Some helpful advice

Quite   simply,   nothing   can   beat   the   freedom   of   exploring   the   battlefields without   the   rigid   timetable   of   a   coach/minibus   group   dictating   when   and where   you   can   travel.      How   frustrating   must   it   must   be   to   see   the   battlefields passing   before   your   very   eyes   without   being   able   to   stop   wherever   you   want to   stop,   for   however   long   you   want   to   spend,   exploring   what   you   want   to explore.      The   freedom   to   explore   the   battlefields   at   your   own   pace   is   what   I always   wanted   since   I   first   visited   the   battlefields   over   40   years   ago,   so   after having    personally    guided    over    300    conducted    tours    since    1997    as    a professional   guide,   I   set   about   the   long   and   detailed   task   of   producing   our Somme   1916   and   Ypres   Self-Drive   guides   to   allow   anyone   to   jump   in   their   car to   explore   the   battlefields   for   themselves,   free   of   all   the   constraints   imposed by   coach   tours.      Our   Self-Drive   guides   will   equip   you   with   everything   you need   to   convert   what   will   in   most   cases   be   French   or   Belgium   countryside back   to   the   time   of   the   Great   War   (if   one   drives   through   the   battlefields   today without   a   detailed   guide   there   is   little   or   nothing   to   help   you   comprehend what   happened   where.      This   is   one   of   the   biggest   frustrations   experienced   by casual visitors who arrives unprepared). We   very   much   appreciate   that   our   Self-Drive   tours   are   not   the   cheapest   way to   explore   the   battlefields   as   producing   and   maintaining   our   comprehensive Somme   1916   and   Ypres   guides   is   a   costly   exercise   for   us   –   but   it   is   without doubt the most rewarding way to explore the battlefields!  So.   .   .in   a   nutshell   our   nationally   acclaimed   Self-Drive   Somme   1916   and   Ypres battlefield   tours   allow   you   to   travel   when   you    want   for   as   long   as   you   want.     You   just   take   your   vehicle   and   we’ll   do   the   rest!   We   arrange   your   hotel accommodation,   Channel   crossing   (for   UK   travellers)   and   provide   all   the maps,   directions   etc   you’ll   need,   and   of   course,   our   all-important   Self-Drive Somme   and/or   Ypres   Battlefield   Guides   -   your   ‘window   to   the   past’ .   No   other guide   has   so   much   detail   and   is   so   easy   to   follow!         Please   also   note   that   our Self-Drive     guides     are     only     available     when     combined     with     hotel accommodation    (and    optional    Channel    crossing)    and    as    such    cannot    be provided separately . GENERAL GUIDENCE Below   are   some   general   points   to   consider   should   you   be   thinking   of   booking a   Self-Drive   tour   to   the   Somme   and/or   Ypres   battlefields.      Once   again,   I’m sorry   it’s   a   bit   on   the   long   side   but   I’ve   tried   to   address   all   the   things   you   may be   unsure   about.      Here   and   there   you’ll   find   links   underlined   in   blue   for   you   to click for more information. Booking   well   in   advance   is   strongly   recommended    as   the   few   hotels   we personally   recommend,   which   are   hotels   we’ve   been   working   with   for   many years, soon get fully booked. BACKGROUND We   are   not   a   big   commercial   company   offering   everything   to   everybody.   We are   a   small   but   professionally-run   company   who   have   established   a   proud reputation based on our client testimonials and national awards .   I   founded   my   tour   company   back   in   1996   having   had   a   life-long   interest   in the   Great   War,   and   just   the   Great   War,   so   everything   we   do   is   focused   on   the tours   we   provide.      Just   as   you   may   have   found,   I   too   have   read   many,   many books   about   the   Somme   and   Ypres   battles   over   the   years   but   none   have   ever explained   precisely   and   clearly   how   to   explore   these   two   battlefields   so   as   to enable   one   to   find   the   precise   spot   where   actions   took   place.   This   has   been my   biggest   frustration   and   was   the   spur   for   me   to   set   about   producing   clear, friendly,   unstuffy   written   guides   packed   with   ‘then   and   now’   comparisons, which   anyone,   whether   a   history   buff   or   a   first-timer,   could   simply   ‘pick   up and   go’   with   as   much   or   as   little   pre-existing   knowledge   as   may   be   the   case. To   make   things   even   simpler,   we   combine   our   Self-Drive   tour   with   a   Channel crossing    (optional),    hotel    accommodation,    and    all    the directions    you’ll    need,    including    a    separate    navigational section   for   your   passenger   to   use   to   ensure   an   argument- free journey of exploration! We   understand   that   you   don’t   know   us   so   you   may   have understandable   reservations   as   to   whether   a   self-drive   tour is   for   you.   Our   advice   is   to   please   have   a   closer   look   at   our client   testimonials .   