12 Day Fully Escorted Battlefield Tour
From: 27 June – 8 July 2018
Single Supplements Available
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The Battle of Hamel (4 July 1918) was a successful attack launched by the Australian Corps of the Australian Imperial Force and several American units against German positions in and around the town of Le Hamel in northern France during World War I. The battle was planned and commanded by Lieutenant General John Monash (later knighted).
Many of the tactics employed, such as the use of combined arms from the massed attacks mounted earlier in the war, illustrate the evolution of modern military tactics. All the Allies’ objectives were achieved in 93 minutes, just three minutes more than Monash’s calculated battle time of 90 minutes. Using conventional tactics, the fighting could have lasted for weeks or months, with much higher casualty rates. For example, a similar defensive position had resisted Allied capture for two months at the Battle of the Somme.
The battle was the first time in the war that American troops participated in an offensive action under non-American command. Ten American companies joined with Australian troops under Australian command, although six were recalled before the battle.
It is the centenary of the battle of Le Hamel which will be commemorated with this in depth battlefield tour in 2017. Your battlefield trip will begin and end in Paris, with a spectacular farewell dinner on the river Seine. Our tour focuses on a unique range of activities and the venues have been carefully selected to enable you to experience the best local French and Belgium cuisine and the provincial charm of the areas visited.Enquire Now
Meals Included: B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Day 1, 27 June – For those members travelling on our group flight you will be met by your tour director and transferred to the hotel. Late afternoon, join your Tour Director and battlefield guide for a welcome reception. Then continue on the introductions with your fellow tour members for a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Day 2, 28 June – After breakfast board the coach, travelling north of Paris we begin treading the First World War battlefields. We head to the Somme battlefields of 1916, paying particular attention to the area around Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, where the AIF suffered 23,000 casualties in several short weeks. See the Lochnagar Crater, created by one of the many mines blown on 01 July 1916 to mark the beginning of the Battle of Somme, then the 1st Australian Division Memorial, and the remains of the famous ‘Gibraltar’ blockhouse. Drive through the small village of Pozieres to the Windmill site, with its chilling pronouncement, Australian troops … fell more thickly on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war. Continue on via Mouquet Farm to Thiepval, where the great British memorial to the ‘missing’stands. We’ll make a lunch stop at a cosy café in Albert, a town once familiar to every soldier serving on the Somme before continuing our drive through the battlefields to the Newfoundland Canadian Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel. Then onto Arras for freshen up and dinner. B L D
Day 3, 29 June – Today we explore the main Australian battlefields of 1917. We travel to Bullecourt, via the Somme winter region around Butte de Warlencourt and Flers (where “trench foot”, the wet and the freezing cold was remembered by many old soldiers as the worst experience of the war), Bapaume, the town captured on 17 March 1917, and the Hindenburg outpost line villages around which several battles were fought. Tour the battlefield of Bullecourt where the AIF suffered 10,000 casualties in capturing part of the notorious Hindenburg Line defences in April/May. Visit the Jean and Denise Letaille War Museum and inspect the local memorials including the Bullecourt “Digger” and the Slouch Hat Memorial. Upon return to Arras, we pay a visit to the Wellington Tunnels, 350m of tunnels 22m below Arras, they were used to protect the troops from incessant bombing and troops were billeted there prior to the start of the Arras offensive in April 1917. Tonight is free to wander the town and enjoy a summer evening in the town square. B L
Day 4, 30 June – Depart Arras and leave the Somme region heading for Flanders and the ancient town of Ieper. On the way we make an important stop at Fromelles to see where the Australians fought the disastrous action on 19/20 July 1916. We will explore the war museum, then visit the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery specifically established to house the remains of those disinterred from the nearby site of the mass graves discovered in recent years, “Cobbers” Memorial, and VC Corner. We make a stop for lunch at a wonderful eclectic café in Estaires before crossing the border, travelling via the Messines Ridge and Armentieres to the Belgian village of Poperinge, to visit TOC H where allied soldiers took short breaks to forget about the war for a while. We continue onto the city of Ieper to settle into hotel. This evening we have dinner together in a restaurant located in the old casements of the city in what were formerly barracks used by British troops in the Battle of Third Ypres before participating in the moving “Last Post” ceremony and wreath-laying at the Menin Gate Memorial. B D
Day 5, 1 July – Today we concentrate on the Australians’ experiences in the terrible Third Battle of Ypres (or simply “Passchendaele”); here we had 38,000 casualties over several weeks during late 1917. For the AIF this was the most costly year of the war. We explore the former battlefields at Hill 60 (see the Australian Tunnelling Corps Memorial), Menin Road and Polygon Wood, where the 5th Division Memorial stands. We stop at the Passchendaele Memorial Museum to see the unique recreated dugout and trenches followed by lunch in the café. We then travel a few km’s north to visit the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing, the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery it contains over 11,000 graves including two Australian VC recipients, then onto Passchendaele village before returning to Ypres. This evening take the chance to visit some fine restaurants in the town square. B L
