The original village was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company. A new village was built after the war on a nearby site and the original has been maintained as a memorial [more].
The Salient Hotel in Ypres is designed specifically for school groups. Evening meals and packed lunches are provided by the hotel, which also has a games room and a computer suite [more].
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium dedicated to the commemoration of British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built by the British government, the Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1927 [more].
Saint George's Memorial Church, Ypres, Belgium, was built to commemorate over 500,000 British and Commonwealth troops, who had died in the three battles fought for the Ypres Salient, during World War I. It is packed with memorials from schools and clubs which illustrate a good deal about changing attitudes towards the war in they years since it has ended [more].
"In Flanders' Fields" Museum adopts a very modern and engaging approach to the Great War. Each visitor is given a "character card" and follows the life of a real individual (soldier, civilian, woman, man...) through the war. Film, audio, art and artefacts come together in a very powerful experience [more].
During the First World War, Poperinge was situated a few kilometres behind the Ypres Salient. In 1917 approximately 250,000 men were billeted in the area. On the 11th December, 1915, Chaplain "Tubby" Clayton opened a soldiers club at "Talbot House" or "Toc H". For hundreds of thousands of tired soldiers, this site became 'a home from home', where they found a little bit of humanity, rest and peace. Instead of girls and drink, the soldiers got books, sing-songs and wholesome humour. Despite the odd shell through the roof, the institution remains perfectly preserved [more].
Sanctuary Wood is considered by many to offer the finest preserved trenches on the Western Front. Aside from battlefield artefacts the interior of the museum offers 3D stereoscopic photographs of highly graphic scenes taken during the war. The museum was closed during WW2 and the artefacts buried under concrete in the cellar. Visiting Germans were told that the artefacts had been stolen by the British. [more].
Tyne Cot Cemetery is the resting place of 11,954 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces. This is the largest number of burials contained in any Commonwealth cemetery of either the First or Second World War. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world. The graves are for soldiers, including some Germans, who died between 6th October 1917 and the end of March 1918 when the German Army attacked and retook this ridge of high ground south of Passchendaele village. [more].
Langemarck Cemetery is the only German one in the Ypres Salient and contains 44,292 burials. The first large headstone is a mass grave containing 25,000 soldiers. An oak panel just inside the entrance to the cemetery lists the names of the German missing. Langemarck changed hands several times in the war. In 1918 alone it fell into German hands during the "Spring Offensive" and was finally retaken by the Belgians on 28 September. Flat stones mark burial plots: often up to eight soldiers share a (sometimes unknown) grave. The Belgian authorities were less willing to give up land to the German enemy, making it a necessity for shared graves to be erected. Along the north wall of the cemetery are the remains of a number of large German blockhouses. [more].
Essex Farm Cemetery is especially notable for two reasons: first, it contains the grave of the youngest casualty in the Ypres Salient: 15 year old Valentine Strudwick, who lied about his age in order to join the army. Second, it was here, during the Second Battle of Ypres, that John McCrae wrote his famous poem "In Flanders' Fields" which gave birth to the "Poppy legend" ("In Flanders' Fields, the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row..."). [more].
The hill of Notre Dame de Lorette rises 165 metres (500 feet) above sealevel. Four mass graves contain the unidentified remains of thousands more. It is sobering to realise that those buried here – approximately 35,000 soldiers – represent just 2.5 percent of the estimated 1,398,000 French war dead of World War I. The Battle of Lorette lasted 12 months from October 1914 to October 1915 and claimed numerous victims. Over 100,000 people were killed and as many were wounded on both sides. On the cemetery are more than 20,000 individual tombs. There are 8 ossuaries (the main one being at the bottom of the Lantern Tower) where the bones of 22970 unknown soldiers have been gathered. [more].
Vimy Ridge is the most important battlefield for the Canadians. The distance between the German and Canadian trench systems is just 5-10 meters in places! The ridge was held by the Germans between 1914-1917 and was a crucial part of the Germans' defences, barring the way to the mines and factories in the plain below which had been of great use to the German war machine. Canadian tunnellers dug tunnels under the Ridge (which we will explore in a guided tour) and then used these as exit points for their troops to launch a surprise attack on the German positions. Between 9th-12th April 1917, under cover of a creeping barrage, the Canadians managed to seize the ridge from the Germans, who had occupied it for three years. There were 11,000 Canadian casualties (3,500 dead) - 200,000 people had lost their lives during the war in battles over the ridge [more].
