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World War 1 Trenches

We want to see some World War 1 trenches. Not the recreated ones..I understand there are places where they have been excavated and put in good enough shape to see them more like they originally were. We will be in Belgium and the north part of France. Any suggestions?

Posted by
1035 posts

Ypres, Belgium (and much of Flanders for that matter) have plenty of places you can view old trenches. One warning though, they have been filled in with vegetation, so it takes a small amount of imagination to absorb what occurred in them.

Posted by
14580 posts

Lisa, You're going to be in the area of France which I most often visit and take in the sights. As regards to the WW I trenches you want to see in northern France, go to Vimy, very moving and close to Arras in the Nord Pas-de-Calais area. The big Canadian monument is at Vimy and part of the grounds is cordoned off where trenches used to be. From Arras to Paris is by the TGV, ca. 45 mins.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks everyone for your help. I will be coming into Europe through Amsterdam, and don't want to go too far south into France. If I do go to Flanders, where would I need to go to see them? I know nature has taken back the trenches to some extent, but I am more interested in seeing the real ones.
I haven't done much research into this side trip. The planning just started yesterday. So any help you can give me would be great. Is there a book on where to go to see the various battlesites?

Posted by
1035 posts

I took a tour with this company: http://www.salienttours.be/ They are based in Ypres. These tours are pretty inexpensive compared to a Normandy tour. They will show you all sorts of trenches as well as major bomb craters. One of these craters was filled in with water, and has lilly pads, and a bike path around it. You'd never guess its origin. More to your point though, they will take you to a site you can't gain access to on your own, as it is private property. This site has a really well-preserved British trench. A local historical group has reconstructed it to look like it would have circa 1916. You can walk through the trench system to get an idea of what the trenches were really like. More info on it here: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/ypres-salient/museum-sanctuary-wood.htm If you drive up to this site, you need to have a key to the gate to gain access, which is why you need to take a private tour to see it. A night in Ypres is worthwhile as you can see the Last Post ceremony at 8:00 pm at Menin Gate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menin_Gate It is a really goose-bump inducing tradition.

Posted by
32944 posts

Can I humbly suggest finding a car and going to Hill 62 in Sanctuary Wood . I have found few more moving places in my life. Trenches, small craters, huge craters, all on top of each other. You can't walk 5 feet without running into something. I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like to live and die there.

Posted by
17 posts

Yes we plan to have a car, Nigel. I want to see trenches and craters, instead of memorials. Your advise sounds good, I had also read about this are online. Does one need a guided tour, or is it possible to go on one's own? Is it about 4 hours from Amsterdam? Any other suggestions, anyone?

Posted by
32944 posts

I make it closer to 3 hours, but you can never know if you will run into traffic in the Randstat or Antwerpen. We went as a couple, certainly not on a tour. I hope you can also get to the Menin Gate in Ypres for the sounding of the Last Post.

Posted by
434 posts

In 2004 my husband and I were in the Somme to visit a number of the WW1 sites. I would highly recommend Vimy Ridge and Beaumont Hamel, which are close to Arras. Both will give you an emotional view of the battles fought by the Canadians and Newfoundlanders during WW1. There are trenches, tunnels and motar shell holes at both sites. The tunnels have been fortified and made safe for viewing, but most of the trenches are in the original shape.