More than a century after some of the first shots of the Great War were fired, join us as we travel through Belgium and France following the Old Contemptibles – the regular army who fought some of the first battles of the war at Mons, Le Cateau and Ypres. This excellent tour, with some new visits for 2016, is based in the superb Novotel Ypres, located just a five-minute walk from the Menin Gate.
What our previous travellers have to say about this tour
"Another wonderful, informative and inspirational battlefield tour!"
This tour had everything, the hotel is in a perfect situation for the tour close to the Menin Gate and other attractions of Ypres, three very good museums and walking on the ground where the soldiers fought in the battles.
My son and I were picked up early by our transfer coach and after our documents were checked we were on our way to Dover. After a few pick-ups we arrived, the interchange went smoothly and took just 25 minutes - the fastest we have ever seen it done. We boarded our tour coach and met our drivers Chris and Bryn, and then proceeded to the ferry.
We had a great crossing and arrived at our hotel to be greeted by our guide, Vic Piuk. We freshened up and then had plenty of time for a meal before making our way to watch the Last Post being played under the Menin Gate. The perfect end to a long day.
After breakfast the following morning, we made our way to Casteau near Mons where the first shots were fired by Corporal E Thomes of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, on the 22nd August 1914. We then visited Nimy railway bridge which crosses the Mons canal, it was at this point where some of the first engagements took place, and it was here that the first Victoria Crosses were awarded. The first posthumous to Lt Maurice Dease V.C. 4th btn Royal Fusiliers and the second to Pte Sidney F Godley 4th btn Royal Fusiliers who was captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. Further up the canal is now the Mons road bridge in 1914 it was a swing bridge and it was here the first Iron Cross was awarded posthumous to Musketier Oskar Niemeyer of the Hamburg Regt.
After lunch in Mons, we made our way to St Symphorien Cemetery here the first and last casualties of WW1 are buried. British and German side by side. The first Pte J Parr 4th Middlesex Regt who died on the 21st August 1914 and the last Pte G Price 28th Canadian Inf who died on the 11th November 1918. We also saw the graves of the first V.C. Lt Maurice Dease and Musketier Oskar Niemeyer. This is a really unique Cemetery. From St Symphorien we proceeded on to the battlefield, at Audregnies we saw the site of the cavalry charge by the 4th Dragoon Guards and the 9th Lancers on the sugar factory were the Germans were advancing, the sugar factory is long gone but the remains of the Roman road which the cavalry charged up is still there, it did not take much imagination to hear the horses hoofs on the cobbles. We then went to Elouges Communal Cemetery were some of the casualties of the attack are buried. We returned to our hotel in plenty of time to visit the Menin Gate and hear the Last Post being played.
We started our morning on day three at the Ypres Town Cemetery and Extension, looking at some of the early 1914 burials, we saw the graves of Lt the Prince M.V.D. Battenburg of the Kings Royal Rifles who died on 27th/10/1914 he was the grandson of Queen Victoria also Lt Lord C.S.P. Worsley of the Royal Horse Guards who died on the 30th /10/1914. Another very interesting grave that we were shown was of Monsieur Pierre Vandenbraambussche - Commissaire of Police Born 26th/11/1875 Died 6th /04/1936. Pierre Vandenbraambussche was the founder and first Chairman of The Last Post Committee. From the cemeteries we travelled to the battlefields, at Gheluvelt we saw in the grounds of the chateau were the Worcesters attacked and the South Wales Borderers held on till the last man preventing the Germans breaking the front line. In the village of Gheluvelt we looked at the memorials to the two regiments. At Zandvoorde we saw the memorial to the Household Cavalry and the ground over which they fought. The site of the memorial was purchased by the widow of Lt Lord C.S.P. Worsley. Lt Worsley who was killed at this site in 1914 and was buried by the Germans details of which was sent via diplomatic channel to the British, after the war Lt Worsley was exhumed and reburied at Ypres Town Cemetery Extension. The memorial was erected in is honor with is name and all his comrades on it.
We then had lunch at The Hodge Crater Museum the museum which has been extended and is well worth a visit. In the afternoon we went to Zillebeke Churchyard to see the Aristocrat Cemetery. From there we made our way to Messines to look at the WW1 museum, the museum had a lot of information in it, some very good artefact displays and interacted film displays. We also saw at Messines the church crypt where Adolf Hitler sheltered in 1914. We ended the afternoon at St Yvon looking at the ground where the Christmas Truce was held in 1914.
We returned to our hotel in time to attend the Last Post Ceremony.
On our fourth day of our tour, we travelled from Ypres to Diksmuide to see the Trenches of Death where the Belgians so gallantly fought the Germans at the Battle of the Yser. We saw the area where the Belgian's flooded to protect the left flank of the western front. At Nieuwpoort we were shown the memorial to King Albert who led his army, also the Nieuwpoort Memorial to the British Troops. We had lunch at Nieuwpoort which is a nice Belgium sea side town with lots of places to eat.
In the afternoon we made our way to Antwerp and visited Fort Liezele, one of the eleven forts built between May 1908 and December 1913 to protect The National Redoubt of Antwerp. It was here the Belgium army held the Germans from the 4th September 1914 until the 10th October 1914 when King Albert ordered his field army to the Yser. At Fort Liezele we were given a guided tour of the fort - it is very well preserved it as a wonderful museum inside but the whole fort is a museum itself. This fort and its history was well worth the visit and to some it was the highlight of the whole tour.
The following morning, after saying goodbye to our guide Vic, we made our way to Calais and our journey home – just one more battlefield to see - the M25 on a Friday evening! Thank you Leger, our tour drivers Chris and Bryn, and of course our battlefield guide Vic for another wonderful, informative and inspirational battlefield tour. We even had Leger weather!