directions_busTours in France & Belgium

Tour the Western Front with Ray Martin

A very special one-of-a-kind tour

Acclaimed television journalist Ray Martin will be your host and travelling companion on this guided holiday with leading historian Mat McLachlan.

FROM
$6,699PP
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DURATION
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9 nights
WHAT'S INCLUDED
  • hotelAccommodation
  • free_breakfastDaily breakfast
  • directions_busDay tours
  • starsExclusive experience
  • local_activitySelected entry fees
  • restaurantSelected meals
  • thumb_upTips & gratuities

About this holiday

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Ray Martin & Mat McLachlan

This itinerary has been hand-picked to explore several areas on the Western Front, uncovering stories of the spirit of mateship and sacrifice along the way. Over 10 days you will visit the key Australian battlefields of the Ypres Salient, Flanders and the Somme, all whilst enjoying an array of special inclusions with your wonderful host, Ray Martin.

Inclusions

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  • Personally escorted by Ray Martin and Mat McLachlan
  • Services of an expert WW1 Historian
  • 9 nights in 4-star accommodation
  • Travel by comfortable air-conditioned coach
  • Custom-designed itinerary visiting Mat’s favourite sites in the Ypres Salient, French Flanders and the Somme with behind the scenes access
  • Breakfast daily, 7 lunches and 3 dinners including a special farewell dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel
  • All entrance fees as per the itinerary
  • All tipping
  • Copy of Mat McLachlan’s definitive guide to the Western Front, Walking with the Anzacs

Accommodation

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9 nights in 4-star accommodation

Travel dates

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DEPARTS: 7th June 2020

  • Twin share - from $6,699 pp
  • Sole use - from $7,499

Freecall our local travel team on 1300 414 98 to secure your seat on this popular tour.

Itinerary

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Day 1 - Sunday 07 June, 2020 – Arrive Paris

Welcome to this very special tour! This evening meet Ray Martin, Mat McLachlan, your Historian and travelling companions at our Paris hotel. We will enjoy a welcome dinner, and the chance to get to know each other better and discuss our upcoming journey in the footsteps of the Anzacs. (D)

Day 2 - Monday 08 June, 2020 – Paris to Ypres

After breakfast we depart Paris for Ypres, located just over the Belgian border. Upon our arrival in the historic town of Ypres we will have some free time for lunch followed by a walking tour around the rebuilt town, visiting key sites associated with the town’s wartime history such as the magnificent Cloth Hall, Menin Gate and Ramparts Cemetery. This afternoon, we will have the opportunity to take part in a photographic workshop hosted by Ray who will teach us a few tricks on how to take incredible photos on our trip, all while sharing some amazing stories along the way. This evening, walking distance from the hotel, we will return to the Menin Gate, where the names of 54,000 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers are recorded, for the moving Last Post Ceremony. The Ypres fire brigade has performed this bugle ceremony every day and in all-weather since 1928. The only interruption was during the four years of German occupation during WWII – the ceremony recommenced on the day the town was liberated. Two passengers will be invited to lay a wreath on behalf of our group. (B)

Day 3 - Tuesday 09 June, 2020 – The Ypres Salient

The Ypres Salient was a bulge in the front line that curved around Ypres for most of the war. More than a million men were killed or wounded trying to gain control of this small patch of ground. Today we will explore the Australian battlefields in the Salient where the Anzacs made history in 1917. We will begin our day at the Passchendaele 1917 Museum which features a recreated British dugout. We will then continue to the 5th Australian Division Memorial at Polygon Wood and the Buttes New British Cemetery where we will see the graves of Private Hunter and Sergeant Calder, the two Australian soldiers who featured in Mat McLachlan’s documentary ‘Lost in Flanders’. After lunch at a local café, we will get a taste of the devastation caused by four years of continuous artillery fire at the cratered landscape of Hill 60, before visiting Tyne Cot, the world’s largest Commonwealth war cemetery. Our final stop today is at the German Cemetery at Langemark, where we will learn about the men on the other side of the line. As we drive back to our hotel, we will see the magnificent Canadian memorial at Langemark, marking the spot where poison gas was first used in the war. (B,L)

Day 4 - Wednesday 10 June, 2020 – Ypres

Today will give us the chance to further explore Ypres and its surrounds, painting the complete picture of the fighting in this area and giving us access to some very special historic sites. We begin with a visit to the battlefield of Messines, the scene of a huge Allied attack in 1917 that was heralded by the explosion of 19 massive mines. We then drive to the town of Poperinge, which was an important Allied support base during the war. In Poperinge, we will see the local prison, which features cells where convicted soldiers were held before being shot at dawn. The prison yard contains the original execution post, where the executions were carried out. We will then enjoy an exclusive guided tour of Talbot House, an ‘everyman’s club’ that provided respite to both officers and enlisted men during the war. This afternoon, a change of pace brings us to the Sint Bernardus Brewery in the nearby village of Watou, where we will enjoy a late lunch and a tasting of their famous ‘Trappist’ beer, brewed by local monks for centuries. We will return to Ypres and have the evening at leisure to reflect on an eventful day. (B,L)

Day 5 - Thursday 11 June, 2020 – Bruges

Today we have the opportunity to explore Bruges, one of Europe’s most charming medieval cities. Perhaps start with a cruise on the enchanting canals (optional) and then take some time to wander the cobbled streets, sampling the chocolate shops, lace boutiques and cafes for which Bruges is famous. Today lunch will be at your leisure, the perfect opportunity to savour Bruges’ delicious waffles or the enjoy a meal at the famous De Halve Maan brewery. This evening, we will come together at an exclusive location in Ypres for dinner where Ray Martin will interview Mat McLachlan to uncover his life story. (B,D)

