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Ok so I didn't go in the 5 as their were 3 of us and some of the roads(if thats what you can describe them as)
would have been impassable in a low 5...So the Vrs took the challenge, and 1200 miles and only 2 refuels it prooved its worth, as well as carting back a boot full of cheap plonk and fine Belgium beer.

Now onto the run itself, I took Helen and George with me and none of us had been before,but I have done a lot of reading about WW1 and used several good websites to plan my trip. I used TYRE to plot the places to visit and it was faultless.
I will list resources at the end.
We packed wellys and raincoats for our April trip but the sun shone all the time we were their...Very Lucky.

Day 1
After checking into our spartan but very clean hotel at 13.00 near Lens (Henin Beaumont) we rested for a hour having been on the road since Midnight.
the first points of call were based very near

Notre Dame de Lorrette
This is the French National Memorial and recognises the loss of french soldiers during WW1 + WW2 aswell as Indo china
and Algeria.I chose this first as it is truly on an awe inspiring scale 22,000 individual graves and 7 ossuraries containing
20,000 more.

The Basilica was closed due to refurbishment.


The Canadian Memorial at Vimy ridge canbe seen in the distance.

There were Many graves to the Algerians who came to fight for France,They were ofset to face Mecca.

Cabaret Rouge CWGC
The first Comonwealth cemetery we visited and the differnce between the Nations care for its war dead was evident
This was beautifully laid out and cared for.

This is considered a Large site containing 7655 graves over 4500 are "known Unto God"
The ridge with Notre dame de Lorrette is clearly visible and shows what a small area they fought in.

Vimy Ridge
This Canadian Memorial is probally the most beatifull memorial we saw all week, they fact that it sits in protected forests
that contain shell craters and trench systems still visible to this day all the more heart felt.


The Memorial has the Name of the 11,000 men who hve no known resting place.

The statue represent Canada weeping for its dead.

She over looks the ground that the Allies fought so hard to gain.

There are 2 cemeterys near and some of the ages of the fallen was deeply shocking
one lad was aged just 16 his epitaph from his family read "He was just a boy, but he did his best"

Its the small personal thigs like that that moves you....Not the scale of the Multitude of names.

Day 2
We had split the Somme region into 2 days to do it justice.

Ayette Indian + Chinese CWGC
I wanted to see the site and it was tucked away down an narrow dirt track, as we approached Gardeners were busy at work,
the devotion and care being the same for all CWGC no matter how small or large.


81 graves of men who came along way to take part in a war that would never have effected them.But did because they thought it was right.

Serre Road + Shefield Park
The scene of the disasterous northern push On July 1st 1916 by many of the Pals Batalions

the cross of sacrifice at Serre road No1

The memorial to the Accrington pals who lost 584 out of 720 on the opening day.

George showing the depth of the shell holes still visible, a cross just out of sight behind him marks the spot of a soldier
whos remains were only found in 2008, the work of the CWGC still continues.

The view from Queens Cemetery towards Luke copse.There are 6 CWGC and 1 french cemetery in this tiny area
containing over 10,000 lost, many on the 1st July.

Beaumont Hamel

The memorial to the Newfoundland regiment is set amongst the largest area of preserved front line in the region.
as is where the famous film of the Hawthorn Redoubt mine was filmed.


A very good visitors centre tell the story about the indipendant (not yet part of Canada) Newfloundland province came to the call for its Empire.

Ulster Tower

Was also being restored but the cafe and small museum was open, and the english speaking owner was very helpfull and knowledgable definatly worth a visit, if you dont mind eating lunch next to this lot.


This time of year is just after plowing season and many shell are still uncovered and the farmers place them next to markers on the road awaiting collection.They call it the Iron Harvest and this is one that we saw.


Thiepval

The Largest memorial to the Missing with over 72,000 names of the fallen just in the Somme region who have No known grave.
I looked up a Workmates Grandfather who was killed on the 1st of July and have taken Photos for him as he has never been.



Visible from many areas of the Somme region it is the center point of the British push in that year.

Day 3

A trip In to Albert and the Musse de Somme 1916 which is set underground


The golden Maddonna atop the spire nearly fell during shelling as shown in the Mural.

Lochnagar Crater
28 tons of explosives made this 90m wide crater the scale of which drawfs anything we had seen before


Flatiron CWGC and Mametz wood
A visit here to this smaller site (1572) was due to the fact that it contains a VC winners grave
an 3 sets of brothers all lost on the same day, who lie alongside each other.

The Welsh Memorial lies along a dirt track but is stunning and a real tribute to the men who fought.


Caterpillar Valley And London CWGC
Both these large sites 8000 between them have many Unkown headstones, only about 30% are named

One Being selected to represent New Zealands "unknown" soldier his old resting place marked with a stone.

Delville Wood
The South African memorial is dedicated to all its troups through both world wars and also Korea.
A magnifecenty laid out memorial and very moving as the old trench lines are marked as you progress thru the wood.



They wood are marked with 3 memorials that show the locations of 3 V.C action sites.
its contains a beautifull visitors centre explaing the actions South africa took part in.

Regina trench CWGC

This was tucked away down a dirt track that I only found out latter was unsuitable for cars...but We made it.


It is completly isolated and all you could hear was bird song and the wind blowing.

Only 14 people had signed the visitors book so far this year but one from late last year caught my attention.

"sorry its took so long mate to come and see you.but I got here eventualy" signed by a man from Australia

The famous JRR Tolkien was a comunication officer in the trech that the Cemetary takes its name.
even though its 1.5 kms from main road it was as well kept as any I had seen up to now and was our last visit in the Somme region

Day 4

Hill 60 Flanders

This hard fought battle was over a hill that was made from spoil from the Railway cutting but just gave it a bit of height that dominated the otherwise flat and Boggy landscape.

