Some helpful advice

Quite   simply,   nothing   can   beat   the   freedom   of   exploring   the   battlefields   without   the   rigid timetable   of   a   coach/minibus   group   dictating   when   and   where   you   can   travel.      How frustrating   must   it   must   be   to   see   the   battlefields   passing   before   your   very   eyes   without being   able   to   stop   wherever   you   want   to   stop,   for   however   long   you   want   to   spend, exploring   what   you   want   to   explore.      The   freedom   to   explore   the   battlefields   at   your   own pace   is   what   I   always   wanted   since   I   first   visited   the   battlefields   over   40   years   ago,   so after   having   personally   guided   over   300   conducted   tours   since   1997   as   a   professional guide,   I   set   about   the   long   and   detailed   task   of   producing   our   Somme   1916   and   Ypres Self-Drive   guides   to   allow   anyone   to   jump   in   their   car   to   explore   the   battlefields   for themselves,   free   of   all   the   constraints   imposed   by   coach   tours.      Our   Self-Drive   guides   will equip   you   with   everything   you   need   to   convert   what   will   in   most   cases   be   French   or Belgium   countryside   back   to   the   time   of   the   Great   War   (if   one   drives   through   the battlefields    today    without    a    detailed    guide    there    is    little    or    nothing    to    help    you comprehend   what   happened   where.      This   is   one   of   the   biggest   frustrations   experienced by casual visitors who arrives unprepared). We   very   much   appreciate   that   our   Self-Drive   tours   are   not   the   cheapest   way   to   explore the   battlefields   as   producing   and   maintaining   our   comprehensive   Somme   1916   and   Ypres guides   is   a   costly   exercise   for   us   –   but   it   is   without   doubt   the   most   rewarding   way   to explore the battlefields!  So.   .   .in   a   nutshell   our   nationally   acclaimed   Self-Drive   Somme   1916   and   Ypres   battlefield tours   allow   you   to   travel   when   you    want   for   as   long   as   you   want.      You   just   take   your vehicle   and   we’ll   do   the   rest!   We   arrange   your   hotel   accommodation,   Channel   crossing (for   UK   travellers)   and   provide   all   the   maps,   directions   etc   you’ll   need,   and   of   course,   our all-important   Self-Drive   Somme   and/or   Ypres   Battlefield   Guides   -   your   ‘window   to   the past’ .   No   other   guide   has   so   much   detail   and   is   so   easy   to   follow!         Please   also   note   that our   Self-Drive   guides   are   only   available   when   combined   with   hotel   accommodation   (and optional Channel crossing) and as such cannot be provided separately . GENERAL GUIDENCE Below   are   some   general   points   to   consider   should   you   be   thinking   of   booking   a   Self-Drive tour   to   the   Somme   and/or   Ypres   battlefields.      Once   again,   I’m   sorry   it’s   a   bit   on   the   long side   but   I’ve   tried   to   address   all   the   things   you   may   be   unsure   about.      Here   and   there you’ll find links underlined in blue for you to click for more information. Booking   well   in   advance   is   strongly   recommended    as   the   few   hotels   we   personally recommend,   which   are   hotels   we’ve   been   working   with   for   many   years,   soon   get   fully booked. BACKGROUND We   are   not   a   big   commercial   company   offering   everything   to   everybody.   We   are   a   small but   professionally-run   company   who   have   established   a   proud   reputation   based   on   our client testimonials and national awards .   I   founded   my   tour   company   back   in   1996   having   had   a   life-long   interest   in   the   Great War,   and   just   the   Great   War,   so   everything   we   do   is   focused   on   the   tours   we   provide.     Just   as   you   may   have   found,   I   too   have   read   many,   many   books   about   the   Somme   and Ypres   battles   over   the   years   but   none   have   ever   explained   precisely   and   clearly   how   to explore   these   two   battlefields   so   as   to   enable   one   to   find   the   precise   spot   where   actions took   place.   This   has   been   my   biggest   frustration   and   was   the   spur   for   me   to   set   about producing    clear,    friendly,    unstuffy    written    guides    packed    with    ‘then    and    now’ comparisons,   which   anyone,   whether   a   history   buff   or   a   first-timer,   could   simply   ‘pick   up and   go’   with   as   much   or   as   little   pre-existing   knowledge   as   may   be   the   case.   To   make things   even   simpler,   we   combine   our   Self-Drive   tour   with   a   Channel   crossing   (optional), hotel   accommodation,   and   all   the   directions   you’ll   need,   including   a   separate   navigational section for your passenger to use to ensure an argument-free journey of exploration! We   understand   that   you   don’t   know   us   so   you   may   have   understandable   reservations   as to   whether   a   self-drive   tour   is   for   you.   Our   advice   is   to   please   have   a   closer   look   at   our client   testimonials .   