Unlike   some   companies,   we   don’t   just   cherry-pick   the   ones we   want   you   to   read.   The   testimonials   you   see   on   our   website   are   exactly   as we   received   them.   None   have   been   excluded   or   edited   (other   than   when referring to private or confidential matters). We   are   here   just   about   all   hours   seven   days   a   week   to   take   calls   from   clients who   have   booked   with   us.      It’s   all   part   of   the   personal   service   we   endeavour to provide. Why a Self-Drive Tour? One   of   the   most   enjoyable   and   rewarding   ways   to   explore   the   battlefields   of the   Great   War   is   to   do   so   by   yourself,   or   in   the   company   of   friends/relatives. Conducted    tours,    whether    small    or    large,    understandably    require    you    to comply   with   a   fairly   strict   itinerary.         If   you   travel   as   part   of   a   group   you   may well   be   frustrated   by   not   being   able   to   explore   the   landscape   and   'follow   your nose'   to   uncover   for   yourself   the   legacy   of   the   Great   War   (which   is   what   I   and so   many   others   have   always   so   enjoyed   doing!).   There   is   nothing   more exasperating   than   being   sat   in   a   coach   or   minibus   watching   the   battlefields pass   by,   when   you   would   so   love   to   have   the   freedom   to   stop   and   explore unhindered by others. This is why our Self-Drive tours are so popular. Our Self-Drive Guides As   I   mentioned   above,   despite   all   the   many   excellent   books   that   have   been written   about   the   Great   War,   few   provide   sufficient   detail   to   allow   you   to locate   the   exact    places   where   any   particular   action   took   place.      If   you   do   not travel   properly   prepared   you   could   well   end   up   just   staring   at   French/Belgium countryside   without   knowing   precisely   what   took   place   where   and   when (most   often   beneath   your   very   feet!).   This   is   what   happens   with   so   many battlefield       visitors       who       travel       without       comprehensive       written explanations/diagrams/maps/photos etc. To   see   the   terrain   of   today   for   what   it   was   like   all   those   years   ago   requires   a combination   of   present   day   and   original   WWI   ‘Trench   Maps’,   as   well   as   a   clear narrative   of   precisely   what   took   place   and   where,   and   how   to   get   to   these places.      One   also   needs   clear   directions   as   to   where   to   drive,   where   to   stop, what   to   look   for   and   how   to   relate   the   landscape   of   today   to   how   it   was   back in   the   Great   War.   This   is   just   what   our   self-drive   guides   provide.   Our   written guides   are   not   just   any   old   collection   of   briefing   notes   or   cobbled   together maps   as   offered   by   some   as   ‘self-drive’   companies.      Our   self-drive   battlefield guides   are   professionally   produced   and   regularly   updated   colour   booklets which   have   been   carefully   designed   to   take   you   on   a   journey   of   exploration, so   you   know   exactly   where   to   stop,   where   to   walk   and,   most   importantly   of all,   what   to   look   for.   It’s   the   time   and   effort   we   have   spent   in   producing   our guides   that   has   resulted   in   our   national   press   recommendations   and   awards and   why   we   have   received   such   positive   feedback   from   those   who   have undertaken one of our self-drive battlefield tours.   PLANNING YOUR TOUR How much time should I allocate? First   and   foremost,   you   can   travel   whenever   you   wish,   for   as   long   or   short   as you   wish!      We’ll   organise   everything   around   YOUR   dates,   which   is   one   of   the biggest   attractions   for   choosing   a   ‘made   to   measure’   Self-Drive   battlefield tour. ‘I   wish   we   had   allocated   more   time’   is   a   comment   we   hear   many   times   from our   clients   on   returning   from   one   of   our   self-drive   tours.      You’ll   be   surprised how   time   seems   to   fly   by   when   you   are   exploring   the   battlefields   of   the   Great War.      Our   self-drive   Somme   and   Ypres   guides   can   take   about   two   full    days each   to   complete   (may   be   even   more   including   museum   visits),   so   as   a general   rule   we   recommend   that   you   try   and   spend   at   least   three   nights   (just two   ‘clear’   days)   visiting   either   the   Somme   or    Ypres battlefields,   plus   whatever   time   you   can   spare   from your   arrival   and   departure   days.      If   you   have   in   mind to   explore   both   the   Somme   and   Ypres   then   may   be   try and   earmark   a   minimum   of   four   nights   divided   2:2 between   these   two   most   poignant   battlefields   of   the Great   War   1914-1918.   If   you   have   five   nights   to   spare then   may   be   divide   your   time   3:2   between   the   Somme and   Ypres,   your   time   away   being   weighted   towards the   Somme   as   this   battlefield   is   more   open   and   easier to    explore,    using    our    self-drive    guide.    Six    nights divided   3:3   is   best   of   all.      