This page is a bit on the long side but it's well worth reading. It tells you something about the background to battlefield tours in general, and more about the different options open to you.
As our name suggests, we specialise in self-
The first battlefield tours
Almost as soon as the Great War came to an end in November 1918 visitors flocked to the battlefields; either out of curiosity or to visit the grave of a loved one, or even sadder, to visit the general area where a loved one fell and whose remains had not been found. Some even made the journey whilst the war was still being fought.
The Michelin Tyre Company was one of the first commercial companies offering guided tours to the battlefields of France and Belgium . They published a guide to the battlefields in 1919 (yes – in 1919!) with fascinating pictures of the recently abandoned battlefields with all the material of warfare still littering the battered shell pocked landscapes such as shown here -
Visiting the battlefields today
Perhaps the two most visited battlefields today are the Somme in northern France and Ypres in Belgium. Ypres is now spelt the Flemish way ‘Ieper’ (and that's with an 'i' not an 'L' as some often think).
It’s best for the moment to stay focused on these two hugely significant battlefields and perhaps venture further afield later in your travels. The closest English Channel crossing route for both the Somme and Ypres (Ieper) is Dover/Folkestone–Calais.
Visitors to the battlefields today are basically faced with one of three choices, namely:
Let's look at these three options in more detail in the following sections.
Option 1 -
Those who are familiar with crossing the English Channel by either Eurotunnel or ferry and driving on the 'wrong side' may feel confident in making their own way to the battlefields. Ypres is about one hour's drive (east) from Calais. Albert (Somme) is just over one and a half hour's drive (south east) from Calais.
By far and away the biggest drawback to visiting the battlefields under one's own steam is that it can be very difficult to relate the battlefield today to the battlefield of 1914-
The problem with the many excellent books that have been written on the subject of the Great War is that they invariably lack adequate maps and plans to the detail that the battlefield visitor needs. This is the biggest problem and one we have strived to overcome with our unique Self-
Option 2 -
People who wish to visit the battlefields of the Great War understandably may first think of a conducted tour. However, for those truly seeking to reveal the true legacy of the Great War, nothing can beat the freedom of exploring the battlefields without the constraints of a coach/minibus group dictating the pace.
Visiting the battlefields as part of a conducted tour can be frustrating as the tour organiser has to keep to a fixed timetable and itinerary, often limiting stops to 20-
If you have your heart set on a conducted tour, which in fairness can offer good value for money, starting from the UK then there are many companies to choose from (as you may have seen when searching the Internet!), some better than others.... Most of these companies employ well qualified and experienced battlefield guides. I’ve never seen quite so many small tour operators pop up over the past few years but the best we know are Bartlett’s Battlefield Journeys which has been established (like us) for many years and specialises in small-
OPTION 3 -
Either read on or jump straight to our page dedicated to self-
A variation on the 'DIY theme' is taking a self-
This material includes all the maps, plans and directions you will need – so much so that you will be able to trace the exact course of the Front Line, even if it means following it across public car parks, housing estates or wherever! We are the only company offering these unique Somme and Ypres battlefield guides.
You can now combine the flexibility of a Self-
Consider avoiding French (Somme) and Belgian (Ypres) public holidays?
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Video guide to our guides!
What our Self-
The Western Front
A reminder of what our
And remember. . .
Paul Nash ‘The Menin Road’
. . .and today
“A devastated battlefield pocked with rain-
and driving times
(click to enlarge)
Click here for a PDF version
to all who fell l in the
Great War 1914-
Years ago as a young father of two children I came across this poem by E A Mackintosh.
I’m not a poetry buff but that said, this poem really did strike a chord with me. . .
(click the image above)
The Schlieffen Plan
The appalling casualties of 1914 leading to stagnation of the Western Front as
shown below. The final push by the Germans in 1918 is shown as a single yellow line. The hugely successful and costly British counter attack pushed the Germans back to their borders and brought the war to an end . . .
These images are just some of the literally hundreds of thousands of epitaphs the next of kin were able to have added to their fallen warrior's headstone
(most often at a cost…)
NB. Flash Player may not be compatible with iPhones/iPads & some other
devices s so you may just see a single image above.
The term ‘warrior’ is used as the fallen include naval personnel
serving with the army and airmen in what became the Royal Air Force.
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd
19 Old Road, Wimborne, Dorset, UK BH21 1EJ
Tel: 07776 195773 (office) or 01202 840520 (home/out of office phone)
Our helpful guide to planning your tour, including cost options and much more.
(click above file icon to open a PDF file in a new window)
(get free PDF reader here)