Walk in the Footsteps of Heroes®
The First World War raged on many fronts for four years from August 1914 to November 1918. Some of the biggest and most costly battles in our military history were fought during this period, largely along the 450 miles of the Western Front. More than a million British and Commonwealth soldiers died in the war; one in three of them just in Flanders Fields, Belgium.
The Second World War was the largest, longest and most extensive conflict the British and Commonwealth forces took part in during the twentieth century. It was a war that raged on many fronts and in many different theatres of war and conditions from desert sand to mountain snow to the beaches of Normandy, France, the canals of Holland and across the rivers of Germany. For Britain, it was a fight against Nazi Tyranny and Japanese aggression, which would bring in Allies like the United States of America and the Soviet Union to enable ultimate victory. More than 60 million died in WW2, with over six million victims of the Holocaust. It was a period when the World was truly at war; and everyone was on the front line, from soldier to civilians.
Flanders is located in western Belgium and was the main area of conflict of British and Commonwealth forces in WW1. More than 250,000 of our forces died here, and there were four major battles.
Centred around the Belgian city of Ypres (now Ieper, but always known as Wipers to the troops) some of the most iconic battles of WW1 were fought – among them the Battle of Passchendaele. Here in 1917 the battlefield was turned into a lunar landscape of shell holes full of mud, muck and slime: and it was a place where everything from men to horses to tanks disappeared into the mud.
Flanders was also the place where poison gas was used for the first time: at Second Ypres on the evening of 22nd April 1915. This deadly weapon became commonplace, used daily, as the war progressed.View tour
The Battle of the Somme, which began on a summer’s day – the 1st July 1916 – has become one of the great symbols of sacrifice in WW1. On that first day alone – the Blackest Day in British Military History – more than 57,000 soldiers became casualties: the majority in the first 30 minutes.
Many ‘Pals’ Battalions fought here: men raised from the same community, who all served together. Young men from Accrington, Barnsley, Bradford, Hull and Sheffield fell in the droves at villages like Serre on the first day of the Somme.
But the Somme was a battle of contrasts: terrible losses at the start gave way to new approaches in fighting at battles like Bazentin Ridge on 14th July 1916, to the first use of tanks at Flers-Courcelette on 15th September 1916 and the successful Battle of the Ancre ending the battle between 13th-18th November 1916.View tour
Along with the Somme and Ypres, Arras was one of the key British battlefields of the First World War. Every regiment of the British Army has it as a Battle Honour and there are more than 100 cemeteries in the region.
After the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917, the fighting at Arras began on 9th April 1917 when the Canadians took Vimy Ridge in the north and British troops attacked in the centre, while Australians advanced near Bullecourt some days later. On average more than 4,000 British soldiers became casualties each day at Arras: making it one of the bloodiest battles of the war.View tour
Tanks had been first used on the Somme in 1916, but the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 was the first time a massed tank attack took place, when more than 400 British Mark IV tanks went into battle.
The battle showed what tanks were capable of doing, but there was heavy fighting at places like Bourlon Wood and Welsh Ridge. The Germans counter-attacked at the end of the battle, retaking ground and capturing immobilised tanks, later re-using them against the Allies in 1918.
On 25th April 1915, British and Commonwealth forces landed on the Gallipoli coastline in a bid to reach Constantinople (now Istanbul) and knock the Ottoman Empire, allied to Germany, out of the war.
Australian and New Zealand, so-called ANZAC troops, landed to the north (on a day which for them would become ANZAC Day and remembered every year), and British units landed to the south at Cape Helles. The campaign soon got bogged down like the Western Front, with heavy fighting at Krithia and Lone Pine, and despite landings at Suvla Bay in August 1915, Gallipoli ended in failure and a withdrawal in January 1916.View tour
Normandy is located in north-west France and is a coastal region famous for its apples and cheese. It became one of the most pivotal battlefields when the Allies landed here on 6th June 1944: D-Day.
Centred around the key cities of Bayeux and Caen, for Britain and the western Allies this was a turning point in the war when an airborne and seaborne landing successfully got across more than 150,000 troops ashore on D-Day and in the two and half months of heavy fighting that followed the German Army was defeated, leading to the closing of the Falaise Pocket and allowing the advance in Belgium and Holland.
The Airborne story in Normandy is one of the most iconic: from Major Howard’s force landing by glider at Pegasus Bridge in the early hours of D-Day as well as the famous ‘Band of Brothers’ in Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment who silenced the Brecourt Manor guns.View tour
Following the end of the fighting in Normandy at Falaise, the Allies liberated Paris in August 1944 and advanced across Northern France into Belgium up to the border of the Netherlands.
Operation Market Garden in September 1944 was General Bernard Montgomery’s bold plan to land American and British Airborne forces deep into Holland, and then send ground troops from XXX Corps to advance more than 60 miles up a narrow road to link up with them.
At the far end of the operation the British 1st Airborne Division dropped near to Arnhem and advanced on the city to take the bridge and await the arrival of ground troops. However, few got to the bridge and most fought in the Oosterbeek Perimeter. Arnhem has often been called ‘A Bridge Too Far’ as it ended in the destruction of the British Airborne force in September 1944.View tour
In December 1944, the Nazis launched the last offensive in the West with Operation Wacht Am Rein, the assault in the Ardennes forest in eastern Belgium.