Unlike   some   companies,   we   don’t   just   cherry-pick   the   ones   we   want you   to   read.   The   testimonials   you   see   on   our   website   are   exactly   as   we   received   them. None   have   been   excluded   or   edited   (other   than   when   referring   to   private   or   confidential matters). We   are   here   just   about   all   hours   seven   days   a   week   to   take   calls   from   clients   who   have booked with us.  It’s all part of the personal service we endeavour to provide. Why a Self-Drive Tour? One   of   the   most   enjoyable   and   rewarding   ways   to   explore   the battlefields   of   the   Great   War   is   to   do   so   by   yourself,   or   in   the company   of   friends/relatives.   Conducted   tours,   whether   small   or large,   understandably   require   you   to   comply   with   a   fairly   strict itinerary.            If    you    travel    as    part    of    a    group    you    may    well    be frustrated   by   not   being   able   to   explore   the   landscape   and   'follow your   nose'   to   uncover   for   yourself   the   legacy   of   the   Great   War (which   is   what   I   and   so   many   others   have   always   so   enjoyed doing!).   There   is   nothing   more   exasperating   than   being   sat   in   a coach   or   minibus   watching   the   battlefields   pass   by,   when   you   would   so   love   to   have   the freedom   to   stop   and   explore   unhindered   by   others.   This   is   why   our   Self-Drive   tours   are so popular. Our Self-Drive Guides As   I   mentioned   above,   despite   all   the   many   excellent   books   that   have   been   written   about the   Great   War,   few   provide   sufficient   detail   to   allow   you   to   locate   the   exact    places   where any   particular   action   took   place.      If   you   do   not   travel   properly   prepared   you   could   well end   up   just   staring   at   French/Belgium   countryside   without   knowing   precisely   what   took place   where   and   when   (most   often   beneath   your   very   feet!).   This   is   what   happens   with so      many      battlefield      visitors      who      travel      without      comprehensive      written explanations/diagrams/maps/photos etc. To   see   the   terrain   of   today   for   what   it   was   like   all   those   years   ago   requires   a   combination of   present   day   and   original   WWI   ‘Trench   Maps’,   as   well   as   a   clear   narrative   of   precisely what   took   place   and   where,   and   how   to   get   to   these   places.      One   also   needs   clear directions   as   to   where   to   drive,   where   to   stop,   what   to   look   for   and   how   to   relate   the landscape   of   today   to   how   it   was   back   in   the   Great   War.   This   is   just   what   our   self-drive guides   provide.   Our   written   guides   are   not   just   any   old   collection   of   briefing   notes   or cobbled   together   maps   as   offered   by   some   as   ‘self-drive’   companies.      Our   self-drive battlefield   guides   are   professionally   produced   and   regularly   updated   colour   booklets which   have   been   carefully   designed   to   take   you   on   a   journey   of   exploration,   so   you   know exactly   where   to   stop,   where   to   walk   and,   most   importantly   of   all,   what   to   look   for.   It’s the   time   and   effort   we   have   spent   in   producing   our   guides   that   has   resulted   in   our national   press   recommendations   and   awards   and   why   we   have   received   such   positive feedback from those who have undertaken one of our self-drive battlefield tours.   PLANNING YOUR TOUR How much time should I allocate? First   and   foremost,   you   can   travel   whenever   you   wish,   for   as   long   or   short   as   you   wish!     We’ll   organise   everything   around   YOUR   dates,   which   is   one   of   the   biggest   attractions   for choosing a ‘made to measure’ Self-Drive battlefield tour. ‘I   wish   we   had   allocated   more   time’   is   a   comment   we   hear   many   times   from   our   clients on   returning   from   one   of   our   self-drive   tours.      You’ll   be   surprised   how   time   seems   to   fly by   when   you   are   exploring   the   battlefields   of   the   Great   War.      Our   self-drive   Somme   and Ypres   guides   can   take   about   two   full    days   each   to   complete   (may   be   even   more   including museum   visits),   so   as   a   general   rule   we   recommend   that   you   try   and   spend   at   least three   nights   (just   two   ‘clear’   days)   visiting   either   the   Somme   or    Ypres   battlefields,   plus whatever   time   you   can   spare   from   your   arrival   and   departure   days.      If   you   have   in   mind to   explore   both   the   Somme   and   Ypres   then   may   be   try   and   earmark   a   minimum   of   four nights   divided   2:2   between   these   two   most   poignant   battlefields   of   the   Great   War   1914- 1918.   If   you   have   five   nights   to   spare   then   may   be   divide   your   time   3:2   between   the Somme   and   Ypres,   your   time   away   being   weighted   towards   the   Somme   as   this   battlefield is   more   open   and   easier   to   explore,   using   our   self-drive   guide.   Six   nights   divided   3:3   is best   of   all.      