In recognition of Canada's war efforts, France granted Canada perpetual use of a portion of land on Vimy Ridge under the understanding that the Canadians use the land to establish a battlefield park and memorial. The memorial took monument designer Walter Seymour Allward eleven years to build. King Edward VIII unveiled the memorial on 26 July 1936, in the presence of French President Albert Lebrun, 50,000 or more Canadian and French veterans, and their families.[more].
Serre was one of the strongly fortified villages held by the Germans at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. It has come to be linked closely with several of the 'Pals' battalions, which suffered very heavy losses in the attacks made here. The idea was that by enlisting together in the local Pals battalions they would stay together during their service. The casualty lists that came back after the 1st of July 1916 devastated some of the communities which had sent these Pals battalions. Of some 720 "Accrington Pals" who took part in the attack, 584 were killed, wounded or missing. Each brick in the pictured memorial to the Accrington Pals represents one fallen soldier from the batallion [more].
The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial is a memorial site in France dedicated to the commemoration of Dominion of Newfoundland forces members who were killed during World War I. The 74-acre preserved battlefield park encompasses the grounds over which the Newfoundland Regiment made their unsuccessful attack on 1 July 1916 during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was the regiment's first major engagement, and during an assault that lasted approximately 30 minutes the regiment was all but wiped out by enemy machine-gun fire. Purchased in 1921 by the people of Newfoundland, the memorial site is the largest battalion memorial on the Western Front, and the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved [more].
Thiepval was one of the fortress villages that was held by the Germans on the Somme front in 1916. The houses in the village, although flattened, had deep cellars where the Germans held out, and their machine gun posts were not destroyed by the bombardment. After the War ended, Thiepval was chosen as the location for the "Memorial to the Missing" to commemorate those who died in the Somme sector before the 20th of March 1918 and have no known grave. This is the largest and most imposing of the Memorials to the Missing. Commemorated here is the short-story writer H. H. Munro, better known as 'Saki' (Panel 16A) [more].
The Lochnagar Crater is one of the original 1 July 1916 Somme craters, created when British soldiers detonated two charges of ammonal (of 24,000lb and 30,000lb) which they had planted under the German lines. It was blown along with 16 others at 0728 on the morning of 1 July 1916 as a two-minute precursor to the start of the offensive. The Lochnagar Crater measured 300ft across and 90ft deep. Debris from the explosion rose some 4,000ft into the air. The area around the crater fell to the Allies over the next two days [more].
*You will notice certain differences here from the planned itinerary in Google Earth and in Google Maps. This was due to certain sites clearly needing more time than anticipated and we took the decision that it was better to visit fewer sites properly than more sites hurriedly.
WW1 Battlefields Trip Itinerary
Note: This is the itinerary which I actually used in 2010. The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive about the trip as a whole: the only suggestion for improvement was that we go for an extra day next time so that students have a chance to see everything that was originally scheduled.
Day 1 (Monday 8th November)
Observations after the trip: Going through Paris at rush hour slowed us down considerably. To avoid this next time, an option is to stay in Albert for the first two nights (i.e. the Somme sector) and then drive up to Ypres for the next two nights (i.e. the Ypres Salient). Obviously arriving in Ypres so late at night was not ideal, although the students liked the "midnight feast" we had at the local restaurant...!
Observations after the trip: The next time I run the trip, I plan to spend two days in the Ypres Salient. This will allow for us to visit other important sites such as Sanctuary Wood Museum, (for another example of a trench network), Hill 60 (to stress the Battle of Messines Ridge), Lissjenhoek Cemetery (a particularly interesting site because most of the casualties - unlike at Tyne Cot - are named soldiers with personal dedications on the headstones from their families; this makes it much more effective for the cross-laying exercise outlined in the worksheets.
Day 3 (Wednesday 10th November) - The Somme
Observations after the trip: The next time I run the trip, the Somme sector will be visited first and we will stay at a hotel in Albert; thereafter we will drive up to Ypres and stay there for two nights. In this way, the timings shown here are overly generous; we can arrive at the first site much earlier, and visit both Serre and Beaumont Hamel the same day; as I plan to visit in the Summer term there will also be substantially more daylight hours which also provides more flexibility.
Day 4 (Thursday 11th November) - The Somme