Does anyone have experience with professional tours of World War I battlefields in the area of eastern France? I am thinking of spending three weeks in London in August or September 2014 and then go to France to see these battlefields on the 100th anniversary of WWI. Or are there local tours of one day's duration where I could make my own housing and travel arrangements at each site? Thanks Geor(ge) (not the Prince of Cambridge)
Well, that's just your bad luck!
Hi, Which places in particular? Where the Americans were, mainly, ie, their monuments, cemeteries, etc. or where the Germans were? I can't give any information on local tours. I've only tracked some of these sites myself. Ask the tourist office in towns which were in the fighting areas,,,Reims, Chateau Thierry, Soissons, Metz, etc.
Fred: I am interested in visiting the battlefields where the largest number of combatants were engaged such as Somme, Verdun.... Because the USA did not enter the war until years after it started these would be battlefields involving mostly British and French combatants. What is of interest are the trenches, fortifications, no mans land.... as opposed to monuments and cemeteries though those will surely be visited. Geor(ge)
Geor, The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial has some preserved trenches you can walk through. There is a unique WWI museum in Albert that is worth a stop. Unfortunately I can't help you with any tour guide recommendations.
Hi, I can speak to the Somme area up north. See Arras, Compiegne, Peronne, Vimy, Albert, Beaumont Hamel, as suggested above. The city hall in Arras (the BEF's GHQ) is where the tourist office is located, alot information there as well as the museum on the subject. Ask about tours there. Between the Somme and Arras the countryside is dotted with British and Commonwealth cemeteries. Large British military cemetery (next to the current French Army caserne) from WW I at the edge of Arras...over an hour by foot from the train station.
Arras is worthwhile because it was in the action in both 20th Century world wars. It is quite picturesque, its Northern France architecture (and cuisine) showing influences from Belgium/Netherlands. It is also the base for the nearby Vimy Ridge battlefield, of particular interest to Canadians,and where the free tour shows the importance of tunnels as well as trenches in the WW1 fighting.
Hi, It would be worth it to use Arras as a base to see Vimy as suggested above. In the centre ville of Arras is a memorial plaque on a building indicating the last British unit to pull out in 1940 (Welsh Guards?), then in 1944 the same first unit had the distinction to enter as the city's liberators. There is also another memorial plaque on the ground also in the centre ville on the events of May 1940 refering to the surprise British counter strike at Rommel's flank against his "Ghost Division." (Gespenst Division) The car rental companies are to the left of the train station. If you decide on that, before reaching Vimy from Arras you go through Neuville St. Vlaast...very well worth seeing on WW I on what's there.
We did a day tour of Somme with a company called Western Front Tours. (www.westernfronttours.com.au) Tour commenced in Arras at 9.00am and finished there at 6.00pm (a delicious lunch in Albert was included). Took just over an hour from Paris on the TGV. Our guide and owner of the company, Peter Norton has an incredible depth of knowledge of this area and the battles which were fought there. The day we spent on this tour is one of the most memorable in all of our many travels through Europe. The tour we took was 'Out in the Somme'
If you mean eastern France perhaps you are considering Verdun and points further east? Not much of interest on a relative scale compared to locations cited by people earlier. Leger Tours... is a well known operator that can provide options for battlefield tours from Britain to the Continent. Read about battles that interest you to narrow down where you might want to go.
Look at the American Battle Monuments Commission website: http://www.abmc.gov/home.php Knowing where the monuments/cemeteries are is half the battle (not a pun). From there you can travel all over the areas to see local sites. Contact them to see if they can recommend tours of the area. If you rent a car, you really don't need the tours, there's a lot of smaller areas that are well marked that the big tours don't hit. We've seen many, many of them and self-guided is really the way to go. Plus, all of the cemeteries have memorial services for memorial day each year, so contact the ABMC to find out which areas will also have 100th year celebrations, I know many are in the works.
WWI, Gallipoli, Western Front and the Somme in particular plays a very significant part in Australian history. A country with a population at that time of 4.1 million people saw 62,000 young men die and 152,000 wounded. A large number of them on the Western Front. If you visit the town of Villers Brettoneux the contribution made by the Aussies is well documented.
Slightly off topic: While you're in London, if you have a whole day to spare the Tank Museum in Bovington Camp has a very interesting exhibit on trench warfare (tanks were invented to break the trench warfare stalemate). I had no interest in tanks until I got there and was fascinated for about five hours.
Thank you for all of your comments and suggestions. I looked at all the web sites and they are interesting. For some reason my lengthy response was not allowed to be posted so I will leave it at that.
Hello there, I'd recommend basing yourself at Ieper/Ypres in Belgium for a couple of nights and doing a day tour from there. An easy train ride from Brussells. Albion Hotel is very good accommodation - http://www.albionhotel.be/ We did our tours with Flanders Battlefield Tours - http://www.ypres-fbt.com/ very moving to relive the horror of that time. You'll visit cemeteries and parts of the front line.
If you stay in Ieper/Ypres make sure you attend the playing of the last post at the Menin Gate – apart from some years during WW2 it's been played every night at 8:00pm since the end of WW1 – a truly moving experience – have a read of this http://www.fylde.demon.co.uk/menin.htm
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We are just back from a drive around the WWI battle areas. At Verdun, i hired a guide by email in advance, based on a reference on tripadvisor from someone who had found her on site. We chose to do her 4-hour visit but she also does full days. We took in the main sights there. She is Florence Lamousse and her site is lorrainetouristique.com. Her cell is 06 89 22 10 43. Her English is excellent. By the way, we kept finding cemeteries and monuments -- American, French, British, German -- just as we drove along in Argonne. We especially recommend a visit to our largest US cemetery in Europe at Meuse-Argonne. It is stunning and almost unvisited. We should be very proud of the American Battlefields Commission for the beauty of our cemeteries. (sea so stumbled upon a smaller British cemetery near Lille (called Dud cemetery) which is also stunningly maintained by the Brits.