"I died in hell. They called it Passchendaele"
1917 witnessed the arrival of the conscript soldier on to the battlefields, Kitchener's Men were now the Old Sweats of the army! Hard lessons had been learned from the Somme; new infantry tactics were adopted, artillery, aircraft and tank availability multiplied. But the enemy, so badly mauled in 1916, had responded with a new defensive doctrine that would defy that illusive breakthrough.
In April 1917 the four Canadian divisions stormed the Vimy Ridge; a bastion within the German defences. In August they captured Hill 70 at Loos and in November secured the Passchendaele Ridge. The success of the Canadian forces in 1917 will form the background to our Canadian battlefield tour, but will also include the fighting on the Somme at Coucelette, Mont Sorrel in Ypres and Borlon Wood, Cambrai.
Plumer's success on the Messines Ridge in June 1917 saw the successful detonation of almost 1 million pounds of explosive placed in 19 huge mines. Our tour of the Messines battlefields will also include visits to battlefield excavations across the Western Front to understand the work of the "Sapper" and the war underground.
In July we return to the Ypres Salient for the 3rd Battle of Ypres. The tour will feature several walks across the battlefields, including the Pilkem Ridge on the first day of the battle, through to Plumer's capture of the Gheluvelt Plateau and finally the slow costly advance on to the Passchendaele Ridge.
Our last tour of the year brings us to Cambrai and the great tank battle; so nearly the illusive breakthrough and then the disasters of a German counter attack. The tour will include a walk across the German Hindenburg Line, the fight for Bourlon Wood, and the tank memorial at Flesquieres.