Monday 11 January 2016

5 Facts about the Battle of the Somme and why a trip to the war graves can be a deeply moving experience.

This years sees the centenary of The Battle of the Somme, one of the largest battles that occurred during World War I. It took place near the Somme River in France and lasted from July 1 to November 18 in 1916.

Before the actual attack, the Allies (the British and the French) began by bombarding the German lines. However, the Germans were warned of the bombardment they took shelter and waited, little real damage was done to the German fortifications. The Allied commanders refused to take warning that the bombardment didn't work and after eight days, on July 1, 1916, they ordered the attack. Thousands of British soldiers got out of their trenches and began to advance on the German lines. They were easily gunned down by the Germans. It was the worst day in the history of British warfare. They suffered around 60,000 casualties including 20,000 dead on that first day of battle.

Despite the heavy casualties, the Allies continued to attack. They didn't let up on the attack until November 18. During that time they gained around seven miles of territory, but suffered around 623,000 casualties including 423,000 British and 200,000 French. The Germans had around 500,000 casualties.

With over 1,000,000 total casualties on each side, the Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

5 facts about the Battle of the Somme

1 Sadly, because many men from the same town were grouped together in the British Pal's battalions, when a battalion was wiped out, often this meant that all the men from a given town in Britain were killed.
2 The first tanks to engage in battle were at the Battle of the Somme.
3 The British commanders were so confident the German defences were destroyed that they loaded down the attacking soldiers with supplies and ordered them to walk. These soldiers were quickly gunned down.
4 The Allies lost around 89,000 men per mile of territory gained.
5 The attack ended in November mostly due to heavy snow in the region.

Liz Storey said of a recent visit to the war graves 

“It was a sobering experience. Whether you have a loved one buried there, which in my case was my grandfather, or someone remembered on one of the many memorial sites, you cannot help but be moved to tears by the number of men of all ages that died for their countries in the first world war.
The graves are immaculately maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves commission and there is a wealth of historical facts to be seen on tours and in the museums with hundreds of original artefacts on show.”

Experience the WW1 Battlefields tour with Back - Roads, winner of the 2015 Best Travel Awards for Best Small Coach company. 


Back-Roads have been operating WWI and WWII tours in Western Europe for over 20 years. Led by expert battlefield tour leaders and operating with small groups only, their tours offer a truly personal experience.

Their tours offer the flexibility to include visits to specific cemeteries, not listed on the itinerary, for those looking to pay their respects to a fallen relative or family friend. They consider it their privilege to be able to join guests for the often moving experience of visiting the grave of a relative or walking in their footsteps along the front.

Day 1 Lille – The Somme – Villers-Bretonneux – Ypres
Day 2 Ypres – Ypres Salient – Ypres
Day 3 Ypres – Fromelles – Vimy Ridge – Lille

We visit the Somme battlefield to see the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel, the Ulster Tower and the Pozieres battlefield. We also visit the National War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, before going to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Stay two nights at Hotel Kasteelhof’t Hooghe. (D)

Overnight: Hotel Kasteelhof’t Hooghe (or similar)

We spend today in the Ypres Salient to see some of the most important sites that remain: John McCrae’s Dressing Station at Essex Farm Cemetery, Messines Ridge, Hooge Crater, Polygon Wood and Tyne Cot Military Cemetery. Walk the moonscape of the Hill 60 battlefield and see dozens of memorials to British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian regiments and units. This evening we attend the Last Post ceremony. (B)

Overnight: Hotel Kasteelhof’t Hooghe (or similar) 

On the Fromelles battlefield, we visit the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery. We also see where Adolf Hitler served and the bunker he is reputed to have used as a billet. We cross the Loos battlefield on our way to the Canadian Memorial Park at Vimy Ridge, where we take a trench and tunnel tour (weather permitting) and spend time at the massive and imposing Vimy Memorial. Our tour ends in Lille. (B)

Pick-Up & Drop-Off

This tour commences from Lille Europe Station, The Meeting Point, Gare de Lille-Europe, 59800, Lille at 8.30am. Please ensure you are at the 'Meeting Point', which you'll find in Hall 2, at least 15 minutes prior to departure.

The tour finishes at 6.00pm at Lille Europe Station, The Meeting Point, Gare de Lille-Europe, 59800, Lille.

For other great tailor made tours with Back Roads please contact a member of our team. Keep up to date with our latest offers by signing up to our NEWSLETTER

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