Western Front Tour (2017, Centenary of Polygon Wood)
Join David Howell on this once in a lifetime tour as we explore the Australian First World War battlefields of France & Belgium.
Departing 16- 29 September 2017, this fully inclusive tour will start in London before taking in all the major Australian battlefields on the Western Front.
Attend the Battle of Polygon Wood, Buttes New British Cemetery Official Commemorations on 26 September 2017.
Special guests will appear throughout the tour, some dressed in period uniform that will bring the history to life. Our accommodation is situated on a First World War battlefield whish includes an original German trench system-this will be your backyard for the duration of the tour.
$4,750 without flights or $6,950 return flights from any capital city in Australia.
Day 1 (17 September)
Depart Australia for London (transfers available from all Australian Capital cities). Stop over will be in Singapore, meet other members of the tour. Continue journey to Heathrow, London. Please check your flight itinerary. I am contactable throughout the entire trip in all countries on my mobile +61 405 007 700 this is also the emergency contact for your family and friends back home in Australia. Please ensure you are travelling with your policy number and contact details of your travel insurer.
Day 2 (18 September)
Arrive: Heathrow London 07:45, we will be met by coach and driver as we transfer to Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Mercer St, London. http://www.radissonblu-edwardi...
Look out for the WESTERN FRONT TOUR sign held up by the driver when you clear customs, this is our meeting point. Oyster cards will be handed out on the bus for London Underground travel.
The remainder of today is a rest day and a chance to shake off any jet lag. For those who are unable to sleep there are many fine English pubs, sightseeing& attractions within walking distance of the hotel. The concierge will be able to provide a map and locations at reception. Dinner is available in the main restaurant. Some people have expressed interest in going to the Globe Theatre you are more than welcome to join in.
Day 3 (19 September)
Waking up in London after a good night’s sleep will see everyone meet for a traditional English breakfast in the hotel restaurant suggested meeting time is 07:30. After breakfast we will be met by our man on the ground, Henry! Henry is a good mate of David’s and an expert on getting around London. We aim to leave the hotel at 09:00.
Today we are touring the Imperial War Museum, Churchill War Cabinet Rooms; Army Museum; Royal Hospital Chelsea; tour London War Memorial; London Bridge; Tour of London; Royal Armoury with one or two English Ales and traditional English fare along the way. Please note some of these attractions will require an entrance fee.
That evening we will all meet in the restaurant for a hearty meal and to thank our man Henry for his expertise in navigating the London Underground and showing us around the fine city of London. We will be checking out of the hotel in the morning so please pack your troubles up in your old kit bag and make ready for the adventure ahead. (B)
Day 4 (19 September)
More fried bread and black pudding as we have one last English breakfast before checking out of the Radisson Blu. We are then going to transfer to St Pancras International Train Station by hotel courtesy bus. Breakfast will be severed early from 06:30. You must be fully checked out of the hotel and ready in the foyer by 07:15, your Eurostar tickets will be issued at this time. We are leaving at 07:30. We will board the Eurostar to France which departs at 08:58. For those joining us at St Pancras, we will meet outside the Eurostar gate.
We will travel by train to Lille arriving at 11:30, upon arrival we will be met by Monsieur Gonzaque Carpe who will be wearing his WWI French uniform and our Western Front guide Chris Barker in his WWI 10th Essex uniform. There will be a little bit of hurry up and wait as we pick up the three mini-buses. After we load the luggage onto the buses we will travel with Monsieur Gonzaque to Mademoiselle from Armentières gallery.
French Fish & Chips for lunch (own expense). Afterwards we will drive to our lovely accommodation Croonaert Corner http://www.croonaertcorner.be/... with a few stops along the way. We will arrive at approximately 16:30.
After we drop our luggage off and freshen up we will take the short journey into the town of Ypres where we will have dinner at the local Stone Grill restaurant, we will be accompanied by Sabine and by Gonzaque. At 20:00 we will attend the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, we have requested to lay a wreath.
We will then take a quick look around before retire to Croonaert Corner.
