Australian Battlefields of World War 1 Tour France and Belgium 2020
When Australian troops were deployed to the Western Front in France and Belgium in 1916, the war had been going there for two years; there was an unbroken line of trenches from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. To the east stood Germany. To the West stood the French, British, Belgian and Portuguese allies. This line was established in 1914, and had not moved much.
The four Australian Divisions, only two of which were fully combat experienced, were committed to Field Marshal Haig’s 1916 offensive under British generals whose training and experience had been in the conflicts of a past century. Our soldiers fought hard but tactical, technical and command shortcomings meant many lives were lost for little gain.
In the next two years, our soldiers and their commanders learned their trade better than most of the others. Perhaps it was a kind of egalitarian spirit growing up in a society where authority tended to be discounted by the need to tame a savage environment. Perhaps it was a lack of military tradition that favoured innovation over the time honoured. Nonetheless in 1918, it was the Australian Corps of five divisions commanded by a brilliant engineer, a first generation Australian of Central European Jewish heritage (General Monash), who showed the World how the war could be won and played a large part in the 100 day offensive that forced its conclusion.
On this tour you will follow the course of Australia’s War from the horrendous losses at Fromelles and Pozieres in 1916 to the turning points at Dernancourt and Villers-Bretonneux early in 1918 then to the triumph of the Battles of Amiens and great bend of the Somme. We will follow the footsteps of our soldiers to the furthest place east they reached, Montbrehain.
The service Battlefield History tours is renown for is making certain you get to visit the areas where your ancestors fought. Let us know who your ancestors were and we will make certain, within the scope of the tour, that you get walk in their footsteps. If they paid the ultimate price, a grave or memorial site visit will be facilitated where possible.
Cost: Tour from $5,700.00 (10 days / 9 nights) per person twin share, single supplement $750.00
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20 April 2020 - PARIS: This is the day when guests gather at our Paris hotel and are met by their historian/guides. The day and evening are free to relax and meet other guests.
21 April 2020 - THE SOMME: Our tour departs for the Somme from our Paris hotel, at 09h00.Guests are to be at the hotel by 08h30.
We will first visit the Glade of the Armistice, including the Museum. Lunch will be at the Aire de Ressons. Then on to Peronne to visit the Grande Guerre Museum. In the evening after settling intoour hotel, we will attend a briefing to look at our touring plan. Dinner in our Hotel. B/D
22 April 2020 - THE SOMME: After breakfast your coach will depart for our first day's touring the Somme battlefields. Your military historian/guide travelling with you will brief you during the day on events and the significance of the places you visit.
During the touring days, armed with a box lunch, you will visit many of the battle sites, memorials and cemeteries of the Somme, today we intend to visit sites of the 1916 and 1917 battles, the Lochnagar Crater, Pozieres, Thiepval, Beaumont Hamel, Flers, and Bullecourt. B/L/D
23 April 2019 – THE SOMME: Today we will visit the first of the 1918 battle sites; we will start the day at Villers-Bretonneux where we will visit the Sir John Monash Centre (the Centre is high tech, make certain you have your smart 'phone and a set of earphones) the Australian National Memorial, battle sites, Victoria School and Adelaide Cemetery. Then on to Dernancourt, Sailly le Sec and Le Hamel, site of the battle where the Australians showed the world how a modern battle can be won. B/L/D
24 April 2019 – THE SOMME: Today, you will again be led through the Somme battlefields of 1918 by your historian. Our plan today is to visit Heath Cemetery Harbonnieres, where we will discuss the battle of Amiens, onto the Great Bend in the Somme for Mont St Quentin, then the German cemetery at Maissemy, Bellenglise, the StQuentin Canal at Riqueval, and where the Australian Corps under General Monash finished their war at Montbrehain. B/L/D
25 April 2020 – ANZAC DAY – THE SOMME: ANZAC Day, on the 102nd Anniversary of the Australian attack on Villers-Bretonneux. An early wake up call then coffee and tea in your hotel lobby before we board for the Dawn Service. On arrival you will be ushered into the area at the base of the Memorial for the traditional Dawn Service. At the completion of the Service there will be time at the Memorial to inspect the area before our coach arrives to take us into Villers-Bretonneux.
In Villers-Bretonneux village there will be conducted an ANZAC Day March to the town square, approximately300 metres. Following the March we will have something special planned for our ANZAC Day breakfast. Following breakfast we return to our hotels and the afternoon is free to relax unless there is an opportunity to attend any other Government Service that is planned. Dinner is in your hotel. B/L/D
26 April 2020 – IEPER: Today we travel north from the Somme to Vimy Ridge, Fromelles, Ploegsteert Wood and Messines before reaching our Ieper hotel, our accommodation city for the next three nights. B/L/D
27 April 2020 – IEPER: After breakfast, we have a change of pace. Just relax or take your coach to Bruges for a sightseeing and shopping excursion where the lace and chocolates are said to be the best in the world. The coach will return to Ieper mid afternoon which will allow further time to explore Ieper. Tonight, we will attend the last post ceremony at the Menin Gate. B/D
28 April 2020 – IEPER - BRUSSELS: Our last day on the battlefields will take us to those famous battle sites in the Ieper Salient such as Hill 60, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele and finally a visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery. In the afternoon we will travel to Brussels where we will spend the evening in our hotel near the Airport. B/L/D
29 April 2020–BRUSSELS: This morning following breakfast, our tour concludes. B
Your Tour Leader Lieutenant Colonel John Howells OAM RFD (Ret'd)
John is a retired Army Reserve Armoured Corps officer who served 32 years in the Defence Force Permanent and Reserve. In civil life he worked for the National Archives as a manager then major Banks managing IT systems.
He has worked on and led battlefield tours since 2008 to locations including Turkey, France, Greece, South Africa and the Solomon Islands.