If   time   is   really   limited   then at   a   push   consider   spending   two   nights   visiting   the Somme and one night at Ypres. If   you   have   in   mind   to   visit   both   the   Somme   and   Ypres battlefields   then   one   other   option   to   consider   is   basing yourself   in   Ypres   for   all   three   or   four   nights   and   to travel   south   to   the   Somme   battlefield   for   one   or   two days   (about   90   minute   drive   each   way).      Ypres   is   a vibrant   and   more   English-speaking   town   with   far   more restaurants/bars   etc   than   Albert,   coupled   with   having the   Menin   Gate   in   the   centre   of   the   town.   This   way   you’ll   not   have   to   change hotels   but   may   possibly   spend   more   time   ‘on   the   road’.      It’s   a   matter   of personal choice. Getting around the battlefields As   previously   mentioned,   you’ll   need   to   have   a   car   to   follow   our   self-drive guide(s)   I’m   sorry   but   we   can’t   at   present   help   with   the   Eurostar   passenger train   service   from   London   to   France   Belgium,   nor   car   hire,   though   there   are the   usual   cluster   of   rental   outlets   to   be   found   at   most   major   rail   stations   and airports   close   to   the   battlefield,   particularly   Lille   International   Rail   Station     which   sits   roughly   half   way   between   the   Somme   and   Ypres   battlefields.      Most people   travelling   from   the   UK   take   their   own   vehicle,   crossing   the   Channel   by either   ferry   or   tunnel,   which   we   are   happy   to   include   as   part   of   our   Self-Drive battlefield   tour   ’package’.      We   can   easily   extend   your   Channel   crossing   so   as to   include   any   additional   days   you   may   wish   to   add   on   to   your   battlefield   tour to   be   arranged   by   yourself,   such   as   combining   with   a   holiday   or   business   trip.     Please   also   note   that   we   are   only   able   to   offer   ferry   and   tunnel   crossings   from Dover/Folkestone-Calais.      If   you   wish   to   travel   a   different   route   (such   as   from Portsmouth   or   Hull)   then   please   make   your   own   arrangements   and   we   will deduct the Channel crossing cost from your quotation. The Battlefields Visiting   the   battlefields   of   the   Great   War   takes   more   time   than   one   may   at first   imagine.   When   exploring   the   legacy   of   the   First   World   War   there   is   an understandable   tendency   to   slow   down   and   reflect   upon   these   tragic   and most   thought   provoking   past   events,   coupled   with   a   natural   desire   to   explore the   terrain   (as   a   battlefield   detective…)   using   our   popular   Self-Drive   guides.     Wandering   off   to   explore   this   or   that   is   one   of   the   most   rewarding   and enjoyable consequences of being a free agent armed with our written guide! Which battlefield to visit if just time for one? Ypres   is   a   vibrant   town   with   an   abundance   of   restaurants,   fine   museum   and the   famous   ‘Last   Post’   ceremony   held   at   the   Menin   Gate   Memorial   to   the Missing   every   evening.   The   Ypres   battlefield   has   seen   development   over   the years   but   can   still   be   explored,   especially   using   or   Self-Drive   guide   which   will take   you   to   places   many   visitors   never   get   to   see.      The   Somme   however   is still   open   rolling   countryside   which   can   easily   (using   our   guide   that   is…)   be compared   ‘then   and   now’.   Albert,   the   nearest   Somme   ‘battlefield   town’,   and where   you   will   most   likely   be   staying,   is   much   less   commercialised   compared to   Ypres   with   just   a   few   basic   restaurants   and   fewer   museums.      The   Somme’s even   larger   Memorial   to   the   Missing   at   Thiepval   sits   on   a   lonely   but   hugely poignant   ridge   right   in   the   centre   of   the   Somme   battlefield   and   at   night   sits   in darkness   compared   to   the   Menin   Gate   in   Ypres   which   has   a   town   wrapped around it.    Here’s more. The Somme Battlefield We   strongly   recommend   that   your   stay   in   either   Albert   or   Peronne   for   the Somme   battlefield,   as   opposed   to   either   Arras   or   Amiens,   as   both   these smaller   towns   lie   just   a   mile   or   so   from   the   old   front   line,   and   so   were   very much   part   of   the   battlefield,   especially   as   final   staging   posts   for   troops coming   up   to   the   battlefield   (both   towns   were   almost   totally   destroyed   by   the end of war). The   Somme   battlefield   lies   in   an   area   of   the   Somme   department   of   northern France   called   Picardie.   This   battlefield   is   easier   to   explore   as   there   has   been relatively   little   domestic   and   commercial   development   over   the   intervening years     which,     coupled     with     the     gentle     rolling     countryside,     makes comprehending   the   events   of   the   battle   so   much   easier.   