(B, MT, D)
Day 5 (20 September)
Sabine will have our buffet breakfast in the main barn (short 5min walk from the house) prepared for us. During the breakfast service we will outline what is on the agenda for the day. Weapons will be issued just in case we run into the Hun!
Today we will Tour Western Front with Chris Barker, visit ex-pats (UK) Barry and his wife Deb at their wonderful Farm House to view Barry’s private museum. We will then visit Hill 62. Chris Barker after more than 80 trips to the Western Front has built up a great repour with many of the locals. We will be making small side trips on our way onto private land (with the permission of the owner) to speak to local people and hear their family stories and to view the many artefacts which are held in private hands.
On each day with the exception of our travel days and the two ceremonial days (19 & 23 July).There will be alternative activities available. Sabine has suggested the following:
- Day trip to Lille, Northern France, nice town for shopping at half an hour driving
- Another nice medieval town is Bruges, worthwhile visiting, can also spend a day. 1 hour driving. Good for the kids and adults.
- We are one hour driving from the Belgian coast. Different possibilities, an exclusive location are Knokke Le Zoute with exclusive shops or on the other side of the coast, a seaside resort known for beautiful nature and walking. A combination of the 2, nature and shopping is also possible.
- I can advise a guide who can organise a “handmade” program.
- We also have some theme parks for the kids.
Day 6 (21 September)
This morning we will visit the battlefield of Bullecourt. Chris will give us an in depth account of the battle as we visit the main areas where the action took place. There are many village outposts pertaining to Australian soldiers which we will visit. Once we have completed the walk through of the battlefield we will then move on to the Le Taille museum. Many remnants of the battle can be found within the wonderful museum. Back on the bus as we make our way to part the famous German Hindenberg Line defences, penetrated by Australian troops in September 1918. We will also visit Canal du Nord.
We will then drive to Montbrehain the area where the last Australian soldiers lost their lives during the Great War before heading to Arras. The city of Arras was an important Allied held city during the war. Here we will stop for lunch before visiting the Wellington Tunnels. Situated 22m under the city the 350m of tunnels afforded protection from artillery, especially important in the preparation to the Arras offensive in April of 1917. There is also a wonderful museum with plenty of time to explore.
We will stop along the way for dinner and a few cleansing ales before returning back to our billet!
Day 7 (22 September)
Breakfast once again prepared by the wonderful Sabine in the barn which is laid out in the style of First World War billet.
We will then head to Fromelles as today in history is the 101st anniversary of the infamous battle. We will meet with Pierre Sellers who will talk to us about finding the missing of Fromelles.
In the evening another service will be conducted at the memorial wall at the VC Corner Cemetery.
That evening we will celebrate with a few fine Belgium beverages in the local pub!
Day 8 (23 September)
Sabine will provide another lovely breakfast provided before we head to Villers Bretonneux, which was famously retaken from the Germans in April 1918 by Australian soldiers. The locals have not forgotten Australia as there are many billboards, street signs etc. demonstrating their appreciation of Australia.
On the way we will visit the original resting place of the Unknown Soldier, Adelaide cemetery. The Unknown Soldier now rests in the Hall of Memory in the Australian War Memorial. We will visit the wonderful display at the Franco-Australian museum above Ecole Victoria (the Victorian School) which was rebuilt in the 1920s through subscriptions donated by the people of Australian.
A highlight will be visiting the Australian National Memorial before we arrive at the village of Le Hamel, this is the place General John Monash devised and carried out the all-encompassing operation ahead of the Allies’ final offensive.
We will then stop for a well earned bite to eat before moving on to Peronne, and the new Historiale de la Grand Guerre museum which gives a wonderful portrayal of what life would have been like on the Western Front. Then it is on to Mont St Quentin and a visit to the famous 2nd Australian Division Memorial. In the evening everyone will have free time to wander the town square and enjoy the atmosphere. (B)
Day 9 (24 September)
Late rise this morning after a well earned sleep from last night’s activities. Sabine will once again have breakfast ready as Chris Barker details today’s activities. This morning we will make our way to the hamlet of Hooge.
