I have been designing and guiding battlefield tours since 1997 and have taken well over a hundred groups to France, Belgium, Italy, Egypt, Libya, Britain, Canada and the USA.
For 2018 I have created two battlefield tours which I will be guiding for The Cultural Experience, a well-established tour operator which is ATOL Protected and a Travel Trust Association Member. Numbers travelling on these tours are deliberately kept small. I will also be guiding bespoke tours for groups or families, including 14-18 NOW and Boodles Private Members’ Club. I will also be guiding selected school groups including The American School in London and St. Mary’s School Ascot.
UPDATE: My 2019 tours The War Poets and First & Last Shots are now open for booking. Follow the links to the TCE website.
Discover the five battles of Ypres fought from 1914 to 1918 through a series of fascinating walks, including the sacrifice of the British Regulars in 1914, the first gas attacks in 1915, Passchendaele in 1917 and dramatic battles of 1918. With an extra exploration of Ypres we also uncover the history of this tragic yet beautiful town. Full details below and here on The Cultural Experience Website.
Experience the battlefields through the story of medical care and spiritual welfare of British soldiers during the First World War, from the front line medics and chaplains to the hospitals on the French coast, including the remarkable ‘Women of Pervyse’. Full details below and here on The Cultural Experience Website.
For many years I have also guided selected school groups for Holts Education & History. In 2018 I will be taking members of the 8th Grade of the American School in London to learn the history of the D-Day in Normandy for the fourteenth year running. For the third time I will be taking pupils from St. Mary’s School, Ascot, to the First World War battlefields of the Western Front.
2nd-5th August 2018
Less of a battlefield tour but more of a behind the lines exploration, this tour focuses on the heroic and often untold stories of those men and women who dedicated themselves to helping and saving the fighting men of the Great War. Numerous Medics and Padres won the highest military honours for gallantry including the Victoria and Military Cross, and we’ll hear about a number of these acts of heroism throughout the tour. Based in Ypres, which became a major hub behind the front line for the British and Commonwealth forces throughout the war, you can get a feel of life away from the trenches and the incredible work that was done there to ensure the wounded and shell shocked were treated and returned home safely.
Because of its industrial nature, the number of casualties in the First World War was on a scale never seen before. However, if you were wounded your chances of survival were high: that is if you could be evacuated into the casualty system quickly – from regimental aid post to advanced dressing station, to casualty clearing station, to base hospital, hospital ship and then on to England. The stories of those men and women who were involved in these processes have received more attention in recent years but they still come under the umbrella of ‘unsung heroes’. Some of the names that we come across on this tour such as ‘Woodbine Willie’, John McCrae and Vera Brittain, have become well known but we also pay tribute to the countless doctors, nurses, VAD’s, stretcher bearers, orderlies and padres who provided treatment, care and comfort to the men on the front-line.
- With WW1 expert Simon Jones
- Menin gate ceremony
- Visit graves of VC winners
“I would recommend Cultural Experience to anyone with a whiff of interest in this, or other military subjects, and I will most certainly be using CE again”
Day 1 – Depart London St Pancras for Lille by Eurostar
This afternoon we learn of the Women of Pervyse who ran a dressing station immediately behind the front line until they were gassed in 1918. At Essex Farm we visit the place where Dr. John McCrea wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields in 1915, and the dressing station bunkers constructed in 1917 for the Battle of Passchendaele to discuss how casualties were evacuated and treated during the Battle. Check-in to our hotel in Ypres for three nights and attend the Menin Gate ceremony.
Day 2 – The Ypres Salient: front line bravery of RMOs and Padres
We tell the story of Dr. Noel Chavasse the only man to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice, and how Rev. Harold Ackroyd won his VC visiting his grave at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery. We will also hear of the heorics of Willie Doyle MC whose commemorated at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Rev. Noel Mellish VC , Studdert Kennedy MC known as Woodbine Willie, and Rev. Theodore Bailey Hardy VC. After lunch we will take an evening walking tour of Ypres including Little Toc H, Ramparts Dressing Station and the Wipers Times.
Day 3 – Casualty evacuation and life behind the lines
The Hop Store casualty clearing station at Vlamertinghe and the work of Rev. Charles Doudney. The work of Casualty Clearing Stations during the Passchendaele offensive at Brandhoek and Lijssenthoek Cemeteries, the graves of Noel Chavasse and Nurse Nellie Spindler (killed by shell-fire), and Charles Doudney. This afternoon we move onto Poperinghe and visit the famous soldiers’ hostel Talbot House (‘Toc H’), run by the legendary Tubby Clayton and preserved almost unchanged.
