The Somme: Heroism and Horror
– including a visit to Etaples and Vimy Ridge
(Three day battlefield tour of the Somme)
Travel with Rifleman Tours to the Somme and experience the history of this battle. Hear the stories of the men that took part in what would become known as the worst days in Britain’s military history.
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 in total were 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. On the way to Arras we will stop at Etaples Military Cemetery and visit the largest CWGC cemetery in France. We will then continue on to our three star hotel in Arras, just a short stroll from the centre of town. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure with time to explore the beautiful and historic city of Arras renowned for its town squares. The main town square is named the Grand Place and is one of the largest squares in France.
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 will 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 sits up high facing the wood. We then move on to Devonshire Trench, a place that is forever England. Lunch is taken at a local tea room (lunch is included in the 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, captured by Geoffrey Malins who filmed them waiting to go over the top . A stroll around Newfoundland Park with its preserved trenches brings the futility of the battle to one’s senses. After stopping at the Ulster Tower we shall pay our respects to the missing of the Somme at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing 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 stunning and imposing 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 to Calais and onwards to home.
Caribou at Newfoundland Park
The 38th Welsh Division Memorial
“Although I have read many books on WW1 actually travelling around the area and seeing the many different cemeteries and memorials was just amazing and very emotional. It brought home to me so much more than reading dry facts in a book the sacrifice that so many made for future generations – something that must never be forgotten. From start to finish the tour was well organised and informative. Tony is an excellent tour guide, his knowledge of and interest in military history is obvious when he talks to you. “
“My primary aim in taking part in this tour was to experience the sort of countryside that my dad fought over with the Machine gun Corps in WW1. What I experienced was certainly this and much more, not only was this trip factual and very informative it was, for me, an emotional experience. You also managed to make everyone feel included, and paid great attention to the needs of those that had personal pilgrimages to make, showing great respect for the fallen. Thank you again for an experience that will stay with me.”
“Our visit to the Somme was to be an opportunity to learn more about the First World War and also a personal pilgrimage to visit my Great Uncle’s grave. I know that I made the right decision in choosing Rifleman Tours for our trip. Tony has a wealth of knowledge about military history and with his stories and anecdotes he makes the tour, not only educational, but entertaining too. Both he and Allison are very professional, considerate and respectful. It would have been awful to be on a tour where the guide read everything from a piece of paper, let you take photos then jump back on the coach (we did see one like that at the Australian cemetery – awful!!). All in all a great trip – we are already planning the next one!!”
For full testimonials click here
Below are other battlefield tours that visit the Somme:
From the Ypres Salient to the Crucible of the Somme – Four Day Battlefield Tour of the Somme and Ypres (based in Ypres)