Anzac Day 2018 - Western Front Tour
From GBP 329/pp
Secure your place & package price with a deposit payment now!Each year the villages around the France-Belgium border come together to remember the role the Anzac forces played in repelling the German advances of World War I in a unique commemoration of Anzac Day. Our Western Front tours are led by local experts to ensure that you experience everything this important occasion has to offer.
Return Eurostar or Make Your Own WayOur two night Western Front Eurostar package departs London on Monnday evening for Lille where we stay for two nights while exploring the Western Front battlefields and memorials and attend the 25 April dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux. The tour returns to London on Wednesday evening.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Europe or would prefer to arrange your own transport our Make Your Own Way package is also available.
Register Your AttendanceEveryone joining the Anzac Day services must register their attendance at the Western Front commemorative services on the Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs website.
- Two nights Lille hotel accommodation
- Optional return Eurostar transfers from London
- Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneaux
- Tour of WWI battlefields & memorials in the Somme (France) on Anzac Day
- Tour of WWI battlefields & memorials in Ypres (Belgium) & surrounding areas
- Professional Western Front WWI tour guide
- Fanatics tour leader for duration of tour
- Commemorative tour hoodie
- Total respect & reverence of the Anzac spirit & tradition at memorial sites
HistoryWhilst Gallipoli was the first battle that Anzac forces encountered during World War I, it was the Western Front in northern France and Belgium where Australian and New Zealand troops would go on to serve in their greatest number and, tragically, suffer its largest & most horrendous casualties.
Australian forces did not join the European war until 1916 after finishing their eight month campaign at Gallipoli. From Gallipoli they were moved to the north of France and were deployed to various areas of France and Belgium where they were to encounter gruesome trench warfare in a desperate and costly bid to prevent German troops forcing their way towards the English Channel.
Sadly, the Australians lost 53,000 lives out of the 313,814 troops sent into combat in France and Belgium. 23,000 Australians were killed capturing the village of Pozieres during the battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916. No place on earth has seen so much Australian sacrifice and it was this massive loss of life in France and Belgium that brought the full cost & tragic reality of war home to the Australian people.
Australian and New Zealanders alike fought in many battles over the stretch of three years in France and Belgium, with its battles leading to a significant loss of life but also forging a proud Anzac fighting spirit. Places such as The Somme, Villers-Bretonneux, Hill 60, Menin Gate, Le Hamel, Fromelles and Pozières mark a significant place in Australian military history.
Our Expert Tour GuideOur tour is guided by local specialist Andy Thompson. Andy has been guiding groups in the area since 1982 and has worked with Fanatics since 2009. Andy's knowledge of the area is second to none and he is always happy to incorporate any requests from passengers to visit particular sites of interest (contact us with details ahead of the the tour).
The SitesOur specialist Western Front tour guides have been leading groups to the area for many years and know all of the places of special interest for the Anzacs. They will also do their best to include any particular memorials tour members wish to visit (be sure to email us if you have a request).
The Hindenburg Line: The strongest and last line of the German army's defence consisted of three very well defended trench systems. The well designed trenches required two major attacks by the Australians and US forces over three stages to break the line and force German retreat.
Ypres and Flanders Fields: Ypres is a beautiful township in southern Belgium that played a critical role in the Allies' defence of the Western Front. Surrounded by lush green fields and rich fertile farmland, the landscape is dotted with a variety of cemeteries and memorials that serve as a lasting and eerie reminder of the bloody battles that raged day in & day out during the Great War.
Due to its location, Ypres went from being a quiet country town better known for its cloth trade to become a strategically critical crossroads that would eventually be reduced to rubble following constant bombardment during 1914. Some 5 million soldiers passed through Ypres on their way to the Ypres salient.
Menin Gate: During the Great War the Menin Gate was a mere wooden bridge spanning two banks to allow crossing of the moat and signal the journey to battle along the Menin Road - a place where many a soldier would pass through and, tragically, never return.
Tyne Cot Cemetery: The world's biggest Commonwealth cemetery with 11,908 graves and 34,927 names engraved on the rear wall of the cemetery. Tyne Cot still contains remnants from the WWI including several concrete pill boxes used by the German Army. These boxes were built above ground as the land was not suitable for digging trenches & bunkers, with its narrowing openings designed for firing on enemy, often at chillingly short range. The empowering size of Tyne Cot Cemetery serves as a sad & sombre reminder of the sheer magnitude of death and suffering that war has inflicted on the modern world over the past century.
Other sites include Le Hamel, Pozieres, Passchendaele, Polygon Wood & Hill 60.
The City of LilleThe city of Lille and its surrounding areas were at the centre of conflict during both the First and Second World Wars. Located on the France-Belgium border, Lille today stands at the heart of one of Europe's major metropolitan & cosmopolitan regions, boasting an array of historical & architectural sights combined with sophisticated & modern entertainment, shopping and dining.
