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NEWS

Thiepval Memorial app

2018 avoid Cat Festival (Ypres)

Third Battle of Ypres / Passchendaele commemorations 2017

Visitor improvements - Ypres - Hill 6o and The Bluff

Western Front Association articles of interest

Speed limits for those visiting Belgium

Western Front Association videos

The Everlasting Conundrum Of The Casualties on the Western Front in the Great War

Thiepval Memorial app
If you are visiting the Thiepval Memorial (Somme) then consider downloading a dedicated app produced by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission which allows you to search the names of the missing.  Click here for more details.

Ypres Cat Festival

If you are thinking a booking a Ypres self-drive tour for May 2018  may be avoid the weekend of 12-13 May as this is when the famous ‘Cat Festival’ takes place and which tends to dominate the town.

Third Battle of Ypres (aka ‘Passchendaele’) commemorations July 2017

A number of commemorative events will see a traditional Last Post ceremony take place at the Menin Gate memorial to the missing in Ypres on Sunday 30 July, the eve of the centenary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele.  This will be immediately followed by a multi-media cultural event combining live performance and projection mapping in Market Square.


The following day, Monday 31 July, there will be a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Tyne Cot Cemetery.  Entry for this event will be by ticket only and applicants are invited to enter a ballot for a pair of tickets.  The ballot for tickets to Tyne Cot, and further information concerning commemorations on 30 and 31 July this year, can be found by clicking here.


Click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website where further details can also be found.

It goes without saying that Ypres will be a very busy town over the period 29 July - 1 August, so if you are thinking of taking a Self-Drive tour with us over this period then please book as far ahead as possible as hotel accommodation is filling fast!


Hill 60 (Ypres)

All the below changes have been included in our 2017 Ypres Self-Drive Guide.


Hill 60 remains exactly as it was in the Great War, but a new car park has now been constructed on your left just before you reach Hill 60 (and not just past the Hill as described in our guide).  A new gate leading from the car park and the installation of a much needed raised wooden pathway has been constructed, but continue off the pathway to see the concrete gun emplacement etc further in to the remains of Hill 60 as described in our guide. The newly constructed raised pathway also includes embedded markers depicting the respective Front Lines as the battles ebbed one way and the other.  


A new addition for visitors is to the site of previously more concealed Caterpillar Mine Crater on the other side of the railway cutting (in some way a ‘mirror’ of Hill 60).  As you will see from our guide, the cutting of the railway in the late eighteen hundreds resulted in a significant pile of spoil being deposited either side of the railway cutting. These to ‘piles’ went on to form two small hillocks, which in turn went on to be fought over throughout the Great War (especially Hill 60 which was the taller of the two) as whoever held the high ground had a significant visual advantage.  A new access pathway to the Caterpillar mine crater has now been constructed.  Just walk over the newly constructed bridge and you’ll see the new pathway and excellent information board on your left.  Just follow the pathway for about 50 metres and you’ll come to an amazing site, for the formally hidden crater has now been cleared for all to see (and the remains of a German bunker on your right just before you reach the crater, which used to be hidden amongst dense undergrowth, has also been revealed!).


Section C (The Bluff) Ypres
The only change here is the installation of an excellent raised wooded pathway and information station just before you reach the craters described in our guide.  Before the installation of the wooden walkway one had to get the best view possible from the wide track described in our guide.  Now you can take a journey through the multiple mine craters in a way that would have been impossible before due to the denseness of the undergrowth and risk of falling (most likely in to one of the craters!).  Take a few moments to study the diagrams forming part of the metal information station as they clearly show the layout of the trenches and mines.  Also keep a lookout for the respective Front Lines being shown as they are now embedded in to the pathways at various pints in a similar way to what you will have seen at Hill 60.