Day 6 - Friday 12 June, 2020 – Ypres – The Somme

Today we leave Belgium and travel south to the battlefields of the Somme in France. We start with a visit to the very moving 1916 battlefield of Fromelles, where Australia lost 5533 men during its first action on the Western Front. Whilst here we will visit the Australian Memorial Park, VC Corner Cemetery (the only all-Australian cemetery in France) and see the site of the recently discovered Australian mass grave at Pheasant Wood. We will also visit the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Cemetery, where 250 soldiers exhumed from the mass grave were laid to rest in 2010 along with a visit to the Fromelles Museum. Our next visit is to the location of the battlefield of Bullecourt, where Australia lost 10,000 men in two great battles in 1917. We will pay our respects to them at the Slouch Hat memorial in the centre of town and the Australian Memorial Park on the site of the German front line. We will then visit the former Australian HQ at Bertangles Chateau, where General John Monash commanded Australian operations in the first half of 1918. On arrival into Amiens, a town rich in art and history, we will see the magnificent Notre Dame cathedral which is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This gothic masterpiece is larger than Notre Dame in Paris and survived both world wars. Throughout our tour we will see memorials to the Allied nations that defended Amiens in 1918, including Australia. This evening will be at leisure in the beautiful city of Amiens. (B,L)

Day 7 - Saturday 13 June, 2020 – Somme 1916

We will start the day with a visit to the maze of trenches at the Newfoundland Memorial Park. The Newfoundland Regiment was almost wiped out here on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. We will then continue to the spectacular Thiepval Memorial, where the names of more than 72,000 British men missing from the Somme fighting are recorded. We will also see Mouquet Farm, scene of a costly advance by Australian troops in August 1916. Whilst in the area, we will drive past the Ulster Tower, modelled on Helen’s Tower in Northern Ireland. This afternoon we will visit the village of Pozieres, the scene of the most costly battle in Australia’s history. 23,000 men were killed or wounded in six weeks of fighting and we will visit the scenes of their heroic sacrifice at the 1st Division Memorial and the Windmill. We will walk the battlefield with our Historian, gaining a better understanding of the fighting that led to more Australian casualties than any other battle in our history. Our final stop for the day will be the impressive Lochnagar Mine Crater, blown by the British on the first day of the battle and heavily fought over in the days that followed. This afternoon we will return to the Somme and come together for dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 8 - Sunday 14 June, 2020 – Somme 1918

Today we will spend the day visiting the sites in and around the very important town of Villers-Brettoneux. We will start with a visit to the Adelaide Cemetery, where Australia’s Unknown Soldier lay for 75 years before being returned to Australia in 1993. We will then stop by the Franco-Australien Museum, which shares the unpublished story of war, memory and future between France and Australia. We will also visit the neighbouring remarkable Victoria School, where we will see the sign that entreats the students to “Never Forget Australia.” Our next stop will be the imposing Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, which bears the names of more than 10,000 Australians missing from fighting in France, set in the middle of one of Australia’s most famous battlefields of the war. While here we will also visit the Sir John Monash Centre, a state of the art multimedia museum which tells Australia’s story of the Western Front in the words of those who served. Leaving Villers-Bretonneux, we will visit the Australian Memorial Park at Hamel, the scene of General John Monash’s famous victory in July 1918. We will also see the site where the Red Baron was shot down by Australian troops in April 1918. This evening is at leisure. (B,L)

PLEASE NOTE: A mobile device with the Sir John Monash Centre App installed is required to fully experience the Centre. Use of the App is required for the majority of the exhibits inside the Centre and allows visitors to tailor the experience to their own interests. We recommend all visitors bring their own fully charged mobile device and headphones to get the most out of their visit.

Day 9 - Monday 15 June, 2020 – The Somme - Paris

This morning we travel to the town of Naours to visit the underground tunnels where many Australian soldiers left their mark with graffiti. Their names have become a self-made memorial at a site that has been a tourist attraction since the 1800s. We will enjoy lunch before heading to our final stop on the Western Front; Vignacourt. The town of Vignacourt remained behind the lines throughout the war and therefore a place of refuge for Allied troops on a break from the front line. In 2011, a treasure trove of glass photographic negatives was found in the attic of a local farmhouse, which was used as a makeshift studio for soldiers to have their photo taken during the war. We will visit the new museum onsite which tells their story. This afternoon, we will say ‘adieu’ to the battlefields and depart for Paris, where we will enjoy a spectacular farewell dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. Located inside the Eiffel Tower we will experience the Paris skyline from a new perspective. (B,L,D)

Day 10 - Tuesday 16 June, 2020 – Depart Paris

Sadly today our tour comes to an end. The day is at leisure to meet any onward travel arrangements. (B)

Questions

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Your Hosts


Ray Martin:

With a television journalism career spanning 50 years, Ray Martin is one of the most successful and celebrated media personalities in Australian TV’s history. Joining 60 Minutes as a founding reporter, Ray visited over 40 countries and interviewed everyone from Prince Charles to the rock-band Kiss, winning prestigious awards for his investigative work, including Reporter of the Year (twice) and Best Public Affairs Report (twice).

Mat McLachlan:
Mat McLachlan is a leading battlefield historian, author and broadcaster, and the founder of Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours. He has spent more than two decades following in the footsteps of Australian troops around the world. He is an authority on the battlefields of the Western Front, Gallipoli, the Pacific battlefields of World War Two, the Vietnam War and the Normandy landing beaches.

Is Travel Insurance compulsory?

Yes it is a condition of travel on this tour that each passenger is adequately covered by an appropriate travel insurance policy. We strongly advise taking out Travel Insurance at the time of making your booking to provide full cover. If you would like a competitive quote, please call our travel team on 1300 414 198.

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Fine print

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Travel at 60 and supplier booking conditions apply.