‘In Flanders Fields The Poppies Blow’: Visit WW1 Battlefields in Flanders and The Somme
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November 2018 marked the centenary of Armistice Day, which marked the end of fighting in World War 1. Although 100 years have now passed, the significance of WW1 and its battles has not faded. As we commemorate this poignant moment in history, we remember the individuals who fell for their country and their sacrifices. A visit to the battlefields in Belgium and France is an excellent way of paying tribute while learning more about the events which transpired.
Flanders and The Somme were the scenes of much fighting during the ‘war to end all wars’. Experience the emotion of visiting the remains of the trenches, where millions of young men fought and died. Although it is difficult to imagine the suffering and the sacrifice that took place, or the horrendous conditions in which men lived and fought, your informative battlefields guide will bring the stories of these soldiers to life. In addition to the battlefields, there are also museums and memorials well worth visiting. Delve into this emotional time in history at the award winning ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum and the Wellington Quarries. These evocative attractions take you on an enlightening journey from the declaration of the First World War in Belgium and France through to the Armistice. Then, engage in sombre reflection at the cemeteries where Allied and German soldiers are laid to rest.
In June 2017, Greatdays staff undertook a familiarisation trip to the WW1 Battlefields, visiting the featured hotels, museums and cemeteries. Therefore, we have plenty of suggestions in order to add personal touches to your commemoration tour. One hundred years may have passed since the end of World War 1, but in moving forward it is important for us to look back and reflect upon this tragic part of our history.
18th & 25th October 2019
Welcome to Flanders
Arrive at your hotel in the Flanders or Somme region. If time permits, begin exploring the area.
In Flanders Fields
Visit the Flanders Battlefields around Ypres, the heartland of the WW1 military action. Ypres lies right in the centre and offers easy access to many of the sites. The Ypres Salient was the focal point of many major battles and offers an insight into history.
In Flanders Fields Museum
Why not begin the day at the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’ which has been renovated and improved in recent years. Located in the former Cloth Halls of Ypres, in the centre of the town, the museum presents the story of WW1 in the West Flanders Front region. Using bracelets given to you on arrival, you can activate the exhibits and read accounts of people from the First World War, tailored to be personal to yourself. There are also several films showing clips of the battles and a retelling of life in a WW1 Hospital. (N.B. The museum is closed for most of January and on Mondays between November and March.)
The 14-18 Route – Battlefields and Memorials
Head out of Ypres on a guided coach excursion around the 14-18 route. The tour normally stops at Essex Farm where John McCrae wrote his famous ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem, Langemarck Cemetery which is one of only four German cemeteries in the Flanders region and Tyne Cot Cemetery which is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. The contrast of the gleaming white headstones of Tyne Cot and the simple grey stones of Langemarck, surrounded by oak trees, both places of remembrance, but markedly different.
Other sites including Hill 62 Museum / Sanctuary Wood and the Irish Peace Tower in the Island of Ireland Peace Park can be visited but more time may be required.
Last Post at the Menin Gate
Finish your day at the Menin Gate to witness the emotional Last Post Ceremony, held every evening at 20.00hrs. During the war this was the call for all soldiers fighting in the fields outside the gates to head back to the city for the evening. However, many did not return back through the gates. The tradition continues each evening to this day and is one of the most poignant elements to any battlefields tour. We recommend arriving early to be able to see the ceremony taking place and the wreaths being carried.
The Somme Battlefields
The Somme Battlefields, site of much additional fighting lie just over the border in northern France and complement the tour to the battlefields of the Flanders region.
The Somme Battlefields and Memorials
Starting with a guided tour, there are several sites you can visit. Lochnagar Crater, the largest crater of its kind at 300ft, created from charges packed into a tunnel and yet only one of 17 mines that blew up on 1st July 1916.
Thiepval Memorial is a striking memorial to over 72,000 officers and men of the UK and South African forces who have no known grave. Their names are inscribed on the walls. There is also a small cemetery at the site where French and Commonwealth soldiers lie side by side, their gravestones marking the difference of armies. A visit to the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a focal point of this day and a sombre experience.
Visit Ulster Tower, Northern Ireland’s national war memorial and one of the first Memorials to be erected on the Western Front and commemorates the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division and all those from Ulster who served in WW1. We also recommend visits to Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Delville Wood or simply one of the many small roadside cemeteries, as the haunting history of the area is hard to miss.
Arras and Wellington Quarries
End the day with a visit to Arras and Wellington Quarries. Almost completely rebuilt after being destroyed during the Battle of Arras in WW1, perhaps discover the historic streets and Flemish-style architecture of the squares. However, the town’s history lies not only above ground – under the streets of Arras lie a warren of chalk quarries that proved a strategic base for numerous assaults in WW1. The evocative Wellington Quarries museum relates the story of some 24,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers stationed there, 20m underground in 1917.
If time allows, take in some final sightseeing before departing from Flanders.
Specialised Battlefield Tour
If you require a WW1 anniversary tour that is more specialised to a particular site or area then please let us know and we can tailor-make the tour to suit your requirements. There are numerous cemeteries, war graves and monuments dedicated to certain battalions, regions or divisions that can be included on tours.
Other areas including the Battle of Verdun and Mons, where the first and last shots of the war were fired, are possible along with tours specifically looking at The Somme or the Ypres Salient. We can also offer a selection of ideas for a tour to the WW2 Battlefields in Normandy.
Suggested hotels –
Ibis Styles Lille Marcq en Baroeul ***
This 3-star hotel features stylish, spacious and fully-renovated rooms. Located less than 15 minutes from the city centre, it is a great base for exploring Lille and popping across into Belgium. Facilities include a 24-hour reception, a restaurant, bar with terrace and conference rooms. The hotel is also located a short walk from a tramway providing direct access into Lille and Roubaix in approx 20mins. Free onsite coach car parking is also available. A favourite with Greatdays groups this year! Inspected by Greatdays staff in March 2016
Novotel Ieper Centrum ****
An old favourite with Greatdays customers, the Novotel Ieper Centrum is located in the centre of Ypres just a short stroll from the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum and the Menin Gate. Bedrooms have TV, telephone, bath or shower and tea/coffee making facilities. Coach parking is at the train station. Inspected by Greatdays staff in June 2017
Best Western Plus Alize, Mouscron ****
Located in Mouscron just over the border from France, the hotel is in the city centre and has 58 stylish and comfortable rooms with large flat-screen TV, free internet, tea/coffee facilities, hairdryer and en-suite bathrooms. There is free coaching parking in front of the hotel and an onsite bar, snack bar, fitness room and sauna. Inspected by Greatdays staff in June 2017
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|ibis style Lille Marcq en Baroeul||Half Twin||Single Supplement|
|18th & 25th October 2019||From £189.00 per person||From £48.00 per person|
Other dates and hotels are available.