Belgium Speed Limits

Visiors to Belgium should be aware that the general default speed limit in Belgium was reduced on 1 January 2017 from 90km/hr to 70km/hr. The old limit now only applies where there are 90km/hr signs. The 50km/hr limit in villages and built-up areas is unchanged but more 30km/hr zones are promised. 1 Jan also saw the roll-out of digital speed cameras and ANPR systems.


Western Front Association videos

Click here to go to an excellent recently released collection of videos produced by the Western Front Association.


The Everlasting Conundrum Of The Casualties on the Western Front in the Great War

Click here for an interesting commentary on the issues which contribute to formulating an accurate record of casualties in the Great War.






Interesting articles from the Western Front Association:






LINKS
To help you learn more about the Great War (click logos - opens in new window)




The official searchable register of all British military deaths - and a lot more!. Perhaps the most important web site for those researching British and Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in all wars.






The War Memorials Trust works for the protection and conservation of war memorials in the UK. They provide advice and information to anyone as well as running grant schemes for the repair and conservation of war memorials. The website provides a range of resources to help you discover more about local war memorials and their preservation.




The WFA was formed with the aim of furthering interest in the period 1914-1918, to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of those of all sides who served their countries in France and Flanders and their own countries and during the Great War. An excellent source for anyone researching the Great War.










The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK's year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country. A living and lasting memorial.




The Imperial War Museum’s searchable register of UK war memorials.



Two quest of two men to photograph every British military cemetery across the world - an amazing feat! (see also the CWGC website which also allows you to search cemeteries, as well as war dead)





The Imperial War Museums of the United Kingdom. A rich collection of featured archive material spanning all wars.




An eclectic mix of photos, videos and more. Well worth having a root around. . .



The original aim of The War Graves Photographic Project was to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, Ministry of Defence grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day. However, due to its popularity the team have now extended their remit to cover all nationalities and military conflicts and make these available within a searchable database.




The gateway to the BBC’s extensive coverage of the centenary of the First World War



A superb collection of French photographs of the Great War.



‘Ancestry is a superb website (with a cost…) which allows you to search millions of UK records.  This link will take you to a special WW1 feature.








For over 12 years now the BBJ Collection has been supplying individuals, museums and visitor centres with products commemorating the First and Second World Wars, and is now a valued distributor of goods to many organisations on the Western Front. Thanks to this experience, the range of souvenirs and gifts has been specially selected, and in some cases, specifically designed to meet the requirements of customers. 

Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd knows this company personally (they are dedicated WWI enthusiasts and professional guides) and are pleased to recommend their products.


What our Self-Drive guides look like video

The Western Front


Western_Front Self_Drive_Guide_video


Paul Nash ‘The Menin Road’
and today. . .

“A devastated battlefield pocked with rain-filled shell-holes, flooded trenches and shattered trees lit by unearthly beams of light from an apocalyptic sky. Two figures pick their way along a tree-lined road, the road punctuated by shell-holes and lined by tree stumps. The foreground is filled with concrete blocks, barbed wire and corrugated iron, while columns of mud from artillery fire rise up in the background.”


Battlefield locations
and driving times
(click to enlarge)
Click here for a PDF version

Our tribute
to all who fell l in the
Great War 1914-1918


Memorial_video

In Memoriam
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 ‘Schlieffen Plan’ (above) and the appalling casualties of 1914 leading to stagnation of the Western Front as
shown above.

 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 . . .





An excellent website packed with useful information and helpful links.



Helpful downloads

Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd
19 Old Road, Wimborne, Dorset, UK BH21 1EJ
Tel: 07776 195773  (office) or 01202 840520 (home/out of office phone)
Email: jamespower@btinternet.com







Forces War Records is a professional military genealogy specialist website that holds over 7 million records, all transcribed here in the UK for maximum accuracy.


The site has a wealth of original historic documents, including newspapers, personal diaries, books and periodicals, with several collections that can’t be found anywhere else.



Poem by E.A Mackintosh Battlefield_locations

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)

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Guide to SD tours 2016-2017..pdf