WW1 Battlefields & Memorials Tour

Discussion in 'EMEA' started by Wildman, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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    I’m planning a five-day tour of the Great War battlefields and memorials over Easter. What’s not to miss? Any suggestions or recommendations for lodging?
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  2. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    http://lagazuoi5torri.dolomiti.org/dengl/cortina/laga5torri/musei/sassostria.html

    Might still be snowed under on Easter, though. WWI in the Dolomites was a particularly nasty event.

    A good summer tour, though, and I hear that there are some nice motorcycling roads in the area.
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  3. Gone Troppo

    Gone Troppo Somewhat bemused observer

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    Thiepval.
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  4. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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  5. Its not Ginger!

    Its not Ginger! Been here awhile

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    Obviously you have the Somme, but a bit further on is Verdun, several WW1 forts that can be explored, two where you pay to get in and one that is abandoned and sealed off by an unlocked gate ;-) you need a torch to go in and not to blame anyone else if it collapses on your head.

    There is another spot where a whole village was mined under where once in a while they do little guided tours through the underground tunnel system, the rest of the time you can still walk around the trenches that have been left as-was after the war.

    For the Somme look up "The Major and Mrs Holts" guide book, get it on Kindle ant take it with you:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EIJHL06/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    I can probably give more info on the Verdun area if you're interested in going there as well, but you could easily your time around the Somme. Or stop at Two Wheel Moorings and talk to Ian and Carol who know the area intimately (Bet they are already full though)

    Ypres is also just up the road, but may be busy trying to see the Last Post over Easter. Villa Vanilla is an awesome B&B in Ypres - but I bet they are booked up.
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  6. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    Nearest to the ports is Ypres and the various battlefields around in the salient. Don't miss the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. Lots of other stuff in Ypres itself, not all connected with WW1
    The CWWG at Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth cemetery of WW1. You can look up on the CWWG website to see if you have any relatives there (or in any other CWWG).
    Not far away is Langemarke, site of a large German war cemetery. The style of graveyard is very different, reflecting the mode of cemeteries back home.

    Still near the ports, but to the south, Etaples cemetery. It was the last hospital station for those with a "Blighty one", but many did not make it. The largest CWWG in France. Etaples was also the site of the infamous "Bull Ring".
    A little further south is Montreuil sur Mer. No longer by the sea, but it was Haig's headquarters. Nice walk round the fortifications.

    As it will be Easter, then I would head to Arras and Vimy Ridge. Celebrate the victory of the Canadien Corps on Easter 1917. You can visit the tunnels used to bring up the attacking forces ( and remove the injured) across otherwise not very good attacking terrain. Large memorial also.
    Arras was comprehensively shelled during both wars. The Citadelle is a Vauban fort, next to another CWWG, and if you follow the road round the back, you come to the square where the nazis murdered many captured Resistance fighters.
    Lots of other stuff to visit in Amiens, the underground hospital etc.

    One of the best - and my favourite - WW1 museums is in the citadelle at Peronne just to the west. From there you could nip down to Compiegne ad take a look at the railway carriage where the Armistice was signed. Hitler had the original WW1 edition destroyed, but the recreation is exact.

    Of course the well known Commonwealth memorials around the Somme, Thiepval has been mentioned. Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial and too many others laying roughly 1/2 way between Arras and Amiens.

    Lot of smaller cemeteries, the result of skirmishes during The 100 Days, the final Big Push from Amiens, after the failure of the Kaiserschlacht.

    If you have visited most of the above - and the many others you will come across travelling from one to the other - then the Verdun battlefield is a moving place to see. Nearly a million casusalties. Several museums, the Necroplis, several wargraves, both French and German. There are many remains of hardened positions, over quite and extensive area.
    There are a couple of cheap but clean hotels ie Ibis Budget etc, and a few acceptable bistros in town.

    If you did wander as far as Verdun, with a bit of research you could cut across the American sector and see their memorials. Nice back road ride compared to the autoroute.

    Tried to mix in a few indoor places in case the weather is unkind.
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  7. Its not Ginger!

    Its not Ginger! Been here awhile

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    Another great WW2 place to visit is the V2 rocket bunker at L a Coupole, very close to Vimy ridge and not very far from Calais, you are also likely to drive past it on the way to the Somme or Verdun areas.

    https://www.lacoupole-france.co.uk/

    Allow at least a couple of hours as there is quite a bit to see here, if you tend to read every description of every exhibit then it could fill half a day, also some planetarium kind of thing there which I did not visit as we just stopped off on our travels having passed the sign for it many times.