If   time   is   really   limited   then   at   a   push   consider   spending   two   nights   visiting the Somme and one night at Ypres. If   you   have   in   mind   to   visit   both   the   Somme   and   Ypres   battlefields   then   one   other   option to   consider   is   basing   yourself   in   Ypres   for   all   three   or   four   nights   and   to   travel   south   to the   Somme   battlefield   for   one   or   two   days   (about   90   minute   drive   each   way).      Ypres   is   a vibrant   and   more   English-speaking   town   with   far   more   restaurants/bars   etc   than   Albert, coupled   with   having   the   Menin   Gate   in   the   centre   of   the   town.   This   way   you’ll   not   have to   change   hotels   but   may   possibly   spend   more   time   ‘on   the   road’.      It’s   a   matter   of personal choice. Getting around the battlefields As   previously   mentioned,   you’ll   need   to   have   a   car   to   follow   our   self-drive   guide(s)   I’m sorry   but   we   can’t   at   present   help   with   the   Eurostar   passenger   train   service   from   London to   France   Belgium,   nor   car   hire,   though   there   are   the   usual   cluster   of   rental   outlets   to   be found   at   most   major   rail   stations   and   airports   close   to   the   battlefield,   particularly   Lille International   Rail   Station      which   sits   roughly   half   way   between   the   Somme   and   Ypres battlefields.      Most   people   travelling   from   the   UK   take   their   own   vehicle,   crossing   the Channel   by   either   ferry   or   tunnel,   which   we   are   happy   to   include   as   part   of   our   Self-Drive battlefield   tour   ’package’.      We   can   easily   extend   your   Channel   crossing   so   as   to   include any   additional   days   you   may   wish   to   add   on   to   your   battlefield   tour   to   be   arranged   by yourself,   such   as   combining   with   a   holiday   or   business   trip.      Please   also   note   that   we   are only   able   to   offer   ferry   and   tunnel   crossings   from   Dover/Folkestone-Calais.      If   you   wish to   travel   a   different   route   (such   as   from   Portsmouth   or   Hull) then   please   make   your   own   arrangements   and   we   will   deduct the Channel crossing cost from your quotation. The Battlefields Visiting   the   battlefields   of   the   Great   War   takes   more   time   than one   may   at   first   imagine.   When   exploring   the   legacy   of   the First   World   War   there   is   an   understandable   tendency   to   slow down    and    reflect    upon    these    tragic    and    most    thought provoking    past    events,    coupled    with    a    natural    desire    to explore   the   terrain   (as   a   battlefield   detective…)   using   our popular   Self-Drive   guides.      Wandering   off   to   explore   this   or that     is     one     of     the     most     rewarding     and     enjoyable consequences   of   being   a   free   agent   armed   with   our   written guide! Which battlefield to visit if just time for one? Ypres   is   a   vibrant   town   with   an   abundance   of   restaurants,   fine museum   and   the   famous   ‘Last   Post’   ceremony   held   at   the Menin   Gate   Memorial   to   the   Missing   every   evening.   The   Ypres battlefield   has   seen   development   over   the   years   but   can   still be   explored,   especially   using   or   Self-Drive   guide   which   will take   you   to   places   many   visitors   never   get   to   see.      The   Somme   however   is   still   open rolling   countryside   which   can   easily   (using   our   guide   that   is…)   be   compared   ‘then   and now’.   Albert,   the   nearest   Somme   ‘battlefield   town’,   and   where   you   will   most   likely   be staying,   is   much   less   commercialised   compared   to   Ypres   with   just   a   few   basic   restaurants and   fewer   museums.      The   Somme’s   even   larger   Memorial   to   the   Missing   at   Thiepval   sits on   a   lonely   but   hugely   poignant   ridge   right   in   the   centre   of   the   Somme   battlefield   and   at night   sits   in   darkness   compared   to   the   Menin   Gate   in   Ypres   which   has   a   town   wrapped around it.    Here’s more. The Somme Battlefield We   strongly   recommend   that   your   stay   in   either   Albert   or   Peronne   for   the   Somme battlefield,   as   opposed   to   either   Arras   or   Amiens,   as   both   these   smaller   towns   lie   just   a mile   or   so   from   the   old   front   line,   and   so   were   very   much   part   of   the   battlefield, especially   as   final   staging   posts   for   troops   coming   up   to   the   battlefield   (both   towns   were almost totally destroyed by the end of war). The   Somme   battlefield   lies   in   an   area   of   the   Somme   department   of   northern   France called   Picardie.   This   battlefield   is   easier   to   explore   as   there   has   been   relatively   little domestic   and   commercial   development   over   the   intervening   years   which,   coupled   with the   gentle   rolling   countryside,   makes   comprehending   the   events   of   the   battle   so   much easier.   