Day 4 – The French coast
Drive to Wimereux to explore the cliff top sites of hospitals where Alexander Fleming worked on streptococcus infections, and the British Cemetery for the graves of Dr. John and other medical staff. To Étaples for the breath-taking British Cemetery and the site of the hospital where Vera Brittain worked as a VAD Nurse. Our last stop is at Le Touquet to see the site of the Duchess of Westminster’s hospital, then, as now, a casino. Return to London St Pancras by Eurostar.
28th September – 1st October 2018
This tour explores all five battles of Ypres in great detail, covering the ground of stoic defences, brave counter attacks and the first use of poisonous gas on a battlefield. To walk the battlegrounds around Ypres allows the scarred landscape to reveal its stories of heroism and horror, enabling us to gain a deeper insight into the geography of war. Following the mostly gentle terrain, the walker’s eye becomes attuned to the importance of ridges and folds in the landscape. We will be based in Ypres itself, where the vast majority of the town was destroyed beyond all recognition by German artillery and bombing, but was lovingly rebuilt to its Gothic and Flemish splendour after the war. It has since become a place of pilgrimage for descendants of the men and women of the First World War and is guaranteed to prove a moving experience.
Ypres and its surrounding salient became a major focus point of the war during the race to the sea in 1914, where it was briefly occupied by the Germans, only to be quickly won back and held thereafter by the allies. It became the beating heart of the Allied frontline throughout the First World War. Often referred to as ‘Wipers’ by the Tommy’s, it was the scene of no less than five crucial battles between 1914 and 1918. On at least four more occasions major actions took place around Ypres giving us names that have lived long in the memory including Polygon Wood, Messines Ridge and Passchendaele. The important role played by the Ypres Salient for the duration of the war provides a deep insight into the development of tactics, logistics, strategy and technology.
- Guided by WW1 expert Simon Jones
- Walk the 5 battles of Ypres
- The heart of Allied front line throughout the First World War
“This very interesting WW1 walking tour, led by Simon Jones gave us all on the tour a sobering insight in to what actually happened on the battlefields of WW1”
Day 1 – Ypres
Depart London St Pancras for Lille on the Eurostar, drive to Ypres and check-in to our central hotel. This afternoon we walk the town of Ypres itself to hear of its remarkable survival, ‘Little Toc H’, the ramparts dressing station and cemetery, and the casemates which concealed headquarters and the printing press of the ‘Wipers Times’ (1.5 miles).
Day 2 – First and Second Ypres
This morning we follow the First Battle of Ypres during the autumn of 1914 and the desperate last push by the Germans following the ‘Race to the Sea’. Starting at Black Watch Corner, named after the men who stoically defended the position with heavy losses, we follow the Worcester’s epic counter attack from Polygon Wood to Gheluvelt on 31st October 1914 (2 miles). After lunch we turn our focus to the Second Battle in the spring of 1915, with the first gas attack at Langemarck on 22nd April from the German cemetery into the village (1 mile) followed by the heroic stand by the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on Bellewaarde Ridge on 8th May (1.6 miles). This evening we attend the moving Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.
Day 3 – Third and Fourth Ypres
The Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly known as Passchendaele, was one of the bloodiest of the war. We start with the successful Australian attack at Broodseinde on 4th October 1917, following the advance up the ridge and the fighting for the ground around Tyne Cot Cemetery that bogged down as the Canadians struggled to take Passchendaele (3 miles). In the afternoon we walk Fourth Ypres, with a short but steep ascent to follow the route of the German Alpine Corps in the dramatic capture of Mont Kemmel during the Kaiser’s Offensive in April 1918 (1.4 miles).
Day 4 – Fifth Ypres
The final battle of Ypres made up part of the ‘Hundred Days’ which would eventually lead to Allied victory on the Western Front. We focus in particular on the capture of the village of Ledeghem by the 9th Scottish Division in October 1918, where many massive concrete bunkers remain. The cemetery here contains the graves of British soldiers from 1914 and 1918 taking us full circle in the five battles (2.8 miles). Return to Lille for Eurostar back to London St Pancras.
Photo credit: The Women of Pervyse © IWM (Q 2660).