Hotel Flandre AngleterreWe stay at the newly renovated Hotel Flandre Angleterre featuring modern decor, wifi & bar. The hotel is located a short walk from the old town centre, Eurostar terminal and all of Lille's vibrant restaurant, shopping & nightlife.
Monday 23 April - Lille ArrivalCheck-in this afternoon is available from 3pm. Our optional Eurostar train from London will depart London St. Pancras at 6pm. Details on meeting our tour leader at St Pancras station will be emailed to you two weeks before the tour, you will need to be at the station for check-in one hour before departure.
This evening we head into Lille's historic town centre for dinner and drinks with our fellow Anzac travellers.
Tuesday 24 April - Battlefields & Memorials TourThis morning we set out to see the Belgian town of Ypres and the surrounding battlefield areas. The tour takes in the three main battles that took place around Ypres:
Essex Farm Cemetery & Surrounds
This is where John McCrae created the famous poem “In Flanders Field” and where a 15 year old soldier is buried. We then move onto Langemark German Cemetery which is one of only four German cemeteries in the area containing 44,000 graves and the Brooding Soldier - a stunning memorial to the Canadians and their part in the first gas attacks of 1915.
Tyne Cot Cemetery
This is the largest British military cemetery in the world with some 12,000 graves plus the names of 35,000 who are 'missing'. The cemetery contains two Australian VCs and we follow the route of the Australian 3rd Division in the taking of the Broodseinde Ridge in October 1917, now the site of the cemetery. This led to the disastrous first battle of Passendale when the New Zealanders and Australians were massacred.
Hill 62 & Messines Ridge
Hill 62 still contains original trenches from 1916 and a museum (€4 admission). This afternoon is spent on the Messines Ridge following the battle of Messines in June 1917, visiting Hill 60, Caterpillar Crater, the Irish Peace Park, Hyde Park Memorial and the site of the 1914 Christmas Truce.
We then take some time to look around Ypres and the historic Menin Gate before returning to Lille.
Wednesday 25 April - Dawn Service & Battlefields TourToday we're up early ready to board our tour coach and drive towards the Somme battlefields and Villers-Bretonneux for the Anzac Day dawn service at the Australian National Memorial commemorating the recapture of the village Villers-Bretonneux by Australian Forces on 25 April 1918.
Please note: Our departure from Lille is very early this morning for the dawn service and food services are very limited in the Somme area. As such, please pack food, snacks & water ready to take with you.
After the Dawn Service we board our coach for a guided tour of the memorials and battlefields located around Villers-Bretonneux (see key sites below).
At the end of our day of touring the battlefields our coach returns us to Lille at around 4pm where we will have a few hours of free time before our optional Eurostar train back to London (arrives London St Pancras station at approx 7pm).
The Australian National Memorial - Villers-Bretonneux
The Memorial, a tower with two large arms, stands on a hill dominating the local countryside and facing Amiens. The panels contain the names of 10,797 Australian soldiers who have no known grave. In 1918 fierce fighting took place just beyond this spot on Anzac Day when a night attack by British and Australians troops drove the Germans from the town and thus saved Amiens - an important headquarters and supply centre for the army. The German Spring Offensive was thus halted marking the turning point in the war when on August 8 the counter attack, with all 5 Australian Divisions involved, commenced and the German Army was steadily rolled back eastwards.
Due to the significant part played by the Australians in the fighting of 1918 the town of Villers-Bretonneux has assumed a special place in the hearts and minds of the French and Australian people. Melbourne adopted the town and helped re-build the local school through donations which opened in 1923. The school still functions and houses a museum largely dedicated to the actions of the Australian soldiers.
Le Hamel Memorial Park
The recently refurbished Australian Memorial at Le Hamel command views of the Morlandcourt Ridge (where the Red Baron was shot down) and the Villers Bretonneux memorial. Here, where there are still a few German trenches to be seen, was the famous battle of Le Hamel on July 4, 1918 when the Australian 4th Division under General John Monash performed outstandingly in forcing the Germans back. The purpose was to straighten the Allies’ line which otherwise would have contained a 'German bulge'. Monash, known for his careful planning, and coordination with tanks, gas and artillery, drove the Germans back in 93 minutes (he had planned it to take 90 minutes!). The newly arrived Americans also participated in this battle and the first Medal of Honour (American equivalent to the Victoria Cross) was won here. Many plaques now guide the visitor through the site. Two Australian VCs were also awarded.
As with Villers Bretonneux, the small village of Pozieres will be forever associated with the newly arrived Australian army to the Somme when in July 1916, the 1st and 2nd Divisions suffered terribly in taking the village and pushing through to other German trenches. The losses were horrendous with 23,000 casualties. The village contains the well-known café 'Tommy' with reconstructed German and Australian trenches back to back - and the sounds of Waltzing Matilda!