Welcome to my battlefield tours page
Should you be thinking of taking a battlefield tour, I have outlined below some places that I find interesting, and you may not have heard of. Many are not found in the standard tour guides, and the physical evidence of the events they witnessed is not always obvious. These are places I have discovered through years of personal research while living in the local community, the details of which have been passed down through the local generations.
To bring these very personalised tours to life I incorporate artefacts from my own museum, as well as maps, contemporary photographs and an in depth knowledge of the landscape. I was brought up on ‘Boys Own’ adventure stories (perhaps more relevant to people of a certain age!), so I have sought out places and events that particularly interest me. Some are well known – many are not, but all are important in understanding the realities of the World’s first global conflict.
The First World War is a deeply ambiguous and complex subject, and I enjoy learning from my guests as I pass my knowledge to them. My tours do not cater for large groups and you will not find big air-conditioned coaches parked outside my museum. My tours are personal, educational and reciprocal. There are no time limits, complex itineraries or commercial tie-ins with tourist attractions. Here you will see the real battlefield and discover the forgotten landscapes of war.
I know from years of experience that battlefield touring can be a tiring business, so the pace of the day is entirely dictated by what you would like to see. Timings are flexible and should you want to visit a particular location, or plan a tour around the experience of an individual I am happy to help – just let me know in advance. I live on the Kemmelberg, in the heart of the Flanders battlefield, a place traumatised by more than four years of war. The peaceful countryside has now returned, but I always invite my guests to enjoy a cup of tea with me in the garden and then visit my museum next door to get a better sense of what the area would have been like a century ago.
TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION
Accommodation can be arranged in selected hotels and guesthouses either in Ieper (Ypres), Poperinge or the scenic Heuvelland countryside. The area is known for its fine food and prize-winning beer, as well as its scenic walks, and years of history before 1914.
Flying into Paris
Take the TGV from Paris to Lille and then a local train to Bailleul where you will be collected. Pick up from Lille can be arranged for a modest fee (full details and timings on request).
Flying into Brussels
Take the train from Brussels to Ieper (Ypres) where you will be collected (full details and timings on request).
From Lille take a local train to Bailleul where you will be collected. Pick up from Lille can be arranged for a modest fee (full details and timings on request).
I look forward to meeting you.
All my standard tours visit selected cemeteries, museums, bunkers, trenches and mine craters in the area, giving guests a basic grounding in how the war affected this part of Belgium. I also like to show where gallantry medals were won, revealing personal stories of bravery and valour, reminding us that the conflict may have been waged with vast armies, but these mighty forces were made up of individuals.
MUSEUM, TEST FIRE AND TOUR OF FROMELLES
This tour will be starting in 2018 and will only be available on Wednesdays
Morning: Innovative and informative talk on small arms of the conflict at my museum.
Late morning: Guests invited to choose from a selection of firearms they would like to test fire. I am a licensed firearms dealer and have an extensive collection of First World War firearms, allowing guests a true feel for the weaponry of the conflict.
Lunch: Lunch at the shooting club.
Afternoon: Test firing selected firearms under professional supervision.
Late afternoon: Return to the museum via Fromelles
MESSINES AND THE MINE WAR
The Battle of Messines was one of the most successful Allied assaults of the war. On 7th June 1917, 19 enormous mines were detonated beneath the German trenches in the space of 30 seconds. It was the largest man-made explosion in history, and it demonstrated just how far warfare had progressed.
Collection from Ieper (Ypres) via Zillebeke then the mine tour starts at Hill 60 and follows the Messines Ridge all the way to Ploegsteert Wood. The history of the area and the importance of the battle will be explained, mine craters visited, little known places explored and sites of heroism (on all sides) will be investigated.
BOS GRENIER (THE NURSERY SLOPES) FROMELLES,
AUBERS RIDGE AND NEUVE CHAPELLE
An all day extensive tour of the Fromelles Battlefield covering the four main battles that occurred there. We explore the unforgiving landscape on which the fighting took place, the many different nations that fought, how the battles affected the war in general and how lessons were learned that were later put into practice elsewhere on the Western Front. Before ending the tour at Bois Grenier we will visit Neuve Chapelle, where the British Army was first exposed to the realities and horrors of trench warfare.
LOCAL AREA TOUR
The battlefields of the war extended far beyond the front line trenches. Often forgotten by visitors to the old front lines, the area behind the trenches was essential to the war’s prosecution. Men had to be accommodated and trained, religions had to be practised, stores amassed, ammunition collected, horses fed, justice and punishments handed out, the dead buried and a multitude of other things demanded by a world at war. This tour takes in Poperinge and Tubby Clayton’s famous Toc H, as well as a visit to the notorious execution cell & post. The imposing and thought provoking Lissenhoek cemetery is visited, as is the Scherpenberg – used by the King George V and his Commanders to view so much of the terrible fighting. We also explore the Kemmelberg and it’s tragic memorials, examining the battles that ravaged the lonely hill. Much of the immediate area was vital during the preparations for the Battle of Messines, and the sites of former, HQ’s, hospitals, shelters, POW camps and mine craters are also explored. We finish with a private tour of my museum, refreshments and a lively discussion.
NEUVE CHAPELLE, GIVENCHY AND LE PARADIS TOUR
These places were the scene of terrible fighting, particularly at the beginning and end of the war, yet to a large extent the titanic clashes of 1916 and 1917 have overshadowed events at Neuve Chapelle, Givenchy and Aubers Ridge. The tour shines a light on these ghosts of the conflict, covering the initial battles of 1914 and 1915 as well as the final stages of the war when the Allies again fought over this ground. The tour finishes with a visit to La Paradis, where in 1940 the SS Totenkopf murdered 97 men of the Norfolk Regiment. Only two survived to tell the tale, showing how the area still carries the legacy of both World Wars.
BATTLE OF THE MENIN ROAD AND BROODSEINDE RIDGE TOUR
Visit the many things to see along the Menin Rd before following the Anzac’s onto Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, Broodseinde, Celtic Wood, Gravenstafel, Tyne Cot, Bellevue Spur and finally onto Passchendaele.
This unique museum contains hundreds of firearms and a plethora of other associated artefacts. Many of the firearms have personal stories attached to them; some were used during actions that resulted in gallantry awards, others in the daily grind of attritional warfare. The conflict produced an incredible variety of weaponry and ammunition, which together narrates the story of the war through the very objects that were essential in waging it.
The collection is amongst the most comprehensive in Flanders and its purpose is to teach and inform visitors of the role played by weaponry in warfare. The collections will be left in trust for future generations to learn from and enjoy.
If you have a specific region or place that you would like to visit let me know and I can put together an itinerary.
One-Day WW1 Battlefield tours €300
(Max 3 persons)
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