Our   Self- Drive   Somme   guide   takes   a   good   two   days   to   complete   (taking   in to   account   time   spent   visiting   the   small   museum   in   the   centre   of Albert). The   biggest   Commonwealth   Memorial   in   the   world   is   the   Thiepval Memorial    to    the    Missing,    which    stands    high    above    the    Somme battlefield   and   which   can   be   seen   from   miles   around.   Please   see   our   Somme itinerary   below   for   details   of   where   our   self-drive   guide   will   take   you   and   see our hotels page  for accommodation options. The Ypres Battlefield Ypres   lies   in   the   heart   of   an   area   known   as   Flanders,   with   infamous   villages such   as   Passchendaele,   Hooge,   Messines,   Hill   60   and   so   many   others   that have   become   so   synonymous   with   the   Great   War,   making   up   the   ‘salient’   that lies   just   a   few   kilometres   to   the   east   of   the   town.      The   Ypres   area   (now   spelt the    Flemish    way    'Ieper')    has    a    flatter    terrain    when    compared    to    other battlefields   such   as   the   Somme   and   has   seen   some   degree   of   development over   the   intervening   years.   Ypres   is   a   most   vibrant   town   with   a   particularly strong   legacy   of   the   battles   that   almost   encircled   the   town   throughout   1914- 1918.      The   second   largest   Memorial   to   the   Missing,   the   Menin   Gate   Memorial ,   located   close   to   the   town   centre,   is   perhaps   the   most   visited   memorial   on   the Western   Front,   due   largely   to   the   famous   'Last   Post'   ceremony   which   takes place    at    8.00    pm    each    and    every    evening.    See    our    hotels    page     for accommodation options. The   superb   ‘In   Flanders   Fields’   museum,   house   in   the   old   Cloth   Hall   in   the centre   of   Ypres   is   a   must   to   visit.      The   museum   was   completely   refurbished and   enlarged   in   2012   and   is   ideally   suited   for   both   adults   and   younger   visitors (say 8+). Please   see   our   Ypres   itinerary   below   for   details   of   where   our   self-drive   guide will take you and see our hotels page  for accommodation options. Australians in WW1 The   principal   Australian   battlefields   are   to   be   found   on   the   Somme   (Pozieres 1916)   battlefield   and   the   area   around   Villers   Bretonneux   (1918)   which   forms part    of    the    greater    Somme    battlefield.    Our    Somme    guide    can    easily    be extended   so   as   to   a   separate   guide   for   Villers   Bretonneux.   (Our   Self-Drive Somme   guide   does   not   include   the   1917-1918   actions   further   east   in   the   area of   the   Hindenburg   Line).   Our   guide   to   the   Ypres   battlefield   includes   the   1917 ANZAC    battlefields    of    Passchendaele.    There    are    of    course    many    other important   Australian   battlefields   which   are   not   included   in   our   printed   Self- Drive    Somme    and    Ypres    guides    such    as    Fromelles,    Messines    etc.    These battlefields are best explored by using the services of a personal guide.    
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
Image shows a group of soldiers, commonly believed to be a company of the Public Schools Battalion (16th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment) at "White City", opposite Beaumont Hamel prior to the Battle of the Somme, 1916. (Alternatively, the men may be from the 1st Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment on 1 July, 1916.) Middle: One of those soldiers standing in the same spot 1928. Bottom: The same place today (included in our Somme itinerary).
Top: The desolation and carnage of Delville Wood after the costly battle to take the wood July-August 1916. Bottom: Children play in the shallow remains of trenches in Delville Wood, unaware of all those who still lie beneath their feet.
Click the above Guardian link to see some excellent ‘then and now’ comparison images.
‘’Hellfire Corner’, one of the most notoriously dangerous road intersections on the Ypres battlefield for troops and supplies coming up to the front line just half a mile or so ahead The middle picture of the same junction (note original supply narrow gauge railway) was taken about 1921.  The bottom photo is Hellfire Corner today - a roundabout!
A sculpture by German artist Kathe Kollwitz, titled "The Grieving Parents" at Vladslo German Cemetery, Belgium. The cemetery contains the graves of over 25,000 WW1 German soldiers. The artist’s son, Peter Kollwitz, who was killed in the war when he was only 18 years old, is buried in a grave directly in front of the statue. In the 1930s Kathe Kollwitz was criticised by the emerging Third Reich as they viewed such sentimentality as ‘un German’.  They held the view that Kollwitz’s sculpture should have shown the parents as standing, being proud that their son had died for the Fatherland.
The Menin Road is a large oil painting by Paul Nash completed in 1919 that depicts a First World War battlefield. Nash was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to paint a battlefield scene for the proposed national Hall of Remembrance. The photo beneath is the same road today.
The Menin Road as depiced by Nash today
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd  Wimborne  Dorset BH21 1EJ  Tel: +44 (0) 7776 195773 or +44 (0) 1202 840520 info@battlefield-tours.com
Happy times while they lasted... The remains of a Company (240+). The Somme 1916 'White City' 1916 and today DO NOT TOUCH!!!
