Western Front 2016 – Fromelles Centenary & Pozieres Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Thursday 14 July

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 and an opportunity to meet fellow tour members.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile, Paris  

HyattThe 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.

Day 2: Friday 15 July

After breakfast board the coach, travelling north to 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 poignant Windmill Memorial with its chilling pronouncement, Australian troops … fell more thickly on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war, the 1st Australian Division Memorial, and the remains of the famous ‘Gibraltar’ blockhouse. Lunch is at nearby Albert, a town once familiar to every soldier serving on the Somme. Other sites of great importance we will see are La Boiselle (the astonishing mine crater is still there) and Thiepval, where the great memorial to the British missing on the Somme stands. Late afternoon check into hotel for freshen up and dinner.

Overnight: Mercure Arras Centre Gare, Arras              Meals: B D

MecureMercure 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.

Day 3: Saturday 16 July

Today we visit the sites of actions which took place in early 1917, including the Battle(s) of Bullecourt. On the way, we visit several outpost villages which were cleared by Australian troops prior to the Bullecourt battles. After viewing the actual battlefield, we visit the Le Taille museum in Bullecourt, which contains many battlefield artefacts from this area. We then visit the tunnel on the Canal du Nord, part of the German’s Hindenberg Line defences, which was breached by Australian forces in September 1918. Finally we travel to Montbrehain, the resting place of the last Australian troops to lose their lives in action during the war. Later we return to Arras, a vitally important city held by the Allies throughout the war and pay a visit to the Wellington Tunnels, 350 m of tunnels 22 m below Arras, they were used to protect troops from the incessant bombing and troops were also billeted there prior to the start of the Arras offensive in April 1917.

Overnight: Mercure Arras Centre Gare, Arras          Meals: B L

Day 4: Sunday 17 July

We begin today with a visit to the village of Villers Bretonneux, recaptured by our troops after a short German occupation in April 1918, it displays many signs of the local people’s appreciation of Australian efforts there. Our first stop is at 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. 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. We also visit the Australian National Memorial, site of the official Dawn Service, and the nearby village of Le Hamel, where General John Monash planned and executed the brilliant operation which set the scene for the Allies’ final offensive of the war. We travel further east to visit the sites of Australian actions during the final months of the war, including the town of Peronne, which was captured by Australian forces in early September 1918. We have free time for lunch before exploring 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. Tonight is free to wander the town and enjoy a summer evening in the town square.

Overnight: Mercure Arras Centre Gare, Arras                  Meals: B

Day 5: Monday 18 July

This morning we travel north to visit the battlefield at Fromelles, site of the first major action involving Australian troops on the Western Front during World War One. We visit the ‘Cobbers’ memorial, built on top of ruined German bunkers, and VC Corner cemetery, the only all-Australian war cemetery in France. We also visit the site of the mass graves discovered in recent years, and the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery, specifically established to house the remains of those disinterred. We continue on via the Messines Ridge and Armentieres to the Belgian city of Roeselare, where we will settle into our hotel.

Overnight: Mercure, Roeselare                 Meals: B L D

Mecure ResThe Mercure Roesleare Hotel features a wonderful restaurant where you can enjoy local delicacies or a delicious meal à la carte. The bar and terrace offer a comfortable space to talk, have a refreshing drink or enjoy a local brew. The rooms in this hotel are air conditioned and come with a flat-screen TV. A refrigerator and a safety deposit box are also available. Fitted with a shower, the private bathrooms include bathrobes and offer free toiletries. Free WiFi access is also available.

Day 6: Tuesday 19 July

Today we attend the official service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles. When the troops of the 5th Australian and 61st British Divisions attacked at 6 pm on 19 July 1916, they suffered heavily at the hands of German machine-gunners. It was a bloody initiation for Australian soldiers to warfare on the Western Front with more than 5,500 Australian casualties. It is believed to be the greatest loss by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War. Some consider Fromelles the most tragic event in Australia’s history. Final details for the service are to be confirmed.

Overnight: Mercure, Roeselare          Meals: B L D

Day 7: Wednesday 20 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. This includes Menin Road, Polygon Wood where the 5th Division Memorial stands, Broodseinde Ridge, Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing. The largest Commonwealth War Cemetery, Tyne Cot contains over 11,000 graves including two Australian VC recipients. We also visit the village of Passchendaele and the huge German war cemetery at Langemarke.

Overnight: Mercure, Roeselare          Meals: B L

Day 8: Thursday 21 July

A leisurely day spent exploring the medieval city of Ieper, which was obliterated throughout the war and completely rebuilt in the years following. Begin with a unique experience by creating your own sculpture in remembrance of the 600,000 soldiers and civilians who died in Belgium during the Great War. We will enjoy lunch 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! We then visit the In Flanders Fields Museum, located inside the famous Cloth Hall with the remainder of the day free to explore the town square and it’s many cafes, book stores and of course chocolate shops. This evening we attend the moving ‘Last Post’ ceremony at Menin Gate before returning to our hotel.

Overnight: Mercure, Roeselare          Meals: B L

Day 9: Friday 22 July

Today, we explore the area surrounding Ieper. First we visit Hill 60, site of the famous mine crater and the Australian Tunnelling Company Memorial. In Poperinge, we visit TOC H, where allied soldiers took short breaks to forget about the war for a while. Travelling further west, we visit the huge Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, which contains graves of soldiers who died for every day of the war. We also visit Essex Farm cemetery, where John McCrae wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore the market square and surrounds in Roeselare before returning to the hotel to prepare for departure to Pozieres tomorrow.

Overnight: Mercure, Roeselare              Meals: B D

Day 10: Saturday 23 July

Today we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Pozieres, Australia’s first action in the Battle of the Somme. During the subsequent 7 weeks, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Division suffered more than 23,000 casualties in the battles fought in the village and heights of Pozieres, and at Mouquet Farm. Final details for the official service are to be confirmed. Later we return to Paris.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile, Paris        Meals: B L D

Day 11: Sunday 24 July

Today is free to explore the sites of Paris. Wander the shops, grand arcades, museums (perhaps Napoleon’s tomb at Musee de l’Armee, the Louvre and so many others), galleries and of course the Eiffel Tower. This evening join our farewell dinner for a cruise along the Seine, seeing the beautiful sights of Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral by night.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile, Paris         Meals: B D

Day 12: Monday 25 July

This morning our tour ends with a transfer to the airport.

Meals: B

Please Note: Itinerary subject to change according to prevailing circumstances.