Day 6, 2 July – Today we visit the picturesque medieval city of Bruges, with its wonderful art, architecture, canals, chocolate and lace shops, perhaps enjoy lunch or ice-cream and waffles in one of the many little cafes or a scenic boat cruise along the canals. Later we return to Ieper for some free time to explore the town square, perhaps visit the In Flanders Fields Museum, located inside the famous Cloth Hall. B
Day 7, 3 July – This morning we depart Belgium, returning to the Somme to explore the sites of many Australian battles during 1918. The village of Villers Bretonneux, recaptured by our troops after a short German occupation in April 1918, displays many signs of the local people’s appreciation of Australian efforts there. We wander the Franco-Australien museum situated in the Ecole Victoria (the Victorian School), rebuilt in the 1920s with funds donated by the Australian public and on the outskirts, visit the Australian National Memorial, the site of the official Dawn Service and the newly opened Sir John Monash Centre. Then on the outskirts of town visit Adelaide cemetery, the original resting place of the Unknown Australian Soldier now entombed in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Nearby is the tiny village of Hamel, where General John Monash planned and executed the brilliant operation which set the scene for the Allies’ final offensive of the war. Located on the site of the final objective of the Battle of Hamel, we visit the impressive Australian Corps Memorial commemorating over 100,000 Australians who served with the Australian Corps in France during the First World War. Tonight is free to wander the town and enjoy the atmosphere of the canal waterfront. B L
Day 8, 4 July – Today we attend the official service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hamel. Final details for the service are to be confirmed. Just north-east of Villers Bretonneux lies the small village of Le Hamel, where General Monash, newly-appointed commander of the Australian Corps, was keen to put into operation all of the lessons that he (and other commanders) had learnt over the previous years of fighting. The plan involved close cooperation between all arms of service – infantry, artillery, tanks, RAF and AFC– with the operation involving a heavy artillery barrage from long-range guns, firing not only high-explosive shells but also smoke and gas shells. The attacking infantry was supported by 60 tanks, with some aircraft flying overhead continuously to drown out the noise of the approaching tanks, and other aircraft dropping ammunition to the troops. Monash estimated that the battle would last for 90 minutes – in the event, it lasted 93 minutes at a cost of 1400 casualties. More than 1600 prisoners and 177 machine guns were captured. All objectives were achieved. This battle, although small in the context of fighting on the Western Front, provided the blueprint for planning the much larger actions which were soon to take place as part of the Final Allied Offensive. B L
Day 9, 5 July – We travel further east today to visit the sites of Australian actions during the final months of the war. Peronne, held by the Germans for most of the war, was captured by Australian forces in early September 1918, houses the ‘Historiale de la Grand Guerre ’, a very modern museum portraying conditions on the Western Front during the war. We also travel to Mont St Quentin on the outskirts of the town, which was regarded by some British commanders as the ‘finest feat of arms by the Australians’ in the entire war to see the famous 2nd Australian Division Memorial, and Clery where Monashs’ troops successfully crossed the Somme River to attack Mont St Quentin. Tonight we enjoy dinner at a local waterfront restaurant. B D
Day 10, 6 July – Today we follow the Australians’ final battles by looking at the breaking of the Hindenburg Line in September 1918. We begin at the 4th Australian Division Memorial standing on the heights at Bellenglise, for discussions on the final offensive. We then travel onto Bellicourt to explore the tunnel and remaining German bunkers. Also see Riqueval Bridge, captured intact, it was the only one still standing across the canal. Lunch will be in a local café located along the canal. Later we stop at Somme American Cemetery at Bony and finally we travel onto Calvaire Cemetery Montbrehain, where the AIF fought its last action of the First World War. B L
Day 11, 7 July – We conclude our tour of the battlefields returning to Paris via Vimy Ridge, the spectacular Canadian Memorial and the park and museum at Compiegne, where the Armistice ending the fighting was signed on 11 November 1918. Settle in at hotel, with the remainder of the day free for personal sightseeing and exploring. This evening join our farewell dinner for a cruise along the Seine, seeing the beautiful sights of Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral by night. B D
Day 12, 8 July – This morning our tour ends with a transfer to the airport. B
Please Note: Itinerary subject to change according to prevailing circumstances.Enquire Now
Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile, Paris
The Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile stands as one of the best hotels in Paris. The 4 star hotel is located just minutes from both the Arc de Triomphe and the world-famous Champs Élysees, and within easy reach of the impressive La Defénse complex. Aside from its great location in this cosmopolitan city, the hotel offers truly unique views over Paris, especially of the Eiffel Tower.