    IIRC the old tunnels at Vimy are guided tours that run on a schedule and on a busy weekend like Easter would probably need booking in advance.
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  8. Wildman

    Wildman In my castle

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    We've actually canned the idea of battlefields at Easter. Do it later in the year. Heading to Gutersloh to see my son, then up to Bremen to meet a riding buddy.

    Thanks for all of the tips. They'll come in useful in the Summer.
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  9. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    If when you go, then La Coupole - as Ginger mentions, is well worth some time. It has morphed into a collection of different exhibitions and museums, so will take some time.
    The opposite side of St Omer, is Le Blockhaus d'Eperlecques (at Eperlecques, north, just beyond St Omer). Not so extensive or time intensive, but very interesting and still somewhat raw and foreboding inside - something that La Coupole has lost to a certain extent over the years.


    St Omer was Foch's HQ. There is a decent Ibis Budget at the bottom of the hill, walking distance to the town centre. A full fat Ibis right in town and several decent restaurants, lots of bars and cafes in the main square and the Vauban fortifications.
    Hortillanage too if you are into gardening.
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  10. nickguzzi

    nickguzzi Long timer

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    From the ports, Honfleur is about 3 hrs by autoroute IIRC, free autoroute. You come out at Pont de Normandie, which is worth a look and a traverse.
    You can always come across country and take back roads of which there are many alternatives, many of which I have used as I have a friend who lives in a tiny village on the Seine, opposite Caubebec.
    A look at a terrain map will give you some idea of the sort of roads you will come across. St Valery and Dieppe are worth a look if you are not desparate for time and taking the coastal alternative.
    You can deviate slightly to take in a couple of sites from the Hundred Years War. Cressy (Crécy-en-Ponthieu) and Agincout (Azincourt these days). Little museums and field these days.
    Having had to spend a couple of days in Le Harvre waiting, apart from a decent museum of modern art, it is not the most attractive place to spend time.
    Honfleur was of course where HenryV landed - you can put up there too - there are lots of accommodations at all price ranges and lots of restaurants of all levels in and around the Old Port. Very picturesque. You can also take a tiny boat out to look at the underneath of the bridge, which looms even larger from the choppy waters.

    A short hop down the coast is Ouistrem. Short of there is Pegasus Bridge - the orginal still there, although replaced by a modern version. Still there is Cafe Grondee a place which does not always get glowing reports. However, the little local museum has a few diaramas and maps of D-Day, so you can follow the thrust of battle as targets and objectives were taken or not.
    Ouistem itself has a large observation post right in town with a display. For a more extensive exposition, you can visit the Mémorial de Caen, as it says on the tin, a memorial and museum.
    There is something called the Memopass, which gives access to most of the places I will mention, but no www ATM.
    Back on the coast, you are pretty much straight onto the landing beaches, the British/Canadian end at least - Gold, Juno and Sword.
    Quite a few museums and expositions there now, pretty much every village has something.
    One not to miss IMHO, is the Cinema360 just east of Arromanches. Excellent.
    Down the hill, into the town, the first thing to notice is the remains of the Mulberry Harbour. If the tide is right and you can walk out to some of the caissons, as you get near, you realise how huge they are.
    The Musee du débarquement has excellent diaramas and models, and when ever I have been, excellent guides explaining both the invasion and the construction, placing and use of Mullbery. Several other attractions in the same rather crowded building.
    Lots of eateries and drinkeries.

    To the west, and slightly inland, is Bayeux, first city to be liberated, and home of the famous tapestry. An excellent object to go and see. Now over 900 years old. A group of embroiderers set about remaking the missing few yards (out of about 80) It wasn't there last time I visited, but I know it was finished to some acclaim.
    Supposedly the tapestry is going on tour to UK some time, but the setting here is pretty good.

    Along the pretty flat coastal areas are the US invasion beaches, Omaha and Utah, with the associated, war graves and monuments. There is the much publicised St Marie du Mont, the story of it featuring in the Band of Brothers film.

    The D-Day Experience is new since I was last over that far, the first is focused on the experiences of the US First Airborne Division. There are quite a few other attractions. Pointe du Hoc cemetery being very moving.
    Overall, the Cotentan peninsular is a bit dull. I have traversed it a few times, but must have missed the main attractions - other than the many seafood restaurants.

    Another site maybe of interest is Falaise Castle (in Falaise, around which the WW2 battle of the Falaise Pocket took place) Home to the young William or Guillaume le Conquerant. Of relevance to the English, among others.
    Loads of others stuff too - lots of joint and shared history between the French, Normans and English around.
    Lots of beautiful villages and country side, although that tends to be more inland than along the coastal strip.

    Quite a few films which feature the region, or event which happened there.
    Either the Ken Branagh or Laurence Olivier versions of Henry V.
    Longest Day
    Band of Brothers
    Just to get you into the mood.
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