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   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   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   and   Ypres   battlefield bespoke   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   we   wondering   about.      Here   and there you’ll find links underlined in blue for you to click for more information. Please   note   that   our   self-drive   Somme   and   Ypres   battlefield   guides   are   only available   as   part   of   the   package   quoted   below   (which   must   include   hotel accommodation) and as such cannot be sold separately. 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   to   find   the   precise   spot   where   actions   took   place.   This   has been   my   biggest   frustration   and   indeed   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 combined   our   guides   with   a   Channel   crossing   (optional),   hotel   accommodation   and   all the directions you’ll need for 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).   Please   also   see   our   website   for   details   of   our   many   national   press   awards   and recommendations   (including   Vanity   Fair's   much   coveted   ‘Best   Guided   Tour'   award,   the Sunday   Telegraph,   and   the   only   WWI   self-drive   battlefield   tour   company   to   be   featured in   the   December   2014   edition   of   Country   Life   magazine).      We’re   also   not    a   strictly   ‘9-5 Monday-Friday’   company.      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   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 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 (see below).    
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.
terms & Conditions terms & Conditions
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   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   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 and   Ypres   battlefield   bespoke   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    we wondering   about.      Here   and   there   you’ll   find   links   underlined   in blue     for     you     to     click     for     more information. Please     note     that     our     self-drive Somme   and   Ypres   battlefield   guides are    only    available    as    part    of    the package   quoted   below   (which   must include    hotel    accommodation)    and as such cannot be sold separately. 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   to   find the    precise    spot    where    actions    took place.     This     has     been     my     biggest frustration   and   indeed   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    combined    our    guides    with    a    Channel    crossing (optional),   hotel   accommodation   and   all   the   directions   you’ll need for 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).   Please   also   see   our   website   for   details   of our     many     national     press     awards     and     recommendations (including   Vanity   Fair's   much   coveted   ‘Best   Guided   Tour'   award, the   Sunday   Telegraph,   and   the   only   WWI   self-drive   battlefield tour   company   to   be   featured   in   the   December   2014   edition   of Country   Life   magazine).      We’re   also   not    a   strictly   ‘9-5   Monday- Friday’   company.      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   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 (see below).    
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd  Wimborne  Dorset BH21 1EJ  Tel: +44 (0) 7776 195773 or +44 (0) 1202 840520 info@battlefield-tours.com
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