Western Front Signature Tour with Mat McLachlan

Tour

DEPARTS: Sunday, 4 July, 2021

$5699
9 Days
  • Price: per person, twin share
  • Single Supplement: $960
  • Deposit: $1000
A 9-day Western Front Signature Tour with Mat McLachlan – the only Western Front tour personally escorted by Mat in 2021.

Western Front Signature Tour with Mat McLachlan

A special note from Mat McLachlan: Welcome to my Signature Tour, the only Western Front tour I am personally escorting in 2021. I have hand-designed this itinerary to explore some of my favourite places on the Western Front, places that define the Australian spirit of mateship and sacrifice. Over nine days we will visit all the key Australian battlefields of the Ypres Salient, Flanders and the Somme, and enjoy a host of special inclusions that I have personally organised. Behind-the-scenes access, special events, wonderful dining experiences and, of course, the stories of the Anzacs who served on these sacred fields will all be part of this very special tour. I look forward to showing you the battlefields.

Itinerary

Day 1 > Sunday 4 July | Paris

Welcome to this very special journey. This evening, meet me, our tour escort and travelling companions at our Paris hotel. We will enjoy a welcome dinner together, the perfect opportunity to get to know each other better and discuss our upcoming journey in the footsteps of the Anzacs. (D)

STAR INCLUSION  Welcome dinner in Paris

Day 2 > Monday 5 July | Paris to Ypres

We will depart Paris this morning and drive north towards the Belgian border. Our first stop will be the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Experience – a unique attraction that allows visitors to take a look behind the scenes at the work that is required to commemorate the 1.7 million Commonwealth casualties from the First and Second World Wars. Our final destination is the town of Ypres, the scene of five huge battles during the war. On arrival we will enjoy a walking tour around the rebuilt town, seeing key sites associated with the town’s wartime history such as the magnificent Cloth Hall, Menin Gate and Ramparts Cemetery. As part of this walking tour I have arranged special access to the hidden rooms of the Ypres ramparts, the former headquarters of Allied generals including John Monash. These dusty vaults in the town’s walls were effectively impervious to shellfire and have changed little since 1918. This evening we will make our way to the Menin Gate for the Last Post service, the most moving commemorative service on the Western Front. The Ypres fire brigade has performed this bugle ceremony every day and in all-weather since 1928. The only interruption was during the four years of German occupation during WWII – the ceremony recommenced on the day the town was liberated. I have arranged for us to participate in the service, with two of our passengers laying a wreath on behalf of the group. (B)

STAR INCLUSIONS  CWGC Experience  Wreath Laying at the Last Post Service at the Menin Gate

Day 3 > Tuesday 6 July | The Ypres Salient

Join me today on an exploration of the Ypres Salient, one of the key Australian battlefields of the war. More than 30,000 Australians were killed or wounded in this small corner of Belgium. Today we will explore their legacy at key sites starting with the Passchendaele 1917 Museum. We will then continue to the 5th Australian Division Memorial at Polygon Wood and the Buttes New British Cemetery where we will see the graves of Private Hunter and Sergeant Calder, the two Australian soldiers who featured my documentary ‘Lost in Flanders’. We will enjoy a unique lunch at the Old Cheese Factory in Passchendaele, as well as sampling their famous Passchendaele beer. After lunch, we will get a taste of the devastation caused by four years of continuous artillery fire at the cratered landscape of Hill 60, before visiting Tyne Cot, the world’s largest Commonwealth war cemetery. Our final stop is at the German Cemetery at Langemark, where we will learn about the men on the other side of the line. As we drive back to Ypres, we will see the magnificent Canadian memorial at Langemark, marking the spot where poison gas was first used in the war. (B, L)

STAR INCLUSIONS  Ypres Salient battlefields including Passchendaele, Hill 60, Messines and more

Day 4 > Wednesday 7 July | Ypres

This morning our day will start with an exciting visit to ‘Pond Farm’ to view a unique private collection of war material that has all been found on the grounds of the owner’s farm. The highlight of our visit will be observing a replica Mark IV tank which is in full working order. A change of pace brings us to the Sint Bernardus Brewery in the village of Watou, where we will enjoy some free time for lunch and a tasting of their famous ‘Trappist’ beer, brewed by local monks for centuries. We will then drive to the nearby town of Poperinge, which was an important Allied support base during the war. While here, we will enjoy a guided tour of Talbot House, an ‘everyman’s club’ that provided respite to both officers and enlisted men during the war. While in the area, we will see the local prison, which features cells where convicted soldiers were held before being shot at dawn. The prison yard contains the original execution post, where the executions were carried out. Our next stop is Lijssenthoek Cemetery, one of the largest Commonwealth war cemeteries in the world, and the final resting place of thousands of brave soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries. This evening we will enjoy dinner in a wonderful local restaurant. (B, D)

