Leave Kerelshof for Calais.
18.50hr Arrive Eurotunnel.
19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel Train.
19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.
19.40hr Coach drop off Stop24 J11 M20, Kent CT21 4BL.
20.40hr Coach drop off Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.
21.30hr Coach drop off 102 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.
22.05hr Coach drop off Chapel St South Layby Southway, Colchester CO2 7BA.
22.40hr Coach drop off Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).
23.15hr Coach drop off Galloways depot, Denters Hill, Mendlesham, Suffolk IP14 5RR.
If you are travelling alone and want to share a room with another traveller please contact Podge as we are regularly able to pair up travellers in twin rooms to avoid the need for payments of Single Supplements.
Hotel accommodation and breakfasts;
Hotel city taxes;
Luxury coach travel on a 49 seater coach with toilet;
All brewery visits, tours and brewery beer tastings;
Entrance fees to attractions, museums and historical sites;
All items marked with an asterisk on the individual detailed tour itinerary;
Copies of Podge’s City Bar Guides and Maps for the town where we stay or spend some time;
Still and sparkling water on the coach;
Pick up from Ipswich (Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park), Colchester (Southway Chapel St South Layby) or Chelmsford (The Woolpack, Mildmay Road). Arrangements can be made for different joining points on the way to Folkestone or even on the other side of the channel.
Travellers are responsible for the costs of all food and drink apart from items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary plus all passport and insurance costs.
All itinerary times are local and approximate.
Personal insurance is not included in the Tour price but is strongly advised, as is carrying the European Health Insurance Card available online, by phone or via the Post Ofﬁce.
If you have any questions or would like to be added to the interested list please send Podge an email or call him on +44 (0)1245 354677.
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