In the summer of 1915, the British positions around Hooge have become precarious. From their vantage point the Germans had a good view over the British frontline. With a limited but well targeted attack, the British try to eliminate German strongholds. On 19 July 1915 they detonate a charge of 1,700 kilograms of explosives in a tunnel that had been dug by the special Tunnelling Companies. Immediately after the explosion the Allies rushed the crater in order to consolidate their advance. Later it was referred to as 'the Hooge Crater'.
The Hooge Crater museum is a must and full of interactive and detailed exhibitions. Afterwards we will make our way to the Zonnebeke Museum, stopping along the way at Johan’s bar at Messines.
Day 10 (25 September)
After another delicious homemade breakfast we will head to the 1917 Somme battlefields, we will then visit the 1st Australian Division Memorial, along with what is left of the ‘Gibraltar’ blockhouse. Chris Barker will give us an in depth tour before we depart for Albert. Albert has many surviving sites pertaining to the First World War; many a Digger would have passed through here on their way to the front. We will also visit the mine creator of La Boiselle and the grand memorial to the missing at Thiepval.
After lunch we will move to Pozières and Mouquet Farm, for it is in this location that the AIF sustained 23,000 casualties in a matter of a few weeks. Visiting the site of the famous Windmill Memorial inscribed with the words: Australian troops … fell more thickly on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war.
This evening we will take our meal at the famous Le Tommy’s café and enjoy the atmosphere of the village on the eve of the centenary commemorations.
Day 11 (26 September)
Our last day of touring the Western Front, however we will be ending the trip on a high note for today we will be attending the official service the Buttes New British Cemetery.
Breakfast will be served and medals, Sunday best and uniforms will be prepared. As we will be travelling to Paris tomorrow we will have time this morning to pack our bags and make ready for the final leg of our tour.
More details including pre-registration will be available shortly, check the official Australian Government website by clicking here.
A bus will leave early to return to Croonaert Corner for those who don’t wish to stay too long! This is also a chance to see off our good friend and wonderful guide Chris Barker as we will be leaving him in the morning.
Day 13 (27 September)
One last breakfast and it is Au Revoir to Sabine and our wonderful accommodation. We will then make our way back to Lille by bus before boarding a train destined for Gay Parie! Train tickets will be issued at breakfast. The train departs Lille at 13:13.
After a wonderful train journey on the train we will arrive at Gare du Nord Train Station arriving at 14:14. On arrival we will be met by our driver and transfer to our Paris accommodation-Victoria Palace Hotel.
Centrally located to many of the famous Parisian landmarks, this will be our billet for the next two evenings.
Taking in the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame de Paris, Eiffel Tower, Montmarte, The Avenue des Champs-Élysées to name a few we will give Paris our best shot!
Day 14 (28 September)
Today we continue to take in more sites such as the du musée de l'Armée, Napoleons Tomb and of course the Louvre.
In the evening we will gather together for one last hurrah as we thank Tara and enjoy and reflect on great trip we have just completed.
Day 15 (29 September)
Depart the hotel at 08:00 (please check out and be ready 15 mins prior to departure. Say goodbye to Paris bound for Australia with stopover in Singapore on the way back. Please check your flight itinerary for departure details.
*Please note this itinerary is subject to change during the trip each morning and evening we as a group will decided on where we go during the day and what we see. This flexibility will ensure that if there are events or activities that we find out about along the way then we will be able to attend.
*B=Breakfast, MT= Morning Tea, D = Dinner. When indicated below daily summary. All other meals and drinks etc. are at participants own expense.
*For those wearing uniform, the intention is to wear our uniforms for the duration of the tour starting prior to boarding the Eurostar and fin
Western Front Map
The British major offensive in Flanders 1917 was the Third Battle of Ypres. This offensive was designed to break through the German line and facilitate the Allies access to the Belgian coast, the location of the German submarine base. Several intense and costly battles took place between 31 July & 10 November 1917. The Australian Divisions participated in the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele.
In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties. The combined total of British and Dominion casualties has been estimated at 310,000 (estimated German losses were slightly lower) and no breakthrough was achieved. The costly offensives, ending with the capture of Passchendaele village, merely widened the Ypres salient