The draft itinerary below has been produced by Eyewitness Tours Ltd for the third in their series of battlefield tours organised for the WPA to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and the lives and writing of poets who fought on the Western Front 1914—1918.
A copy of the itinerary published as a PDF by Eyewitness Tours Ltd may be downloaded here for easy printing. Contact Andy Thompson by e-mail via the Eyewitness Tours website at http://eyewitnesstours.com/about to enquire about any remaining places available for the 2018 Tour.
The World’s Worst Wound
27—30 October 2018
Saturday 27th October 2018
Once across the Channel, we drive to directly to Arras to begin the tour at the observation post where Edward Thomas was killed on April 9th 1917. We continue our study of Thomas at his grave at Agny Military Cemetery, before checking into the Hotel de l’Univers, a 4* hotel that has been tastefully developed in a beautiful building that was once a hospital. The historic centre of Arras is a short walk away.
Dinner will be served in the hotel dining room.
Sunday 28th October 2018
After breakfast, we depart Arras and travel north along the former Western Front and head for the Ypres Salient. The British Army defended ‘Wipers’ (Ypres) for the duration of the war and suffered appalling casualties in the putrefying, cloying, mud. We examine the impact of the Battle of Passchendaele where Sassoon, Blunden, Graves, Gurney and David Jones all struggled through the mud, chaos and confusion and look at how their experiences shaped their views
during and after the war. Sassoon’s damning verdict of the battle “I died in hell, they called it Passchendaele” expressed the thoughts of many. The Americans fought at Ypres in 1918 and our time in the Salient will allow us to study how the War was viewed across the Atlantic.
We dine at a restaurant in the Grote Markt set against the backdrop of the great Cloth Hall in Ypres, before participating in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. We then return to Arras.
Monday 29th October 2018
After breakfast, we depart for Ors where Wilfred Owen was killed on 4th November 1918 leading a desperate bid to cross the Sambre canal, where the German Army was making a last-ditch stand. We then enjoy a private visit to the Maison Forestière where, in a crowded cellar, Owen wrote his final letter to his mother. At his grave we will read some of his most powerful words before travelling to St Symphorien Military Cemetery. Here, at the graves of Private Parr (KIA 21st August 1914) & Private Ellison (KIA 11th November 1918), we will try to make some sense of the 1,564 days that give our tour its brutal title.
We return to the hotel for a pre-dinner aperitif before dining in Arras.
Tuesday 30th October 2018
We depart d’hôtel l’Univers after breakfast, and make the short journey to the grave of Isaac Rosenberg, killed on April 1st 1918 during the final German offensive of the war. We work our way north via the village of Neuville St Vaast, fought over in the bloody Battle of Arras in 1917. Here, buried almost side by side are French, British and German men who died fighting for a better future for Europe. Our final stop is at a new memorial, dedicated by the French in 2015 to the 585,000+ men who were killed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais during the First World War. Listed alphabetically by family
name and without rank or nationality, the 500 three-metre high panels include the names of many writers, poets, philosophers, musicians and artists, who together make powerful comment as to the dreadful waste that was the First World War and how ‘The Lost Generation’ of Europe’s young men became a major factor in the turbulent inter-war years.
Our tours of 2014 and 2016 were underpinned with camaraderie, insight and a warmth of shared experiences and the War Poets Association PALS end the tour with a relaxing lunch in the sumptuous and tranquil setting of the Chateau Tilques before boarding our inbound shuttle en route for London.