Our   Self-Drive   Somme   guide   takes   a   good   two   days   to   complete   (taking   in   to account time spent visiting the small museum in the centre of Albert). The   biggest   Commonwealth   Memorial   in   the   world   is   the   Thiepval Memorial    to    the    Missing,    which    stands    high    above    the    Somme battlefield   and   which   can   be   seen   from   miles   around.   Please   see   our Somme   itinerary   below   for   details   of   where   our   self-drive   guide   will take you and see our hotels page  for accommodation options. The Ypres Battlefield Ypres   lies   in   the   heart   of   an   area   known   as   Flanders,   with   infamous   villages   such   as Passchendaele,   Hooge,   Messines,   Hill   60   and   so   many   others   that   have   become   so synonymous   with   the   Great   War,   making   up   the   ‘salient’   that   lies   just   a   few   kilometres   to the   east   of   the   town.      The   Ypres   area   (now   spelt   the   Flemish   way   'Ieper')   has   a   flatter terrain   when   compared   to   other   battlefields   such   as   the   Somme   and   has   seen   some degree   of   development   over   the   intervening   years.   Ypres   is   a   most   vibrant   town   with   a particularly   strong   legacy   of   the   battles   that   almost   encircled   the   town   throughout   1914- 1918.      The   second   largest   Memorial   to   the   Missing,   the   Menin   Gate   Memorial ,    located close   to   the   town   centre,   is   perhaps   the   most   visited   memorial   on   the   Western   Front, due   largely   to   the   famous   'Last   Post'   ceremony   which   takes   place   at   8.00   pm   each   and every evening. See our hotels page  for accommodation options. The   superb   ‘In   Flanders   Fields’   museum,   house   in   the   old   Cloth   Hall   in   the   centre   of Ypres   is   a   must   to   visit.      The   museum   was   completely   refurbished   and   enlarged   in   2012 and is ideally suited for both adults and younger visitors (say 8+). Please   see   our   Ypres   itinerary   below   for   details   of   where   our   self-drive   guide   will   take you and see our hotels page  for accommodation options. Australians in WW1 The   principal   Australian   battlefields   are   to   be   found   on   the   Somme   (Pozieres   1916) battlefield   and   the   area   around   Villers   Bretonneux   (1918)   which   forms   part   of   the   greater Somme   battlefield.   Our   Somme   guide   can   easily   be   extended   so   as   to   a   separate   guide for   Villers   Bretonneux.   (Our   Self-Drive   Somme   guide   does   not   include   the   1917-1918 actions   further   east   in   the   area   of   the   Hindenburg   Line).   Our   guide   to   the   Ypres battlefield   includes   the   1917   ANZAC   battlefields   of   Passchendaele.   There   are   of   course many   other   important   Australian   battlefields   which   are   not   included   in   our   printed   Self- Drive   Somme   and   Ypres   guides   such   as   Fromelles,   Messines   etc.   These   battlefields   are best explored by using the services of a personal guide.    
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
Image shows a group of soldiers, commonly believed to be a company of the Public Schools Battalion (16th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment) at "White City", opposite Beaumont Hamel prior to the Battle of the Somme, 1916. (Alternatively, the men may be from the 1st Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment on 1 July, 1916.) Middle: One of those soldiers standing in the same spot 1928. Bottom: The same place today (included in our Somme itinerary).
Top: The desolation and carnage of Delville Wood after the costly battle to take the wood July-August 1916. Bottom: Children play in the shallow remains of trenches in Delville Wood, unaware of all those who still lie beneath their feet.
Click the above Guardian link to see some excellent ‘then and now’ comparison images.
‘’Hellfire Corner’, one of the most notoriously dangerous road intersections on the Ypres battlefield for troops and supplies coming up to the front line just half a mile or so ahead The middle picture of the same junction (note original supply narrow gauge railway) was taken about 1921.  The bottom photo is Hellfire Corner today - a roundabout!
A sculpture by German artist Kathe Kollwitz, titled "The Grieving Parents" at Vladslo German Cemetery, Belgium. The cemetery contains the graves of over 25,000 WW1 German soldiers. The artist’s son, Peter Kollwitz, who was killed in the war when he was only 18 years old, is buried in a grave directly in front of the statue. In the 1930s Kathe Kollwitz was criticised by the emerging Third Reich as they viewed such sentimentality as ‘un German’.  They held the view that Kollwitz’s sculpture should have shown the parents as standing, being proud that their son had died for the Fatherland.
The Menin Road is a large oil painting by Paul Nash completed in 1919 that depicts a First World War battlefield. Nash was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to paint a battlefield scene for the proposed national Hall of Remembrance. The photo beneath is the same road today.
The Menin Road as depiced by Nash today
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd  Wimborne  Dorset BH21 1EJ  Tel: +44 (0) 7776 195773 or +44 (0) 1202 840520 info@battlefield-tours.com
Happy times while they lasted... The remains of a Company (240+). The Somme 1916 'White City' 1916 and today DO NOT TOUCH!!!
