Our 3-day Private Tour is the perfect way to explore the battlefields of France and Belgium with your own private guide. Walk the killing fields of the Somme, explore the infamous Ypres Salient and enjoy extra visits and inclusions, not available with other tour companies! Your tour is escorted by expert historian Peter Smith, host of the BattleWalks podcast.
Our tour begins in the northern French city of Lille, which is easily accessible by road or Eurostar from the UK. We will meet at Lille Europe Station and then travel south towards Arras. On route, we will visit the CWGC Experience, where Commonwealth War Graves staff will demonstrate how they caringly tend to hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth graves throughout the world. We will then travel to Arras, our home for the next two nights, and explore wartime sites including the Arras Memorial to the Missing, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, the Arras Flying Services Memorial and the Memorial du Mur des Fusilles WW2, where hundreds of members of the Resistance were executed during the Second World War. We will then check in to our central hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure to explore the restaurants and bars of Arras.
A full day exploring the killing fields of the Somme and, in particular, the horror of the first day, July 1st, 1916, the most costly day in the history of the British Army. Our day begins near the village of Serre, where we will explore an original frontline trench from July 1st, as well as the Sheffield City Memorial and Serre Road No 2 Cemetery. We will then visit the famous Sunken Lane, immortalised in Geoffrey Malins’ black and white films. We will then explore the massive Hawthorne Ridge mine crater, which was blown twice during the Battle of the Somme and has been preserved as a memorial to the thousands of men who fell in and around it. Our next stop is the Newfoundland Memorial Park, where we will walk through a full First World War trench system, including British trenches, German trenches and the shell-cratered no man’s land in between. After free time for lunch, we will visit the Ulster Tower near the site of the Schwaben Redoubt, before exploring the magnificent Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, where more than 72,000 missing men from the Somme are commemorated. Our day ends with visits to Mansell Copse, Lochnagar Crater and the imposing Fricourt German Cemetery, to learn the story of the men from the other side of the line. Our evening in Arras is free. (B)
We will depart Arras this morning and drive north into Belgium, to the iconic town of Ypres. En-route we will visit the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing, and see the battlefield of Messines. Next we will visit the cratered landscape of Hill 60, and learn about the underground war that shattered the hill, and also visit the nearby Hooge Crater and Cemetery. After free time for lunch, we will travel to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the world’s largest Commonwealth Military Cemetery, and hear the stories of some of the 12,000 men who are buried here. Next we will see the Canadian Memorial that marks the site where poison gas was first used in the war, before travelling to Langemarck German Cemetery, one of the largest final resting places for German soldiers in Belgium. Our final stop is Essex Farm Cemetery, where John McCrae composed ‘In Flanders Fields’ in 1915, the most famous poem of the war. We will then drive to Ypres and check in to our hotel. Tonight we will attend the Last Post service at the Menin Gate, an emotional tribute to the men lost in the Salient, which is performed every night. Late afternoon you will be dropped at Lille Europe Station for your connecting train back to the UK. (B)
★ Private tour departing any day of your choosing
★ Services of an expert WWI Historian
★ Pick up and drop off in Lille
★ All excursions, scenic drives and sightseeing as described in the itinerary
★ 2 nights’ 3-4-star accommodation
★ Travel by air-conditioned vehicle
★ Breakfast daily