This    leathal    pile    of    hand grenades,    trench    mortars, gas     and     high     explosive shells   awaiting   collection   by the      authorities      (Somme battlefield     2017).     NEVER, ever   touch   any   unexploded ordinance.     I     have     been amazed    at    seeing    visitors pick         up         unexploded grenades   and   shells   as   if   a harmless relic of the war.
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Please click the poppy to hear one of the most moving readings of Col John McCae’s 1915 poem ‘In Flanders Fields’
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd  Wimborne  Dorset BH21 1EJ  +44 (0) 7776 195773 or +44 (0) 1202 840520 info@battlefield-tours.com
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Quite   simply,   nothing   can   beat   the   freedom   of   exploring the     battlefields     without     the     rigid     timetable     of     a coach/minibus   group   dictating   when   and   where   you   can travel.      How   frustrating   must   it   must   be   to   see   the battlefields   passing   before   your   very eyes    without    being    able    to    stop wherever    you    want    to    stop,    for however    long    you    want    to    spend, exploring   what   you   want   to   explore.     The      freedom      to      explore      the battlefields   at   your   own   pace   is   what I   always   wanted   since   I   first   visited the   battlefields   over   40   years   ago, so    after    having    personally    guided over   300   conducted   tours   since   1997 as   a   professional   guide,   I   set   about the     long     and     detailed     task     of producing    our    Somme    1916    and Ypres    Self-Drive    guides    to    allow anyone    to    jump    in    their    car    to explore        the        battlefields        for themselves,      free      of      all      the constraints   imposed   by   coach   tours.     Our   Self-Drive   guides   will   equip   you with   everything   you   need   to   convert what   will   in   most   cases   be   French   or Belgium    countryside    back    to    the time    of    the    Great    War    (if    one    drives    through    the battlefields   today   without   a   detailed   guide   there   is   little or    nothing    to    help    you    comprehend    what    happened where.        This    is    one    of    the    biggest    frustrations experienced by casual visitors who arrives unprepared). We   very   much   appreciate   that   our   Self-Drive   tours   are not    the    cheapest    way    to    explore    the    battlefields    as producing   and   maintaining   our   comprehensive   Somme 1916   and   Ypres   guides   is   a   costly   exercise   for   us   –   but   it is   without   doubt   the   most   rewarding   way   to   explore   the battlefields!  So.   .   .in   a   nutshell   our   nationally   acclaimed   Self-Drive Somme   1916   and   Ypres   battlefield   tours   allow   you   to travel   when   you    want   for   as   long   as   you   want.      You   just take   your   vehicle   and   we’ll   do   the   rest!   We   arrange   your hotel     accommodation,     Channel     crossing     (for     UK travellers)   and   provide   all   the   maps, directions    etc    you’ll    need,    and    of course,   our   all-important   Self-Drive Somme     and/or     Ypres     Battlefield Guides   -   your   ‘window   to   the   past’ . No   other   guide   has   so   much   detail and   is   so   easy   to   follow!         Please also   note   that   our   Self-Drive   guides are    only    available    when    combined with     hotel     accommodation     (and optional    Channel    crossing)    and    as such cannot be provided separately . GENERAL GUIDENCE Below    are    some    general    points    to consider   should   you   be   thinking   of booking    a    Self-Drive    tour    to    the Somme    and/or    Ypres    battlefields.      Once   again,   I’m   sorry   it’s   a   bit   on the    long    side    but    I’ve    tried    to address   all   the   things   you   may   be unsure   about.      Here   and   there   you’ll find   links   underlined   in   blue   for   you to click for more information. Booking   well   in   advance   is   strongly recommended    as   the   few   hotels   we personally    recommend,    which    are hotels   we’ve   been   working   with   for many years, soon get fully booked. BACKGROUND We     are     not     a     big     commercial company     offering     everything     to everybody.    We    are    a    small    but professionally-run      company      who have   established   a   proud   reputation   based   on   our   client testimonials and national awards .   I   founded   my   tour   company   back   in   1996   having   had   a life-long   interest   in   the   Great   War,   and   just   the   Great War,   so   everything   we   do   is   focused   on   the   tours   we provide.      Just   as   you   may   have   found,   I   too   have   read many,   many   books   about   the   Somme   and   Ypres   battles over   the   years   but   none   have   ever   explained   precisely and   clearly   how   to   explore   these   two   battlefields so    as    to    enable    one    to    find    the    precise    spot where    actions    took    place.    This    has    been    my biggest   frustration   and   was   the   spur   for   me   to   set about    producing    clear,    friendly,    unstuffy    written guides   packed   with   ‘then   and   now’   comparisons, which   anyone,   whether   a   history   buff   or   a   first-timer, could   simply   ‘pick   up   and   go’   with   as   much   or   as   little pre-existing   knowledge   as   may   be   the   case.   