This    leathal    pile    of    hand grenades,    trench    mortars, gas     and     high     explosive shells   awaiting   collection   by the      authorities      (Somme battlefield     2017).     NEVER, ever   touch   any   unexploded ordinance.     I     have     been amazed    at    seeing    visitors pick         up         unexploded grenades   and   shells   as   if   a harmless relic of the war.
terms & Conditions terms & Conditions
Quite   simply,   nothing   can   beat   the   freedom   of   exploring   the   battlefields without   the   rigid   timetable   of   a   coach/minibus   group   dictating   when   and where   you   can   travel.      How   frustrating   must   it   must   be   to   see   the battlefields   passing   before   your   very   eyes   without   being   able   to   stop wherever   you   want   to   stop,   for   however   long   you   want   to   spend, exploring    what    you    want    to    explore.        The    freedom    to    explore    the battlefields   at   your   own   pace   is   what   I   always   wanted   since   I   first   visited the    battlefields    over    40    years    ago,    so    after having   personally   guided   over   300   conducted tours   since   1997   as   a   professional   guide,   I   set about   the   long   and   detailed   task   of   producing our   Somme   1916   and   Ypres   Self-Drive   guides to   allow   anyone   to   jump   in   their   car   to   explore the   battlefields   for   themselves,   free   of   all   the constraints   imposed   by   coach   tours.      Our   Self- Drive   guides   will   equip   you   with   everything   you need   to   convert   what   will   in   most   cases   be French   or   Belgium   countryside   back   to   the   time of   the   Great   War   (if   one   drives   through   the battlefields    today    without    a    detailed    guide there     is     little     or     nothing     to     help     you comprehend   what   happened   where.      This   is one   of   the   biggest   frustrations   experienced   by casual visitors who arrives unprepared). We   very   much   appreciate   that   our   Self-Drive tours   are   not   the   cheapest   way   to   explore   the battlefields   as   producing   and   maintaining   our comprehensive   Somme   1916   and   Ypres   guides is   a   costly   exercise   for   us   –   but   it   is   without doubt   the   most   rewarding   way   to   explore   the battlefields!  So.   .   .in   a   nutshell   our   nationally   acclaimed Self-Drive   Somme   1916   and   Ypres   battlefield tours   allow   you   to   travel   when   you    want   for   as long   as   you   want.      You   just   take   your   vehicle   and   we’ll   do   the   rest!   We arrange   your   hotel   accommodation,   Channel   crossing   (for   UK   travellers) and   provide   all   the   maps,   directions   etc   you’ll   need,   and   of   course,   our all-important   Self-Drive   Somme   and/or   Ypres   Battlefield   Guides   -   your ‘window   to   the   past’ .   No   other   guide   has   so   much   detail   and   is   so   easy to   follow!         Please   also   note   that   our   Self-Drive   guides   are   only   available when    combined    with    hotel    accommodation    (and    optional    Channel crossing) and as such cannot be provided separately . GENERAL GUIDENCE Below   are   some   general   points   to   consider   should   you   be   thinking   of booking   a   Self-Drive   tour   to   the   Somme   and/or   Ypres   battlefields.      Once again,   I’m   sorry   it’s   a   bit   on   the   long   side   but   I’ve   tried   to   address   all   the things   you   may   be   unsure   about.      Here   and   there   you’ll   find   links underlined in blue for you to click for more information. Booking   well   in   advance   is   strongly   recommended    as   the   few   hotels   we personally   recommend,   which   are   hotels   we’ve   been   working   with   for many years, soon get fully booked. BACKGROUND We   are   not   a   big   commercial   company   offering   everything   to   everybody. We   are   a   small   but   professionally-run   company   who   have   established   a proud reputation based on our client testimonials and national awards .   I   founded   my   tour   company   back   in   1996   having   had   a   life-long   interest in   the   Great   War,   and   just   the   Great   War,   so everything   we   do   is   focused   on   the   tours   we provide.      Just   as   you   may   have   found,   I   too have    read    many,    many    books    about    the Somme   and   Ypres   battles   over   the   years   but none   have   ever   explained   precisely   and   clearly how   to   explore   these   two   battlefields   so   as   to enable    one    to    find    the    precise    spot    where actions   took   place.   This   has   been   my   biggest frustration   and   was   the   spur   for   me   to   set about   producing   clear,   friendly,   unstuffy   written guides      packed      with      ‘then      and      now’ comparisons,   which   anyone,   whether   a   history buff   or   a   first-timer,   could   simply   ‘pick   up   and go’    with    as    much    or    as    little    pre-existing knowledge   as   may   be   the   case.   