Sunday 19th - Thursday 23rd April 2015
After a mid morning crossing we arrive in Ypres in the afternoon. In order to familiarise the group with the trench lines that circumvented around the Ypres "Salient" we will spend the afternoon reconnoitring the battlefields, paricularly those places associated with the Second Battle of Ypres: Langemark, St. Julien, Mauser Ridge, Kitchener Wood, and the Frezenberg Ridge for example. We will complete the day at Hill 60. Here, on the 17th April 1915, the British exploded their first mines on the Western Front. The fighting for Hill 60 was constant and if you had to visit just one place on the Western Front to understand what the fighting was like, it would have to be here!Tom Morgan referred to Hill 60 as "Hell with the lid blown off".
This morning the coach will place us on the front line junction that divided the French Territorial and the Canadian First Division, on the afternoon of the 22nd April 1915, just prior to the gas release. From here we will retrace on foot the actions of the Canadian units as they frantically attempted to protect their open flank against an advancing enemy behind a rolling cloud of chlorine gas. We will visit the Canadian "Brooding Soldier" Memorial at Vancouver Corner, before continuing our walk to the site of Kitchener Wood and the debacle of the first counter attack; pushed home by two Canadian battalions but completely let down by the no show of the French! As the day continues we visit St. Julien and learn about the second release of gas; this time right in the path of the Canadians. We will look at the vain attempts to recapture lost ground by both Hull's Force and Geddes's Force and the continuing problems of co-ordinating orders with the French. Later in the day we will vist one of the best museums on the Western Front; Hooge Crater Museum. It has a superb collection of artifacts in particular it's range of gas related items, including cylinders, gas masks and gas shells.
At the height of Second Battle of Ypres, Second Army Commander Smith-Dorrien's position became untenable and his force was put under the command of Sir Hubert Plumer. He immediately ordered a withdrawl from the eastern edge of the Salient to a hastily prepared position across the Frezenberg Ridge. This is where we start our day three walk; the Battle of the Frezenberg Ridge and the defence of these positions by units of the 27th Division. We will visit the memorial to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) on the ground of their gallant stand against an overwhelming enemy force. Eventually this line was ceeded and units withdrew to their support line, 400 yards further back. A period of calm enabled a composite force of 1st & 3rd Cavalry Divisions to relieve the 28th Division, but on the 13th May, the enemy struck against the dismounted cavalry positions. Our walk will continue in the footsteps of the Leicestershire Yeomanry, desperately holding on as the Germans entered the trenches on their left. A counter attack drove off the German attack, but with the line now untenable, a further withdrawl was carried out, 1,000 yards to the Bellewaarde Ridge. It was here on the 24th May that the Germans launched what would be their last offensive against the British in the Ypres Salient. Our day ends with a continuation of our walk across the Bellewaarde Ridge and the actions of the 28th Division around Railway Wood. We will also visit the memorials to the 177th Tunnelling Company and the Liverpool Scottish, close to Bellewaarde Farm, commemorating the battalion's offensive to retake the ridge in June 1915.
The 100th anniversary of the commencement of the Second Battle of Ypres. As commemorations have yet to be announced it is not possible to reproduce an itinerary for day four of the tour. Once published the itinerary will be updated to reflect the commemorative events.
On our last day we will once again tour the front lines of the "New Salient". With little change, it was from these positions that the British would launch the Third Battle of Ypres on the 31st July 1917. That battle is better known by the singular title "Passchendaele". Our last visit of the tour is to the impressive visitors centre at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. The cemetery was attached to a Casualty Clearing Station and consequently there are only a very few (35) unknown burials amongst the 10,784.
We depart Victoria Coach Station at 7.00am and return at 7.00pm. Our accommodation is based in or around Ypres for the four nights of the tour.