To   make things   even   simpler,   we   combine   our   Self-Drive   tour   with a    Channel    crossing    (optional),    hotel    accommodation, and   all   the   directions   you’ll   need,   including   a   separate navigational   section   for   your   passenger   to   use   to   ensure an argument-free journey of exploration! We   understand   that   you   don’t   know   us   so   you   may   have understandable   reservations   as   to   whether   a   self-drive tour   is   for   you.   Our   advice   is   to   please   have   a   closer look   at   our   client   testimonials .   Unlike   some   companies, we   don’t   just   cherry-pick   the   ones   we   want   you   to   read. The   testimonials   you   see   on   our   website   are   exactly   as we   received   them.   None   have   been   excluded   or   edited (other   than   when   referring   to   private   or   confidential matters). We   are   here   just   about   all   hours   seven   days   a   week   to take   calls   from   clients   who   have   booked   with   us.      It’s   all part of the personal service we endeavour to provide. Why a Self-Drive Tour? One    of    the    most    enjoyable    and rewarding     ways     to     explore     the battlefields   of   the   Great   War   is   to   do so   by   yourself,   or   in   the   company   of friends/relatives.     Conducted     tours, whether         small         or         large, understandably      require      you      to comply   with   a   fairly   strict   itinerary.        If    you    travel    as    part    of    a    group    you    may    well    be frustrated   by   not   being   able   to   explore   the   landscape and   'follow   your   nose'   to   uncover   for   yourself   the   legacy of   the   Great   War   (which   is   what   I   and   so   many   others have   always   so   enjoyed   doing!).   There   is   nothing   more exasperating    than    being    sat    in    a    coach    or    minibus watching   the   battlefields   pass   by,   when   you   would   so love     to     have     the     freedom     to     stop     and     explore unhindered   by   others.   This   is   why   our   Self-Drive   tours are so popular. Our Self-Drive Guides As   I   mentioned   above,   despite   all   the many   excellent   books   that   have   been written    about    the    Great    War,    few provide   sufficient   detail   to   allow   you to   locate   the   exact    places   where   any particular   action   took   place.      If   you do   not   travel   properly   prepared   you could    well    end    up    just    staring    at French/Belgium    countryside    without knowing    precisely    what    took    place where   and   when   (most   often   beneath your     very     feet!).     This     is     what happens    with    so    many    battlefield visitors        who        travel        without comprehensive                        written   etc. To   see   the   terrain   of   today   for   what   it was   like   all   those   years   ago   requires a    combination    of    present    day    and original   WWI   ‘Trench   Maps’,   as   well as   a   clear   narrative   of   precisely   what took   place   and   where,   and   how   to get   to   these   places.      One   also   needs clear   directions   as   to   where   to   drive, where   to   stop,   what   to   look   for   and how   to   relate   the   landscape   of   today to   how   it   was   back   in   the   Great   War. This   is   just   what   our   self-drive   guides provide.   Our   written   guides   are   not just    any    old    collection    of    briefing notes   or   cobbled   together   maps   as offered     by     some     as     ‘self-drive’ companies.      Our   self-drive   battlefield guides    are    professionally    produced and   regularly   updated   colour   booklets which   have   been   carefully   designed to   take   you   on   a   journey   of   exploration,   so   you   know exactly    where    to    stop,    where    to    walk    and,    most importantly   of   all,   what   to   look   for.   It’s   the   time   and effort   we   have   spent   in   producing   our   guides   that   has resulted    in    our    national    press    recommendations    and awards    and    why    we    have    received    such    positive feedback   from   those   who   have   undertaken   one   of   our self-drive battlefield tours.   PLANNING YOUR TOUR How much time should I allocate? First   and   foremost,   you   can   travel   whenever   you   wish, for    as    long    or    short    as    you    wish!        We’ll    organise everything   around   YOUR   dates,   which   is   one   of   the biggest    attractions    for    choosing    a ‘made       to       measure’       Self-Drive battlefield tour. ‘I   wish   we   had   allocated   more   time’   is a   comment   we   hear   many   times   from our   clients   on   returning   from   one   of our     self-drive     tours.          You’ll     be surprised   how   time   seems   to   fly   by when      you      are      exploring      the battlefields    of    the    Great    War.        Our self-drive    Somme    and    Ypres    guides take    about    two    full     days    each    to complete      (may      be      even      more including    museum    visits),    so    as    a general   rule   we   recommend   that   you try   and   spend   at   least   three   nights visiting    either    the    Somme    or     Ypres battlefields,   plus   whatever   time   you can    spare    from    your    arrival    and departure   days.      