To   make   things even   simpler,   we   combine   our   Self-Drive   tour with    a    Channel    crossing    (optional),    hotel accommodation,   and   all   the   directions   you’ll need,   including   a   separate   navigational   section for    your    passenger    to    use    to    ensure    an argument-free journey of exploration! We   understand   that   you   don’t   know   us   so   you may   have   understandable   reservations   as   to whether   a   self-drive   tour   is   for   you.   Our   advice is   to   please   have   a   closer   look   at   our   client testimonials .   Unlike   some   companies,   we   don’t just   cherry-pick   the   ones   we   want   you   to   read. The   testimonials   you   see   on   our   website   are exactly   as   we   received   them.   None   have   been excluded   or   edited   (other   than   when   referring to private or confidential matters). We   are   here   just   about   all   hours   seven   days   a week    to    take    calls    from    clients    who    have booked   with   us.      It’s   all   part   of   the   personal service we endeavour to provide. Why a Self-Drive Tour? One     of     the     most     enjoyable     and rewarding      ways      to      explore      the battlefields   of   the   Great   War   is   to   do   so by    yourself,    or    in    the    company    of friends/relatives.       Conducted       tours, whether   small   or   large,   understandably require   you   to   comply   with   a   fairly   strict   itinerary.         If   you   travel as   part   of   a   group   you   may   well   be   frustrated   by   not   being   able to   explore   the   landscape   and   'follow   your   nose'   to   uncover   for yourself   the   legacy   of   the   Great   War   (which   is   what   I   and   so many   others   have   always   so   enjoyed   doing!).   There   is   nothing more    exasperating    than    being    sat    in    a    coach    or    minibus watching   the   battlefields   pass   by,   when   you   would   so   love   to have   the   freedom   to   stop   and   explore   unhindered   by   others. This is why our Self-Drive tours are so popular. Our Self-Drive Guides As    I    mentioned    above,    despite    all    the many    excellent    books    that    have    been written   about   the   Great   War,   few   provide sufficient   detail   to   allow   you   to   locate   the exact    places   where   any   particular   action took   place.      If   you   do   not   travel   properly prepared    you    could    well    end    up    just staring     at     French/Belgium     countryside without   knowing   precisely   what   took   place   where   and   when (most   often   beneath   your   very   feet!).   This   is   what   happens with     so     many     battlefield     visitors     who     travel     without comprehensive     written     explanations/diagrams/maps/photos etc. To   see   the   terrain   of   today   for   what   it   was   like   all   those   years ago   requires   a   combination   of   present   day   and   original   WWI ‘Trench   Maps’,   as   well   as   a   clear   narrative   of   precisely   what took   place   and   where,   and   how   to   get   to   these   places.      One also   needs   clear   directions   as   to   where   to   drive,   where   to   stop, what   to   look   for   and   how   to   relate   the   landscape   of   today   to how   it   was   back   in   the   Great   War.   This   is   just   what   our   self- drive   guides   provide.   Our   written   guides   are   not   just   any   old collection   of   briefing   notes   or   cobbled   together   maps   as   offered by   some   as   ‘self-drive’   companies.      Our   self-drive   battlefield guides    are    professionally    produced    and    regularly    updated colour   booklets   which   have   been   carefully   designed   to   take   you on   a   journey   of   exploration,   so   you   know   exactly   where   to stop,   where   to   walk   and,   most   importantly   of   all,   what   to   look for.   It’s   the   time   and   effort   we   have   spent   in   producing   our guides   that   has   resulted   in   our   national   press   recommendations and   awards   and   why   we   have   received   such   positive   feedback from    those    who    have    undertaken    one    of    our    self-drive battlefield tours.   PLANNING YOUR TOUR How much time should I allocate? First   and   foremost,   you   can   travel   whenever   you   wish,   for   as long   or   short   as   you   wish!      We’ll   organise   everything   around YOUR    dates,    which    is    one    of    the    biggest    attractions    for choosing a ‘made to measure’ Self-Drive battlefield tour. ‘I   wish   we   had   allocated   more   time’   is   a   comment   we   hear many   times   from   our   clients   on   returning   from   one   of   our   self- drive   tours.      You’ll   be   surprised   how   time seems   to   fly   by   when   you   are   exploring the   battlefields   of   the   Great   War.      Our   self- drive   Somme   and   Ypres   guides   take   about two   full    days   each   to   complete   (may   be even   more   including   museum   visits),   so   as a   general   rule   we   recommend   that   you   try and   spend   at   least   three   nights   visiting either    the    Somme    or     Ypres    battlefields, plus   whatever   time   you   can   spare   from your   arrival   and   departure   days.      If   you have   in   mind   to   explore   both   the   Somme and   Ypres   then   may   be   try   and   earmark   a minimum     of     four     nights     divided     2:2 between      these      two      most      poignant battlefields   of   the   Great   War   1914-1918.   