Please note that the dates for these tours may vary from the guide below. No tours will be offered until international borders are open.
Today's emphasis was on the key battles of the Third Ypres campaign in which the two ANZAC Corps (I & II across which all five AIF Divisions were spread) were engaged in the period from the end of July until the end of November 1917
In order to brace ourselves for this campaign, we partook of another Belgian Breakfast before collecting our packed lunches, saddling up and heading out to the east of the city via the Menin Road. First stop, after passing 'Hellfire Corner', the Hooge Crater British cemetery and adjacent Hooge Crater complex.
Guide Steve Larkins provided an orientation and ground brief and a description of the Battle of Menin Road fought on 20 Sep 1917. VC winner Paddy Bugden's grave was located and his story outlined.
The 'anomaly' of Roy Inwood's VC won 'at Polygon Wood' on 21 September was explained. His action was actually part of the Menin Road battle which exploited in to the western edge of the wood, from whence the attacks of 26 September were mounted.
Driver Serge was not as familiar with the geography as others and with guide Steve Larkins' attention distracted while addressing questions, we ended up in a broad enveloping manoeuvre of Polygon Wood that turned out to have been the best option anyway due to more roadworks on the approach to Polygon Wood along its western approaches.
After a Battle Brief on the Buttes cemetery and inspection of the grounds, the less mobile headed for the bus. The remainder elected to do the forest walk to Black Watch corner and a few intrepid souls headed into the forest and located several of the bunkers which opposed the Australian advance.
Next stop Johan Vanderwhal's 'ANZAC Rest Café & Bar'. We picked up the walkers and with Johan not yet in attendance we completed a memorial commemoration at the Polygon Wood cemetery and fed a very friendly donkey who brayed his disappointment at our departures. ANZAC Rest by this time was open for business and Johan regaled us with stories of his key project the Brothers in Arms Memorial and an excellent video on the Third Ypres campaign.
From there we headed for Broodseinde Ridge where tour group Member and author Bob Kearney Steve Larkins explained the detail of an action on 9 October when the 10th Battalion undertook an ill-fated raid on Celtic Wood. This raid has been the subject of great speculation and at least two books, with inferences and speculation that the patrol had 'disappeared' or had met with foul play as prisoners of the Germans. Bob's book, through painstaking primary source research of unit Field Returns, has accounted for every man, none of whom were taken prisoner. Thirty seven of the eighty eight man patrol were killed.
Then it was on to Tyne Cot Cemetery where tour members joined with Susie Nichols to commemorate Arthur Jacobs who was killed in the 10th Battalion's position on Broodseinde Ridge on 7 October 1917 by shellfire, and then we commemorated Albert Norman Rae, a contemporary of Arthur Jacobs a newly promoted 2LT who epitomised the adage 'One pip, one stunt' having been killed in the Celtic Wood raid.
We had an early afternoon and an early dinner so we could take part in the Last Post ceremony where our group laid a wreath. Our wreath-laying party comprised Carol Procter and sister Suzanne Watt, Sandra Turner and Nic Egan, who acquitted themselves admirably.
And so concluded the Western Front component of our tour. Tomorrow we head for Normandy and 'Fast Forward' 27 years to 1944. We will return to France with the cry "En avant marche".