Many Bunkers are preserved along side shell and trench systems.


Tyne Cot CWGC
11,000 burials and 35,000 name of the Missing just from August 1917 to the wars end.

The main Cross being built on the the Original Tyne Cot Bunk house


The Visitors center does a good job of humanising may of the names,a voice recals the names and ages of men lost as you walk from the car park to the entrance, Very moving.

Langemarck
We had been to many Allied Grave site but Now we saw our first German one.In the Area that the first gas attacks were used
and contain several German Bunkers
There is only a charitable organisation that looks after german war Graves and they struggle to keep
up the standards of ours or the french ones.

The Dark teutonic lay outs dont help either.


The mass grave in this photo contains the remains of 25,000 men and the grave markers tended to carry upto 20 men under each
a total of 19,500 .Every floral tribute was from English people.

19 unknown and 5 named

Some were individual and this pair showed faiths of the same nation dieing alongside each other..strange to think how different it would be 20 years after thier deaths.

Ypres and the Menin gate
a Attractive little town and a very good musseum in the rebuilt cloth hall

Their is much to do here as you pass the time waiting for 8 Pm to come round as the crowds start to gather around the Menin gate for the last post.The 54,000 names of the missing prior to August 1917 are on panels around the memorial.

Once again many from all corner of the "empire".



A very moving tribute and silence and a fitting end to our first trip to the region.
I dont think anyone would not fail to be moved at some point during a trip to the region, Be it a small place of quiet reflection, a few words on the base of a headstone, or the scars on the landscape still visible long after all our heroes have passed away.

But for me it will still be
"sorry its took so long mate to come and see you.but I got here eventualy" in the vistors book from a man to his fallen friend.

Alan
 

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Nice pics, looks like you had a good trip. Out of interest, did you see any RAF guys? Our flight heads out there every two weeks to lay a wreath, and they visit most of the above places. We're just about finished with a full WW1 trench system we've been building for the last year or so within our station grounds as part of a heritage scheme, it'll be open to the public later this year I think.
 

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alan, great pictures and write up. you have had me sat here in tears.....
the ......"sorry its took so long mate to come and see you.but I got here eventualy"... is awesome. imagine what the guy was thinking, on his epic journey to see his friend
we had a family holiday (my dad was 72 at the time) in southern france about 6yrs ago, and made a day available on the way home to stop and see similiar sights. there's a similiar thread on here showing it (sadly not mine). its the place where the ist airborne attack landed (in gliders???) please forgive my ignorance
 

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Great write up & some great photo's too, been to the area and visited many of the cemeteries and memorials a few times now and you're right, you can't help but be moved by the sights and the sheer scale of many of the war cemeteries... maybe I'll plan another trip soon.
 

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Went a few years ago in the '5 on the way to an MX5 rally in Reims.

Visited Theipval, Lochanagar crater, the New Zealand Memorial nr Longeueval ('cos i was with some Kiwi friends - its in the middle of farmland now, very poignant) and
"Historial de la Grande Guerre" in P?ronne - a museum with a bit of a different take, very interesting and recommended, more for adults than kids tho (IMO).

Very sobering - especially when you drive along the road from Albert to Bapaume and see how little the front line moved at the cost of tens of thousands of lives............
 

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Great pics,
Really surprising visiting those sort of places.

I'm not much of an emotional person but when you see the shear amount or graves and lives lost it just kinda hits ya.

Careful around Vimy Ridge though, there are still hundreds and hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance still in the tunnels around there.
 

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I made a similar trip a few years back, It is incredible the scale of it. Definitely makes you think. It's interesting learning everything that happened, and seeing the actual place it happened.

Nice photo's and writeup bud! I was unfortunately unwell for most of my trip, meaning I didn't get any photo's, but I still took it all in.
 

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hi alan, that's a great write up and some great photos, i went out there two years ago and visited much the same places as yourselves, then again last year with the o/c. It doesn't get any easier seeing these sites and the graves, it makes you realise what went on and what a terrible waste it all seemed to be, it's a hugely emotional, gut wrenching trip, to be recommended to all.
paul
 

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Alan, you've just done the trip i've wanted to do for YEARS!

Did you enjoy it? How much did it set you back in total? Can you give me any of your dos and don'ts that would help me as i'm planning on doing the same trip next year.

You swine, i'm seriously jeaous!

Love the photos by the way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Tips...Hmmm

1)Decide what you want to see as you cant see everything.Use the websites listed above or order a Holts battlefield Guide from Amazon

2) try to find something local that you can relate to.I wanted to visit the Pals batalions as they made such a impact in the local area.Next time I will try to find the Local men from My Village who lost thier lives.

3) choose a central base. We were just south of Lille so about 20 Mins from the Artois region , 1 hour from both Albert (somme) and Ypres (Flanders/Paschendale)

Costs

?60 return ferry from Dover to Calais
?170 in fuel
Hotel was ?140 for four nights
Toll road charges ?12
Both Museums were about 8 euros each

Your Biggest Bill will be food....a nice meal for the 3 of us with some drinks varied between 50 - 75 euros
That mad up nearly half the costs.

cost us about ?700 all in for the 3 of us but most of that was spent trying to keep a 6ft 16 year old fed on something more than "Le poulet Dip"

For 2 of you could Knock that down to about ?450 for 5 days/4 nights

For the terminally lazy or Nervous continental driver their are many companys that will arrange everything
Just google Battlefield tours.

Hope that helps

Alan
 
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