The Somme: Heroism and Horror
– including a visit to Vimy Ridge
(Three day battlefield tour of the Somme)
The Battle of the Somme is famous for the casualties taken on the first day, 1st July 1916. However the battle raged for a further 141 days and saw these casualties increase to a staggering 420,000.
Initially the area was a relatively quiet sector of the Western Front for troops from both sides. However, in the build up to the launch of one of the largest battles in history, the area’s beautiful rolling landscape was shelled for a solid seven days with the aim of shifting the Germans from their well dug trenches and fortifications. At 7.30am the soldiers of the British army went over the top to what they assumed would be certain victory and the beginning of the end of the war. But by the end of the day British and Empire losses had totaled 19,240 dead and 57,470 casualties. It was indeed the bloodiest day for the British Army.
Day One: Depart by coach from your chosen UK collection point and proceed to Dover for our channel crossing by ferry and then on to Arras where we will book into our three star hotel and short stroll from the centre of town.
Day Two: Starting at the extreme right of the British line, we tour across the battlefield to Delville Wood, ground that was hard fought over by the South African Brigade. We then travel along the Longueval Ridge to Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, past High Wood and on to the smallest wood on the Somme; Mametz Wood, contested by the 38th Welsh Division, visiting the stunning Welsh Dragon Memorial which faces the wood. We then move on to Devonshire Trench, a place that is forever England. Lunch is taken at a local tea room (lunch included in price).
The afternoon takes us to the northern sector of the battlefield where we can stand in the Sunken Lane where the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers waited to advance on the morning of the 1st July 1916. A stroll around Newfoundland Park with its preserved trenches brings the futility of the battle to one’s senses. After stopping at Ulster Tower we shall pay our respects to the missing of the Somme at Thiepval Memorial and spend some time at their visitor centre. Finally we view the largest British mine crater on the Western Front; Lochnagar. As well as the above sites there will be a number of impromptu stops along the way where the guide will bring the battle so vividly to life.
Day Three: After leaving the hotel for our journey back to the channel port we will stop at Vimy Ridge. Here we visit the Canadian Memorial and discuss the battle that took place here in which the Canadian Divisions fought together as a single army. Some say that this is the day that Canada became a nation. While at Vimy we will look at the trenches and, if time permits, enter the Grange Tunnels used by Canadian regiments (notably the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry) to enter the front line before continuing our journey home.
The 38th Welsh Division Memorial