Discover the most disputed battlefield of the Great War by walking the ground. These six walks will enable both first-time and more experienced visitors to gain a deep understanding of the changing nature of the fighting, and the conditions endured.
We explore the sacrifice of the ‘Old Contemptibles’ in 1914, the terrible first gas attacks of 1915, Passchendaele in 1917, and the dramatic ebb and flow of 1918. Based in Ypres, the tour also includes an exploration of the history of this tragic yet beautiful town. Traveller numbers are usually around a dozen, see The Cultural Experience website for full specifications including prices. After travel by Eurostar from St. Pancras London to Lille, we are met by our vehicle and driver and keep travel time to the minimum.
Briefly occupied by the Germans in 1914, Ypres was desperately held by the Allies for four years. Until the Allied advance in the final Fifth Battle, the Salient became a mass grave of first German and then British hopes of a breakthrough. By walking the ground we discover the real human experience of the fighting, grasp the significance of the terrain, and understand the revolutionary changes in fighting methods during these five battles.
Day 1 – Ypres
Depart London St Pancras for Lille on the Eurostar arriving about midday. This afternoon we walk the town of Ypres itself, see the Cathedral and Cloth Hall, and to hear of its remarkable survival and reconstruction.
We learn of the dangerous daily life of soldiers and a handful of civilians under fire, the soldiers’ canteen at ‘Little Toc H’, the Ramparts dressing station and cemetery, and the casemates which concealed the printing press of the ‘Wipers Times’.
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, we follow the Worcesters’ epic counterattack from Polygon Wood to Gheluvelt on 31st October 1914.
After lunch we turn to the Second Battle in the spring of 1915, following the first gas attack at Langemarck on 22nd April, from the German cemetery into the village.
We then look at the heroic stand by the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on Bellewaarde Ridge on 8th May and the German advance to Railway Wood.
In the evening we attend the moving Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate before dinner.
Day 3 – Third and Fourth Ypres
The Third Battle of Ypres, commonly known as Passchendaele, was one of the bloodiest and controversial of the war. We start with the successful Australian attack at Broodseinde on 4th October 1917, following the advance up the ridge and the capture of the ground that became the vast Tyne Cot Cemetery. When the Canadians took over the attack on Passchendaele, the fighting during November bogged down in the mud.
In the afternoon we walk ‘Fourth Ypres’ with a short but steep ascent to follow the route of the German Alpine Corps in the rapid capture of Mont Kemmel during the Kaiser’s Offensive in April 1918.
Day 4 – Fifth Ypres
The final battle of Ypres which opened on 28th September 1918 was part of the ‘Hundred Days’ which led to Allied victory on the Western Front. Astonishingly, the whole Ypres Salient battlefield was re-captured in three days. Exactly a century on, we focus on the capture by the 9th Scottish Division of the village of Ledeghem, today still dotted with concrete bunkers.
The war came full circle at Ledeghem: the cemetery contains the graves of cavalrymen who fell at the opening of the First Battle in October 1914. Four years later, Second Lieutenant Gorle received the Victoria Cross for bringing his field guns to within 50 yards of the Germans, just as they had fought in 1914.
Return to Lille for Eurostar back to London St Pancras.
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. The Cultural Experience is a highly experienced tour operator which is ATOL Protected and a Travel Trust Association Member.
Feedback from four of the travellers on my ‘Medics & Padres’ tour, August 2018:
It truly was the best and most informative tour we have been on.
It was a marvelous trip and gave us both new friends and a perspective on an aspect of the Great War of which we were ignorant.
Another excellent Great War tour… which was well-researched and presented.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and learned so much – thank you to you all for making it such a memorable few days.
Photo credit: Robert Gorle VC https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8543779.