2nd September 2019
Based on his popular guidebook to the Western Front, Mat McLachlan has designed an itinerary which will allow you to see the battlefields as the Anzacs did – on foot. You will travel by comfortable touring coach to the key Australian battlefields in France and Belgium, and then join your Historian on walking tours across the fields and valleys that helped forge the Anzac legend. No other tour offers you the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Diggers, and to discover trenches, concrete pillboxes and relics from the fighting that still remain.
Welcome to our Western Front Walking Tour, a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the original Anzacs. This morning, the group will assemble at the Holiday Inn Express – Canal De La Villette Hotel in Paris at 8.30am for a 9.00am departure. We will leave Paris and drive north towards the Belgian border. Our first destination is the famous wartime town of Ypres, en-route we will stop to explore several interesting battlefield sites with our Historian, including the 1918 battlefield of Mont St Quentin and the shattered landscape of Hill 60. On arrival in Ypres we will check in to our hotel and walk to the Menin Gate, where the names of 54,000 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers are recorded, for the moving Last Post ceremony. The Ypres fire brigade has performed this bugle ceremony every day and in all-weather since the memorial opened in 1927. The only interruption was the four years of German occupation during the Second World War — the ceremony recommenced on the day the town was liberated. Two passengers will be invited to lay a wreath on behalf of our group. (D)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Mont St. Quentin ★ Hill 60 ★ Ypres ★ Last Post Ceremony ★ Welcome Dinner
Our journey in the footsteps of the Anzacs begins this morning as we take part in our first battlefield walk. We will travel in our touring coach to the nearby battlefield of Messines Ridge, where Australian, New Zealand and British troops achieved a magnificent victory in June 1917. Here we will enjoy a 17 kilometres walk (moderate intensity) around the battlefield, gaining a unique perspective of the ground fought over in this epic battle. Highlights include the sites where two Australians won the Victoria Cross, two of the huge mine craters that were detonated during the battle and several picturesque cemeteries where hundreds of Anzacs still lie. In the afternoon our touring coach will meet us in Messines Village and we will return to our Ypres hotel. A packed lunch is included today. (B, L)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ 17km walk ★ VC action sites ★ Messines mine craters
After breakfast we will continue our journey as we conduct shorter walking tours of the key battles in the notorious Ypres Salient – Polygon Wood and Passchendaele. On both battlefields we will learn about the extraordinary courage of the Anzac troops and visit the cemeteries where many of them still lie. Before our first walk, we will make a short stop at the Passchendaele Museum, a provocative collection of relics and displays that chronicles the fighting in Flanders. We then explore the Passchendaele battlefields on foot with our Historian, the walk is 7 kilometres of moderate intensity. Our touring coach will then drive us to Cafe de Dreve for lunch. The owner, Johan Vandewalle, will tell us about his discovery of the bodies of Private Hunter and Sergeant Calder in a Belgian field. Our next stop is The Polygon Wood walk, which is 2 kilometres of low intensity. At the end of this rewarding day we will return to our hotel in Ypres. (B, L)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ 7km Passchendaele walk ★ 2km Polygon Wood walk ★ Passchendaele Museum
This morning we farewell Ypres and drive a short distance to the infamous Australian battlefield of Fromelles. In July 1916 Australia’s first action on the Western Front resulted in our worst ever military disaster, with 5533 men lost in just 20 hours of fighting. We will spend the morning walking the ground where this disaster unfolded. The ground is flat but the battlefield is large and we will walk approximately 10 kilometres today. This emotional experience, one of the highlights of our entire tour, will give you a thorough understanding of why the attack went so terribly wrong, as you cross the fields where so many young Australians lost their lives. You will also see the site of the recently discovered mass grave at Pheasant Wood, and the cemetery where 250 Australian and British soldiers now lie. We will also visit the Fromelles museum, opened in 2014, which tells the story of Australia’s disastrous involvement in the battle of Fromelles in 1916. We will enjoy a picnic lunch today. In the afternoon we will travel on our touring coach to the Somme, stopping en-route to visit the battlefield at Bullecourt. In the evening we will check into our Somme hotel. (B, L)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ 10km Fromelles walk ★ Fromelles Museum ★ Bullecourt
This morning we will drive to small village of Pozieres, scene of the most costly battle in Australian history. 23,000 men were killed or wounded in the six weeks of fighting it took to secure the ruins of the village. Our final walk will be one of the most emotional, taking in the sites of four Australian Victoria Cross actions, three cemeteries and several Australian memorials. The walk is of moderate intensity with only a few uphill sections – we will cover about 10 kilometres on the battlefield. We will enjoy lunch at a local café. In the afternoon our touring coach will take us to visit other famous sites from the 1916 Somme fighting including Mouquet Farm, the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing and the preserved trenches at the Newfoundland Memorial Park. In the evening we will return to our Somme hotel. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B, L, D)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ 10km Pozieres walk ★ Mouquet Farm ★ Thiepval Memorial ★ Newfoundland Memorial Park
Our final day on the battlefields will be spent visiting the scenes of famous Australian actions on the Somme in 1918. Our touring coach will transport us to the Victoria School Museum in Villers-Bretonneux and the Australian National Memorial, where nearly 11,000 Australian soldiers missing from fighting in France are commemorated. We will also drive to the Australian Memorial Park at Hamel, scene of a great Australian victory in July 1918. We then farewell the battlefields and drive back to Paris, arriving at the Holiday Inn Express – Canal De La Villette Hotel at approximately 5pm. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Victoria School Museum ★ Australian National Memorial ★ Sir John Monash Interpretive Centre
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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.