If   you   have   in   mind to   explore   both   the   Somme   and   Ypres then    may    be    try    and    earmark    a minimum   of   four   nights   divided   2:2 between   these   two   most   poignant   battlefields   of   the Great   War   1914-1918.   If   you   have   five   nights   to   spare then   may   be   divide   your   time   3:2   between   the   Somme and   Ypres,   your   time   away   being   weighted   towards   the Somme   as   this   battlefield   is   more   open   and   easier   to explore,   using   our   self-drive   guide.   Six   nights   divided 3:3   is   best   of   all.      If   time   is   really   limited   then   at   a   push consider   spending   two   nights   visiting   the   Somme   and one night at Ypres. If   you   have   in   mind   to   visit   both   the   Somme   and   Ypres battlefields   then   one   other   option   to   consider   is   basing yourself   in   Ypres   for   all   three   or   four   nights   and   to   travel south   to   the   Somme   battlefield   for   one   or   two   days (about   90   minute   drive   each   way).      Ypres   is   a   vibrant and     more     English-speaking     town     with     far     more restaurants/bars   etc   than   Albert,   coupled   with   having the   Menin   Gate   in   the   centre   of   the   town.   This   way you’ll   not   have   to   change   hotels   but   may   possibly   spend more    time    ‘on    the    road’.        It’s    a    matter    of    personal choice. Getting around the battlefields As   previously   mentioned,   you’ll   need   to   have   a   car   to follow   our   self-drive   guide(s)   I’m   sorry   but   we   can’t   at present   help   with   the   Eurostar   passenger   train   service from   London   to   France   Belgium,   nor   car   hire,   though there   are   the   usual   cluster   of   rental   outlets   to   be   found at   most   major   rail   stations   and   airports   close   to   the battlefield,    particularly    Lille    International    Rail    Station      which   sits   roughly   half   way   between   the   Somme   and Ypres   battlefields.      Most   people   travelling   from   the   UK take   their   own   vehicle,   crossing   the   Channel   by   either ferry   or   tunnel,   which   we   are   happy   to   include   as   part   of our   Self-Drive   battlefield   tour   ’package’.      We   can   easily extend    your    Channel    crossing    so    as    to    include    any additional    days    you    may    wish    to    add    on    to    your battlefield    tour    to    be    arranged    by    yourself,    such    as combining   with   a   holiday   or   business   trip.      Please   also note   that   we   are   only   able   to   offer   ferry   and   tunnel crossings   from   Dover/Folkestone-Calais.      If   you   wish   to travel   a   different   route   (such   as   from   Portsmouth   or Hull)   then   please   make   your   own   arrangements   and   we will    deduct    the    Channel    crossing    cost    from    your quotation. The Battlefields Visiting   the   battlefields   of   the   Great   War   takes   more time   than   one   may   at   first   imagine.   When   exploring   the legacy   of   the   First   World   War   there   is   an   understandable tendency   to   slow   down   and   reflect   upon   these   tragic and   most   thought   provoking   past   events,   coupled   with   a natural   desire   to   explore   the   terrain   (as   a   battlefield detective…)     using     our     popular     Self-Drive     guides.       Wandering   off   to   explore   this   or   that   is   one   of   the   most rewarding   and   enjoyable   consequences   of   being   a   free agent armed with our written guide! Which battlefield to visit if just time for one? Ypres     is     a     vibrant     town     with     an     abundance     of restaurants,   fine   museum   and   the   famous   ‘Last   Post’ ceremony    held    at    the    Menin    Gate    Memorial    to    the Missing   every   evening.   The   Ypres   battlefield   has   seen development   over   the   years   but   can   still   be   explored, especially   using   or   Self-Drive   guide   which   will   take   you to   places   many   visitors   never   get   to   see.      The   Somme however   is   still   open   rolling   countryside   which   can   easily (using   our   guide   that   is…)   be   compared   ‘then   and   now’. Albert,   the   nearest   Somme   ‘battlefield   town’,   and   where you     will     most     likely     be     staying,     is     much     less commercialised   compared   to   Ypres   with   just   a   few   basic restaurants   and   fewer   museums.      The   Somme’s   even larger   Memorial   to   the   Missing   at   Thiepval   sits   on   a lonely   but   hugely   poignant   ridge   right   in   the   centre   of the    Somme    battlefield    and    at    night    sits    in    darkness compared   to   the   Menin   Gate   in   Ypres   which   has   a   town wrapped around it.    Here’s more. The Somme Battlefield We   strongly   recommend   that   your   stay   in   either   Albert or   Peronne   for   the   Somme   battlefield,   as   opposed   to either   Arras   or   Amiens,   as   both   these   smaller   towns   lie just   a   mile   or   so   from   the   old   front   line,   and   so   were very   much   part   of   the   battlefield,   especially   as   final staging   posts   for   troops   coming   up   to   the   battlefield (both   towns   were   almost   totally   destroyed   by   the   end   of war). The   Somme   battlefield   lies   in   an   area   of   the   Somme department    of    northern    France    called    Picardie.    