The aim was to break through the American positions in the Ardennes forest close to the Siegfried Line, split the Allied forces and retake Antwerp which was now the main base of supplies for the fighting in Europe. Hugely ambitious, it ended in failure in January 1945 with heavy losses in men and equipment. British troops were also involved, rushed in to help their American buddies.View tour
From 1940 to 1944 most of the European mainland was occupied by the German War Machine and was subjected to Nazi tyranny. This lead to the rise of resistance in places like Belgium and France, but also the wholesale deportation of people during the Holocaust; many sent to death camps in German occupied Poland.
The Holocaust resulted in the death of more than six million civilians, the majority of them Jewish, in what the Nazis called ‘The Final Solution’. Concentration camps were established across Europe with infamous death camps like Auschwitz in German occupied Poland being among the most notorious. Many Jewish Ghettos, such as one in Krakow, were established, and people persecuted in every country in Europe.
Occupied Europe was attacked by the Allies from the air using men from Bomber Command and the American Eight Airforce, and along the coast by Commando and Ranger forces, most notable at Dieppe and in the ‘Greatest Raid of All’ at St Nazaire in March 1942.
Meanwhile the Germans built the Atlantic Wall from Scandinavia right down to the coast of southern France. Huge concrete bunkers and gun sites were mean to keep the Allies out of occupied Europe. Meanwhile at Peenemunde the Germans developed V-weapons such as The Doodlebug and V2 to bombard Britain, with many launch bases built in Northern France.View tour
The Nazis came to power in 1933 and Adolf Hitler proclaimed the start of a ‘Thousand Year Reich’. A dozen years later Nazi Germany was in ruins and millions had died.
Germany under Hitler saw a nation transformed with huge rally sites in places like Nuremberg, autobahns – motorways – across the country, the construction of the Berlin Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Olympics, and bunkers and Flak towers to defend against the Allies.
Starting in the streets of Bavarian towns and cities, the Third Reich ended in carnage among Berlin’s most significant landmarks which had dominated European history for centuries. Hitler committed suicide in a bunker near the Reich Chancellery while the Allies brought the war to the heart of Nazi Germany.View tour
Our Head Battlefields Guide with a life-long interest in militarty history, Paul has worked on numerous T.V. documentaries.
Lifelong collector with an interest in military history from Roman times to modern day. Lives in Northern France.
Lifelong interest in WW1/WW2 and specialises in Arnhem and Operation Market Garden as well as Dunkirk.
Interest in WW1 and WW2, especially Arnhem as his father fought there. Served in Australian Army, also guides Vietnam tours.
Lifelong enthusiast and collector, he has a remarkable knowledge of WW1 and WW2 battlefields.
Former Airborne Medic, he is an Arnhem specialist and author, and guides both WW1 and WW2 tours.
Works at IWM North and first visited battlefields with her grandfather, a D-Day veteran. Specialises in the Holocaust.
Former Gunner and Police Officer, he has an impressive knowledge of the German Army in WW2 and Tank Warfare.
Retired from the Royal Artillery having served in the Falklands. Specialises in WW2 including Normandy and the Holocaust.
Former soldier who served in the Falklands, he has written his first book on Arnhem and guides WW2 tours.
Former RAF serviceman, with interest in WW1 and WW2. Currently specialising in WW1 and Italian Campaign for WW2.
Former soldier with a passion for WW1 and WW2, has been visiting battlefields for over 20 years and been guiding with Leger since 2006.
Visiting WW1 battlefields for over 30 years inspired by his family who fought at Ypres and the Somme. Specialises in WW1.
Historian and author, specialising in the history of the Holocaust and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Former service with the Royal Military Police, he has written about underground warfare and works as a battlefield archaeologist.
Served in Berlin with Royal Scots Greys and guides a wide variety of battlefield tours from Waterloo to Cold War.
Former service as an infantry officer and extensive experience as a Battlefield Guide with the Royal British Legion.
Former journalist, he lives on the Somme and specialises in WW1, especially war poetry. Author of several books.
Having worked for the Post Office, he has a passion for WW1 and has researched the Post Office Rifles.
Served as a Police Officer and used to take WW1 veterans across to the battlefields. He has guided WW1 tours for over 15 years.
Author with specialism in the Normandy Campaign. He has been guiding D-Day tours since 1998 and has written many books.
Retired Engineer, he guides WW2 tours with a passion for Commando Operations and the Air War over Europe.
Former RAF and Police Officer, he has been visiting battlefields for over 30 years with specialism in WW1 and WW2.
Former Police Officer with lifelong interest in WW1, especially the Somme battlefields which he has visited for over 30 years.
Authority in many fields of military history and specialist in the Peninsular War, Waterloo and Dunkirk and Maginot Line.
After working in adult education, Peter has been guiding for Leger for over 15 years. Specialises in WW1 and Maginot Line.
Served an Army officer, he specialises in WW1 and WW2, and also the Burma Campaign. Former Royal British Legion Guide.
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