2017 Gunners on the Western Front: Royal Artillery

(Five days four nights)

This tour will follow the story of the Royal Regiment of Artillery through the war on the Western Front and visit some of their major battles and actions. The tour will start at Mons, where the first shots were fired, and where the first and last British soldiers killed in the war are buried. We will visit the battlefields of the Somme, Ypres, Cambrai and Arras and visit to the last post ceremony at Ypres in Belgium. 

We see where the Guns were served over open sights against the Germans from the fiorst days of the war at Mons and  le Cateau and Cam,brai Ypres. Discover the part that artillery played throughout the war; how the gunners could fire barrages within 50 yards of their own advancing troops.

We will follow the stories of Gunners of all ranks.  Meet the Gunner Generals; men like the fighting general Henry Tudor who rose from captain to major general, developing innovative tactics.  Canadian  failed insurance broker and property developer Arthur Currie who rose to command the Canadian Corps and the future Field Marshal Alanbrooke who as a staff officer played an important role at the Somme and Arras.   

Meet Captain Blackadder RGA, and the young Nobel Prize Laureate Lieutenant William (Willie) Lawrence Bragg  and hear their stories.  Discover the poetry of Herbert Asquith, the son of the prime minister, and the war service of artists E H Shepherd, who illustrated Winnie the Pooh and Gilbert Holiday. 
We will look at actions where Gunners won VC's and other medals, including the first and last Gunner VCs on the Western Front.

We will explore the Gunner's experience of the Western Front. Find out what a Lieutenant Colonel Brigade Commander did  all day and the daily routine of a Forward Observation Officer, Gun Numbers, drivers  and Signallers and of the horses mules and find out what really happened to pigeons!

Additional Information

Speciality
British forces
Conflict
WW1
Year
2017
Start Location
End Location

TOUR PROGRAMME

Thursday: 9th November 2017  Travel to France

Briefing en route by your guide.

Arrive at your Lille hotel for overnight accommodation prior to departure after breakfast the following morning on your tour.
Accommodation: *2 star Arras Hotel
Meals: Nil

Friday: 10th November 2017 –    Ypres

9.00 am – After breakfast we will pick up a picnic lunch and depart hotel for our short drive to the Ypres Salient. 

The Belgian city of Ieper, known in WW1 by its  French spelling Ypres, and by the British as “Wipers” has a special place the story of the British Army in the First World War.  The Old Contemptibles of the BEF defended this last Belgian city.  It was fought over throughout the war, and almost every British unit served here. The outlying village of Passchendaele has become synonymous with suffering and the Menin Gate has become a symbol of Remembrance.  Our visit will include the Gunner story about the Ypres Salient.  

Our visit will include:-

The Passchendaele Museum has a very good artillery collection

  • Paschendaele Museum Zonnebeke, the best collection relating to artillery in the area.
  • The 1914 battles, including the story of the gun which supported the bayonet charge which saved the British Army on 31st October 
  • 1914 and formed the last line of defence on 11th Nov 1914.
  • The artillery landscape of Hill 60.
  • Essex farm cemetery where John McCrae the medical officer to a Canadian Artillery brigade composed the poem 'In Flanders Fields'.
  • The story of the first use of chemical weapons.
  • The German cemetery at Langemark.
  • Tyne Cot Cemetery on Passchendaele ridge.
  • The story of the Gunner VCs in the Ypres area: Lieutenant Gorle and Captain Dougall.
  • Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate
  • We will stop for lunch at a local cafe

Early dinner before Menin Gate ceremony  (own expense).  

8.00 pm - This evening we experience the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony. After the ceremony we return to our hotel 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Saturday 11th November 2017  Arras and Somme

Visit the main sites of the 1916 battlefield of the Somme, and look at the story from the Gunner point of view. We will look at how effective the fire plan was and some of the gun positions The tour will include the following :-

  • The preserved battlefield of Beaumont Hamel and the Hawthorne Crater where B Battery RHA's forward observers went over the top on the first day of the Somme.
  • How the British and French developed their use of artillery and how they supported the first tanks.
  • Vimy Ridge and the site of the battles of April 1917. We will see how the British Army learned from the Somme and how much the artillery had developed to support a breakthrough.
  • The story of the RHA batteries which supported the cavalry which tried to exploit the breach in the German lines.
  • We will have lunch at Ocean Villas a local cafe.
  • The 11th of November is Remembrance Day andn obserrved in France. We plan to be at the Theipval memorial for 11 AM for an act of Remembrance  , 

Late afternoon/evening retrun to our hotel there is an opportunity ty to 

Dinner tonight is not included, and you are free to eat in the modern hotel bistro or take taxi to the town centre Arras has a great choice of authentic French bistros and restuarants for dinner.

Accommodation: *2/3 star Hotel Arras 
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Sunday 12th November 2017

The First and the Last  Today our tour takes you to at the beginning and end of the First World War; from the opening battles of the Gunners of the Old Contemptibles to the last battles of the war, with artillery, tanks and aircraft. The highlights include:-

The Mons Battlefield, including the story of the Gunners defending the Mons canal, and the first Gunner VC of the war, to Major Alexander of 113 Bty RFA at the battle of Elouges.

  • Visit St. Symphorien cemetery, where the first and last fatal casualties are buried for an act of Remembrance at 11 AM.
  • The Le Cateau Battlefield, where three VCs were awarded to Gunners for recovering the guns.
  • The battlefield of Cambrai, looking at the innovative battle of Cambrai when the artillery, aircraft and tanks were co-ordinated for the first time, and where two gunners were awarded VCs.
  • The site of the river crossing of the Sambre canal at Ors where the war poet Wilfred Owen of the Manchester Regiment was killed
  • We will stop for lunch near Le Cateau .

Dinner tonight is not included, and you are free to eat in the modern hotel bistro or take taxi to nearby Bethune (10 mins). Bethune has a great choice of authentic French bistros and restuarants for dinner.

Ho0tel Arras.

Meals breakfast and Lunch 

Monday 13th November 2017, Return to the UK

Personal Visits: If time permits it may be possible to allow for a visit to visit a specific grave or memorial.

Lecture and Talks: Although our visit will mainly focus on the human stories, we will also provide optional evening talks on tactics and equipment. We will talk about some of the key tecniques of thwe war. How to range a battery 1914 style. Discover how to cut barbed wire with an 18 pounder gun or plan a creeping barrage. Hear about the great artillery innovators of the war and how artillery was commanded and controlled.  

Accommodation

We will be staying in a two star hotel in the north of France and travelling in France and Belgium.

There are plenty of opportunities to sample the food and drink of these regions. The part of northern France where we will be staying, is called Artois and used to be part of Flanders. The food and drink is similar to that of Belgium.

 

Besides normal tourist fare, look out for ficelles – usually filled with ham and cheese. The cheese of the area Marolles which has a strong and distinctive tatse and smell. Belgium is famous for frites (chips) which can be served with Moules (Mussels) steak. Look out for Flemish beef stew – usually stewed in beer and their “Waterzooi” - stews of fish or chicken.  

Highlights

INCLUDED IN THE TOUR:

* Coach transport throughout tour from the UJC in London return
* Experienced battlefield guide, Major Frank Baldwin, throughout
* Ferry from Dover to Calais return
* 4 night’s accommodation in Arras
* Buffet breakfast daily
* Zonnebeke Passchendaele museum entrance fee
* Poppy wreath (1 for the group)
* Printed tour programme memento
* Baggage tags
* Full licencing and bonding fees for 100% financial protection of your money.

Route

  1. London