2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Whether you have close or distant relatives who fought in the conflict, you want to pay your respects to the sacrifices of those that lost their lives, or simply have an interest in the history of the war, our battlefields tours offer a fascinating insight into this dark period of world history for every visitor.
Many of the battlefield sites we visit are accompanied by a fantastic local guide, who will not only bring the detail and the history to life, but also will allow you time for quiet personal reflection if you wish.
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Battlefields Tours by rail
Experience the authentically reproduced World War I trenches on our Battlefields Tours, led by knowledgeable Tour Managers with a specialist understanding of this crucial period in history. Witness the moving Last Post Ceremony at Ypres' Menin Gate as you discover the story of Flanders Fields.
The Western Front
The Western Front was formed quickly after the outbreak of the war. Many lines of trenches - fortified with barbed wire and wooden bunkers - were created, soon stretching from the Swiss border to the North Sea. Many offensives took place in this dramatic theatre of war (referred to as "a brown belt, a murdered strip of nature" by American pilot James McConnell), and much was decided in the region. Our tours to the Western Front have been designed to offer every visitor the chance to remember the seismic events and many victims of the First World War in a respectful manner. These tours visit the key sites to present a detailed look back at the terrible events of a century ago. Experienced Tour Managers and expert local guides provide you with a fascinating insight into the events of the war, its triumphs and tragedies, and its successes and failures.
From museums and memorials, to cemeteries, battlefields and landmarks, we have carefully selected the most important and famous sites, to ensure you get a true insight into the area. We have also included some lesser-known places of interest, such as underground cave networks and preserved military railways, to give a well-rounded impression of the region - and the scale of events that took place here one hundred years ago. There's also freedom to do your own thing, with built-in free time for relaxing, and exploring independently.
The towns, cities and memorials
All of our tours that visit Flanders take in Ypres, which is arguably the war's most symbolic town. Having been carefully restored from the shelling it suffered, it is now home to several memorials to those who died in the fighting. The most prominent of these is the Menin Gate, the 'Memorial to the Missing' where the Last Post is played every night. Others include the 'In Flanders Fields' Museum, which faithfully narrates the story of the battles for the Belgian town. Other towns visited on our tours include Poperinge, known for the Talbot House where soldiers could socialise, and Arras, which are both featured on our 'Flanders & the Somme' tour. The French city was damaged due to the fighting that took place, but is now one of France's prettiest towns, with its fascinating 'underground city' built during the First World War. Many of our tours - especially those that visit the Somme - also include time to explore Lille, which saw German occupation.
Of course, the tours also visit many of the most famous and significant battlefields of the entire war. These include the ones around the Somme, along with their associated trenches and landmarks. We also visit the fields around Ypres, visiting places such as Hill 60, and in the Somme we see the Lochnagar Crater. We can learn more about, and take time to reflect on, what happened in these important battles - and how they shaped the war's outcome.
We visit many of the largest war cemeteries on our tours; soldiers of all nationalities are buried in them. Yet most of the cemeteries we visit have a predominant British or Commonwealth section. On our 'Bruges & Ypres' tour we visit Tyne Cot, Belgium's largest Commonwealth cemetery, whilst we see Essex Farm Cemetery on our 'In Flanders Fields' tour, where John McCrae was inspired to write his famous poem of the same name. You can take the time for solitary reflection during these visits if you prefer.