If you   have   five   nights   to   spare   then   may   be divide   your   time   3:2   between   the   Somme and   Ypres,   your   time   away   being   weighted towards   the   Somme   as   this   battlefield   is more   open   and   easier   to   explore,   using our   self-drive   guide.   Six   nights   divided   3:3 is   best   of   all.      If   time   is   really   limited   then at   a   push   consider   spending   two   nights visiting    the    Somme    and    one    night    at Ypres. If    you    have    in    mind    to    visit    both    the Somme   and   Ypres   battlefields   then   one other   option   to   consider   is   basing   yourself in   Ypres   for   all   three   or   four   nights   and   to travel   south   to   the   Somme   battlefield   for one   or   two   days   (about   90   minute   drive each   way).      Ypres   is   a   vibrant   and   more English-speaking     town     with     far     more restaurants/bars   etc   than   Albert,   coupled with   having   the   Menin   Gate   in   the   centre of   the   town.   This   way   you’ll   not   have   to change    hotels    but    may    possibly    spend more   time   ‘on   the   road’.      It’s   a   matter   of personal choice. Getting around the battlefields As previously mentioned, you’ll need to have a car to follow our self-drive   guide(s)   I’m   sorry   but   we   can’t   at   present   help   with the   Eurostar   passenger   train   service   from   London   to   France Belgium,   nor   car   hire,   though   there   are   the   usual   cluster   of rental   outlets   to   be   found   at   most   major   rail   stations   and airports   close   to   the   battlefield,   particularly   Lille   International Rail   Station      which   sits   roughly   half   way   between   the   Somme and   Ypres   battlefields.      Most   people   travelling   from   the   UK   take their    own    vehicle,    crossing    the    Channel    by    either    ferry    or tunnel,   which   we   are   happy   to   include   as   part   of   our   Self-Drive battlefield   tour   ’package’.      We   can   easily   extend   your   Channel crossing   so   as   to   include   any   additional   days   you   may   wish   to add    on    to    your    battlefield    tour    to    be arranged    by    yourself,    such    as    combining with   a   holiday   or   business   trip.      Please   also note   that   we   are   only   able   to   offer   ferry   and tunnel    crossings    from    Dover/Folkestone- Calais.      If   you   wish   to   travel   a   different route    (such    as    from    Portsmouth    or    Hull) then   please   make   your   own   arrangements and   we   will   deduct   the   Channel   crossing cost from your quotation. The Battlefields Visiting   the   battlefields   of   the   Great   War takes    more    time    than    one    may    at    first imagine.   When   exploring   the   legacy   of   the First   World   War   there   is   an   understandable tendency   to   slow   down   and   reflect   upon these    tragic    and    most    thought    provoking past   events,   coupled   with   a   natural   desire to    explore    the    terrain    (as    a    battlefield detective…)    using    our    popular    Self-Drive guides.      Wandering   off   to   explore   this   or that    is    one    of    the    most    rewarding    and enjoyable    consequences    of    being    a    free agent armed with our written guide! Which   battlefield   to   visit   if   just   time for one? Ypres   is   a   vibrant   town   with   an   abundance   of   restaurants,   fine museum   and   the   famous   ‘Last   Post’   ceremony   held   at   the Menin   Gate   Memorial   to   the   Missing   every   evening.   The   Ypres battlefield   has   seen   development   over   the   years   but   can   still   be explored,   especially   using   or   Self-Drive   guide   which   will   take you   to   places   many   visitors   never   get   to   see.      The   Somme however   is   still   open   rolling   countryside   which   can   easily   (using our   guide   that   is…)   be   compared   ‘then   and   now’.   Albert,   the nearest   Somme   ‘battlefield   town’,   and   where   you   will   most likely   be   staying,   is   much   less   commercialised   compared   to Ypres   with   just   a   few   basic   restaurants   and   fewer   museums.     The   Somme’s   even   larger   Memorial   to   the   Missing   at   Thiepval sits   on   a   lonely   but   hugely   poignant   ridge   right   in   the   centre   of the   Somme   battlefield   and   at   night   sits   in   darkness   compared to   the   Menin   Gate   in   Ypres   which   has   a   town   wrapped   around it.    Here’s more. The Somme Battlefield We    strongly    recommend    that    your    stay    in    either    Albert    or Peronne   for   the   Somme   battlefield,   as   opposed   to   either   Arras or   Amiens,   as   both   these   smaller   towns   lie   just   a   mile   or   so from   the   old   front   line,   and   so   were   very   much   part   of   the battlefield,   especially   as   final   staging   posts   for   troops   coming up   to   the   battlefield   (both   towns   were   almost   totally   destroyed by the end of war). The    Somme    battlefield    lies    in    an    area    of    the    Somme department   of   northern   France   called   Picardie.   