STAR INCLUSIONS  Poperinghe and other battlefields in the Ypres Salient

Day 5 > Thursday 8 July | Ypres to the Somme

We farewell Ypres this morning and cross back into France. Our first stop is the very moving battlefield of Fromelles, scene of the most disastrous 24 hours in Australian military history. More than 5500 men where lost here during our first action on the Western Front, and we will pay our respects to them at the Australian Memorial Park and VC Corner Cemetery. We will also see the site of the mass grave at Pheasant Wood, and the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery and Fromelles Museum. Our final stop of the day is the battlefield at Bullecourt, where Australia lost more than 10,000 men in two great battles in 1917. Here we will see the moving Digger sculpture on the site of the Australian front line, and the Slouch Hat Memorial in the village. In the evening we will arrive in the town of Amiens, where we will check in to our hotel and enjoy dinner at a traditional French restaurant located along the Somme River. (B, L, D)

STAR INCLUSIONS  Fromelles    Bullecourt

Day 6 > Friday 9 July | Somme 1916

Today we will explore the killing fields of the Somme from 1916 and pay tribute to the men from all nations who perished in this bloody battle. Our first stop is Hawthorne Ridge Mine Crater, which was blown by the British on the first morning of the Somme battle.. Next, we will visit the Newfoundland Memorial Park, which contains a full sector of preserved battlefield, including British and German trench lines, with no man’s land in between. We will then travel on to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, which records the names of more than 72,000 men missing from the Somme fighting. Our next stop is Mouquet Farm and the village of Pozieres, scene of the most costly battle in Australian military history – 23,000 men were killed or wounded here in six weeks’ of fighting. We will pay tribute to them at the 1st Division Memorial and the Windmill Memorial in the town. We will return to Amiens where our evening is free. (B, L)

STAR INCLUSIONS  Somme 1916 battlefields including Thiepval, Pozieres, Mouquet Farm and more

Day 7 > Saturday 10 July | Somme 1918

This morning will begin with a tour of the magnificent Amiens Cathedral. This gothic masterpiece is larger than Notre Dame in Paris and survived both world wars. During our tour we will see memorials to the Allied nations that defended Amiens in 1918, including Australia. Leaving Amiens, we will explore the ground where Australian forces achieved so much in 1918. Our first stop is the village of Villers-Bretonneux, captured by Australian troops in one of the finest feats of the war. This is arguably Australia’s most important battlefield on the Western Front and there is much to see here. We will visit the Australian National Memorial, which contains the names of more than 10,000 Australians missing from fighting in France. While here we will also visit the Sir John Monash Interpretive Centre, which tells the complete story of Australia’s war on the Western Front. Next, we will visit the Victoria School Museum and see the famous sign that entreats the school children to ‘Never Forget Australia’. We will also visit Adelaide Cemetery, where Australia’s Unknown Soldier lay before being reinterred in Canberra. Leaving Villers-Bretonneux, we will visit the Australian Memorial Park at Hamel, the scene of General John Monash’s famous victory in July 1918. We will also see the site where the Red Baron was shot down by Australian troops in April 1918. We will then return to Amiens where our evening is free. (Please note that a mobile device with headphones is required for the visit to the Sir John Monash Centre.) (B)

STAR INCLUSIONS  Guided tour of Amiens Cathedral   Somme 1918 battlefields including Villers-Bretonneux, Sir John Monash Centre, Hamel and more

Day 8 > Sunday 11 July | Somme to Paris

Our final day on the battlefields begins with a visit to the former Australian HQ at the Chateau of Bertangles, where General John Monash commanded Australian operations in the first half of 1918. I have arranged for a private tour of the chateau and grounds and, during our exclusive access, we will see the rooms where Monash conceived the great Australian victories of 1918 and stand in the spot where Monash was knighted by King George V on the chateau steps. We then visit the underground tunnels of Naours, a tourist attraction that has been around since the 1800s and the place where many Australian soldiers left their mark with graffiti. After our visit we will enjoy lunch at the café onsite. Following this memorable walk through history, we will visit Vignacourt 14-18, a new photographic museum located in the old Thuillier family farmhouse. We will then farewell the battlefields and return to Paris. This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner while cruising on the River Seine, a wonderful farewell to one of the world’s great cities. (B, D)

STAR INCLUSIONS  Private access to Bertangles Chateau   Seine River cruise in Paris

Day 9 > Monday July 12 | Farewell

Sadly our tour in the footsteps of the Anzacs ends after breakfast. Thank you for joining me on this very special journey. (B)

Inclusions

  • Personally escorted by Mat McLachlan, the only Western Front tour he will lead in 2021
  • Custom-designed itinerary visiting Mat’s favourite sites in the Ypres Salient, French Flanders and the Somme
  • 8 nights’ upgraded accommodation from our regular tours – central Paris, Ypres and Amiens hotels
  • Deluxe coach transportation
  • Special access to exclusive sites, personally organised by Mat
  • Breakfast daily, 3 lunches and 4 dinners in delightful traditional restaurants
  • All entrance fees as per the itinerary
  • Autographed Copy of Mat’s definitive guide to the Western Front, Walking with the Anzacs

 

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Please note: Itineraries are subject to change due to operational reasons. In addition, your Historian may alter the sites visited on each day to suit local conditions. Any changes will be advised closer to the time of departure.

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