This battlefield    is    easier    to    explore    as    there    has    been relatively   little   domestic   and   commercial   development over    the    intervening    years    which,    coupled    with    the gentle    rolling    countryside,    makes    comprehending    the events    of    the    battle    so    much    easier.    Our    Self-Drive Somme    guide    takes    a    good    two    days    to    complete (taking    in    to    account    time    spent    visiting    the    small museum in the centre of Albert). The   biggest   Commonwealth   Memorial   in   the   world   is   the Thiepval   Memorial   to   the   Missing,   which   stands   high above   the   Somme   battlefield   and   which   can   be   seen from    miles    around.    Please    see    our    Somme    itinerary below   for   details   of   where   our   self-drive   guide   will   take you    and    see    our    h otels    page     for    accommodation options. The Ypres Battlefield Ypres   lies   in   the   heart   of   an   area   known   as   Flanders, with   infamous   villages   such   as   Passchendaele,   Hooge, Messines,   Hill   60   and   so   many   others   that   have   become so    synonymous    with    the    Great    War,    making    up    the ‘salient’   that   lies   just   a   few   kilometres   to   the   east   of   the town.        The    Ypres    area    (now    spelt    the    Flemish    way 'Ieper')   has   a   flatter   terrain   when   compared   to   other battlefields   such   as   the   Somme   and   has   seen   some degree    of    development    over    the    intervening    years. Ypres   is   a   most   vibrant   town   with   a   particularly   strong legacy   of   the   battles   that   almost   encircled   the   town throughout   1914-1918.      The   second   largest   Memorial   to the   Missing,   the   Menin   Gate   Memorial ,    located   close   to the   town   centre,   is   perhaps   the   most   visited   memorial on   the   Western   Front,   due   largely   to   the   famous   'Last Post'   ceremony   which   takes   place   at   8.00   pm   each   and every   evening.   See   our   hotels   page    for   accommodation options. The   superb   ‘In   Flanders   Fields’   museum,   house   in   the old   Cloth   Hall   in   the   centre   of   Ypres   is   a   must   to   visit.     The   museum   was   completely   refurbished   and   enlarged in   2012   and   is   ideally   suited   for   both   adults   and   younger visitors (say 8+). Please   see   our   Ypres   itinerary   below   for   details   of   where our   self-drive   guide   will   take   you   and   see   our   hotels page  for accommodation options. Australians in WW1 The   principal   Australian   battlefields   are   to   be   found   on the    Somme    (Pozieres    1916)    battlefield    and    the    area around   Villers   Bretonneux   (1918)   which   forms   part   of the   greater   Somme   battlefield.   Our   Somme   guide   can easily   be   extended   so   as   to   a   separate   guide   for   Villers Bretonneux.    (Our    Self-Drive    Somme    guide    does    not include   the   1917-1918   actions   further   east   in   the   area of    the    Hindenburg    Line).    Our    guide    to    the    Ypres battlefield    includes    the    1917    ANZAC    battlefields    of Passchendaele.     There     are     of     course     many     other important   Australian   battlefields   which   are   not   included in   our   printed   Self-Drive   Somme   and   Ypres   guides   such as   Fromelles,   Messines   etc.   These   battlefields   are   best explored by using the services of a personal guide.    
Top: The desolation and carnage of Delville Wood after the costly battle to take the wood July-August 1916. Bottom: Children play in the shallow remains of trenches in Delville Wood, unaware of all those who still lie beneath their feet. 
Top image shows a group of soldiers, commonly believed to be a company of the Public Schools Battalion (16th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment) at "White City", opposite Beaumont Hamel prior to the Battle of the Somme, 1916. (Alternatively, the men may be from the 1st Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment on 1 July, 1916.) Middle: One of those soldiers standing in the same spot 1928. Bottom: The same place today (included in our Somme itinerary).
A sculpture by German artist Kathe Kollwitz, titled "The Grieving Parents" at Vladslo German Cemetery, Belgium. The cemetery contains the graves of over 25,000 WW1 German soldiers. The artist’s son, Peter Kollwitz, who was killed in the war when he was only 18 years old, is buried in a grave directly in front of the statue. In the 1930s Kathe Kollwitz was criticised by the emerging Third Reich as they viewed such sentimentality as ‘un German’.  They held the view that Kollwitz’s sculpture should have shown the parents as standing, being proud that their son had died for the Fatherland.
The Menin Road is a large oil painting by Paul Nash completed in 1919 that depicts a First World War battlefield. Nash was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to paint a battlefield scene for the proposed national Hall of Remembrance. The photo beneath is the same road today.
'White City' 1916 and today

Some helpful advice