Ypres Salient - Standard Tour (4hrs)
Our Standard Tour is an in-depth trip through the whole Salient covering every major site. Our first stop is the first aid dressing station where the most famous poem of the war was written by army surgeon, John McCrae. Today in the cemetery that grew up around the dressing station where he worked, among hundreds of similar graves, is the last resting place of a 15 year old soldier; a boy who, like thousands of others, lied about his age in his eagerness to follow his friends.
Then we proceed to Langemark where tens of thousands of men lie together in a mass grave in the only German cemetery in the area. It's a sombre place with stark black headstones and massive oak trees. Solemn, sad, and very moving, it's a place that you never forget.
Afterwards, as we pass through the tranquil countryside, now dotted with dozens of peaceful cemeteries, we cross over the very ground defended so gallantly by the Canadians during the terror of the first gas attack of 1915. Despite being massively outnumbered and subjected to the horrors of the first poison gas attack to be mounted on the Western Front, the Canadians fought off the German attack long enough to allow the British to bring up reinforcements. Ypres was saved, but two thousand Canadians had died. We will visit the beautiful and melancholy Brooding Soldier memorial.
Later we will arrive at the battlefields near the village of Passchendaele, a name indelibly carved into the consciousness of the British Commonwealth. For three months in 1917 the Empire forces strove to capture the commanding Passchendaele Ridge from the Germans. The low lying ground below the ridge, poorly drained at the best of times, became an absolute morass as the heaviest bombardment the world had ever seen slammed into the soft ground during weeks of torrential rain. The British and Commonwealth infantry, struggling through the resulting swamp, found themselves attacking impregnable concrete bunkers that sat secure and dry on the higher ground.
As the rain continued to fall, many men and horses drowned in the mud as the attack relentlessly ground on. Finally, in November, Passchendaele village was finally captured as the attackers reached the crest of the ridge. The cost had been horrific. As the men had stuggled through 6km of appalling mud, against some of the toughest defences of the war, 35 men had died for every metre of the way. No tour of these battlefields would be complete without a visit to Tyne Cot, the world's largest Commonwealth War Cemetery where almost 12,000 of these men lie together on the slope where they died. The graves of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers here remind us of the sacrifices made by these fine fighting men so far from home.
Our tour finishes when we take you back down into the Salient to visit the fascinating Hooge craters and excavated trenches where you can step inside a German bunker and down through an excavated German communication trench (weather permitting - they do still get flooded occasionally) where battlefield relics, mostly in the form of bullets and shrapnel balls, can still be found. This was a German trench, overlooking the city of Ypres, under which the British tunnellers laid a series of mines and blew up the position. The results are clear to see to this day.