This   battlefield is   easier   to   explore   as   there   has   been   relatively   little   domestic and   commercial   development   over   the   intervening   years   which, coupled      with      the      gentle      rolling      countryside,      makes comprehending   the   events   of   the   battle   so   much   easier.   Our Self-Drive   Somme   guide   takes   a   good   two   days   to   complete (taking   in   to   account   time   spent   visiting   the   small   museum   in the centre of Albert). The    biggest    Commonwealth    Memorial    in    the    world    is    the Thiepval   Memorial   to   the   Missing,   which   stands   high   above   the Somme   battlefield   and   which   can   be   seen   from   miles   around. Please   see   our   Somme   itinerary   below   for   details   of   where   our self-drive   guide   will   take   you   and   see   our   h otels   page    for accommodation options. The Ypres Battlefield Ypres   lies   in   the   heart   of   an   area   known   as   Flanders,   with infamous   villages   such   as   Passchendaele,   Hooge,   Messines,   Hill 60   and   so   many   others   that   have   become   so   synonymous   with the   Great   War,   making   up   the   ‘salient’   that   lies   just   a   few kilometres   to   the   east   of   the   town.      The   Ypres   area   (now   spelt the   Flemish   way   'Ieper')   has   a   flatter   terrain   when   compared   to other    battlefields    such    as    the    Somme    and    has    seen    some degree   of   development   over   the   intervening   years.   Ypres   is   a most   vibrant   town   with   a   particularly   strong   legacy   of   the battles   that   almost   encircled   the   town   throughout   1914-1918.     The   second   largest   Memorial   to   the   Missing,   the   Menin   Gate Memorial ,    located   close   to   the   town   centre,   is   perhaps   the most   visited   memorial   on   the   Western   Front,   due   largely   to   the famous   'Last   Post'   ceremony   which   takes   place   at   8.00   pm each     and     every     evening.     See     our     hotels     page      for accommodation options. The   superb   ‘In   Flanders   Fields’   museum,   house   in   the   old   Cloth Hall   in   the   centre   of   Ypres   is   a   must   to   visit.      The   museum   was completely   refurbished   and   enlarged   in   2012   and   is   ideally suited for both adults and younger visitors (say 8+). Please   see   our   Ypres   itinerary   below   for   details   of   where   our self-drive   guide   will   take   you   and   see   our   hotels   page    for accommodation options. Australians in WW1 The   principal   Australian   battlefields   are   to   be   found   on   the Somme   (Pozieres   1916)   battlefield   and   the   area   around   Villers Bretonneux   (1918)   which   forms   part   of   the   greater   Somme battlefield.   Our   Somme   guide   can   easily   be   extended   so   as   to   a separate   guide   for   Villers   Bretonneux.   (Our   Self-Drive   Somme guide   does   not   include   the   1917-1918   actions   further   east   in the   area   of   the   Hindenburg   Line).   Our   guide   to   the   Ypres battlefield      includes      the      1917      ANZAC      battlefields      of Passchendaele.    There    are    of    course    many    other    important Australian   battlefields   which   are   not   included   in   our   printed Self-Drive    Somme    and    Ypres    guides    such    as    Fromelles, Messines   etc.   These   battlefields   are   best   explored   by   using   the services of a personal guide.    
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd  Wimborne  Dorset BH21 1EJ  Tel: +44 (0) 7776 195773 or +44 (0) 1202 840520 info@battlefield-tours.com
Top: The desolation and carnage of Delville Wood after the costly battle to take the wood July-August 1916. Bottom: Children play in the shallow remains of trenches in Delville Wood, unaware of all those who still lie beneath their feet. 
Top image shows a group of soldiers, commonly believed to be a company of the Public Schools Battalion (16th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment) at "White City", opposite Beaumont Hamel prior to the Battle of the Somme, 1916. (Alternatively, the men may be from the 1st Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment on 1 July, 1916.) Middle: One of those soldiers standing in the same spot 1928. Bottom: The same place today (included in our Somme itinerary).
A sculpture by German artist Kathe Kollwitz, titled "The Grieving Parents" at Vladslo German Cemetery, Belgium. The cemetery contains the graves of over 25,000 WW1 German soldiers. The artist’s son, Peter Kollwitz, who was killed in the war when he was only 18 years old, is buried in a grave directly in front of the statue. In the 1930s Kathe Kollwitz was criticised by the emerging Third Reich as they viewed such sentimentality as ‘un German’.  They held the view that Kollwitz’s sculpture should have shown the parents as standing, being proud that their son had died for the Fatherland.
The Menin Road is a large oil painting by Paul Nash completed in 1919 that depicts a First World War battlefield. Nash was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to paint a battlefield scene for the proposed national Hall of Remembrance. The photo beneath is the same road today.
'White City' 1916 and today Some helpful advice