Mercure Arras Centre Gare, Arras
Mercure Arras Centre Gare is an old-world style hotel, located just 9 minutes from Theatre d’Arras, 11 minutes from Abbey of St. Vaast and 14 minutes from Arras Cathedral. The modern rooms come with free Wi-Fi, coffemakers and flat-screen TVs. Upgraded rooms also feature Nespresso machines, designer linens and iPad docking stations. Amenities include a bright, modern restaurant/bar serving French cuisine.
Novotel Centrum, Ypres
Novotel Centrum Flanders Fields is a 3-star city centre Ypres hotel, a stone’s throw from Ypres Market Square and In Flanders Fields Museum. You’ll also be within 5 minutes of Cloth Hall and Menin Gate Memorial. The hotel has a restaurant and free WiFi along with an elevator (lift). There is also a bar/lounge where guests can enjoy drinks, plus there is a fitness centre and steam room for guests to take advantage of also.
Mercure Cathedral, Amiens
Located in the heart of Amiens, just 50m from the cathedral, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Mercure Amiens hotel is the perfect destination for leisure. The historic Saint Leu district, the floating gardens and Jules Verne’s house are all just a stone’s throw from the hotel. Airy, modern rooms include free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, as well as work desks. Upgraded rooms and suites have Nespresso coffeemakers, iPhone/iPad docks and/or pull-out sofas, while some suites add private terraces and cathedral views. Amenities include a contemporary French restaurant and an all-day cocktail bar.Enquire Now
Our tour members depend on us to provide a once in a lifetime battlefield experience combined with exceptional customer service. We do our best to meet and exceed their high standards, which is what you’d expect from Australia’s leading battlefield tour company. Here’s what our past passengers say about our efforts…
“Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed the Western Front Tour with Aaron Pegram and John. The itinerary was well planned, Frank the bus driver was exceptional and the accommodation fine.
As the Tour Director, John did a terrific job managing us all in a very friendly manner and his insights and commentary on the local areas was very good.
A special mention for Aaron. His historical knowledge made it all came alive for me and it was terrific how he was able to meet everyone’s needs and requests on the tour. Nothing was ever too much trouble and he got the balance just right between enough information and information overload. A great experience I will never forget.”
“Howard and I have been very remiss in not contacting you to tell you how much we enjoyed our trip to the Western Front with Boronia Travel this year. It was all we were hoping for, and more. The “more” was because of the people. Graeme and John, the tour historian and tour leader, were so generous with their time and knowledge and were the ultimate professionals, making our travel experience one of ease and extraordinary interest. Jean-Michel, our bus driver, was a legend and our fellow tour companions completed the experience. Thank you.”
Rae King and Howard Gibbon
“I write to commend and thank you for the marvellous Guide we had in Aaron Pegram on the recent Western Front tour in April. Aaron was not only extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the War but he ensured that everyone who had a personal interest in a battlefield, cemetery or memorial had the opportunity to visit the site and was given time for quiet reflection.
Although the Tour participants had a collective interest in the Western Front, we were a diverse group of people and Aaron managed us all with great sensitivity and aplomb. Once again, thank you for such a great Tour”.
Our customers depend on us to provide a once in a lifetime battlefield experience combined with exceptional customer service. Visit our page full of client testimonials.Enquire Now