The Battle of the Somme started on the 1st July 1916 in glorious sunshine and was to rage for another four and a half months, eventually to peter out in the mud and snow of November. The Somme was Gen. Sir Douglas Haig's first battle as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, a position he assumed after the demise of Sir John French following his disastrous handling of the Battle of Loos in the autumn of 1915. It is inevitable, given the events of 1st July 1916, that most tours will focus on that momentous day in the history of the British Army. Nearly 58,000 men were killed or wounded that day, many historians agreeing that in all probability the majority falling in the first hour.
In common with all my tours, there is no set itinerary as each client will have their own ideas on what they want to do and see. However, I will give a run down on the most popular sites visited in the form of a loose itinerary:
For the casual visitor I would normally start the tour at Serre, the northernmost part of the main attack front. This was the battlefield most closely associated with the "Pals" battalions, in particular the Accringtons, the Sheffields and the Barnsleys. It was here that the author John Harris based the events for his book "Covenant with Death", a must-read for any would-be Somme visitor !
On down the line to the Sunken Lane, scene of the filming of some of the most iconic and heavily featured footage of the Great War, taken by the war cinematographers, Malins and McDowell, and where the 1st bn. the Lancashire Fusiliers met their doom, alongside the splendid Public School's battalion of the 16th Middlesex.
Next stop would be the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont-Hamel where the story of Britain's oldest colonial troops, the Newfoundland Regiment is told, and an opportunity to see preserved trenches. There is also a much-recommended Visitor's Centre.
Further down the line we find the Ulster Tower, standing in mute testimony to the outstanding gallantry of the men of the 36th Ulster Division, ( and the chance for a welcome cup of tea !)
The Lochnagar Crater bears witness to the extreme violence of that day, evidence of the technology and bravery of the tunneling companies of the Royal Engineers.
South of the mid-line we find the evocative Mansel Copse Cemetery and the chance to tell the story of 2 extraordinary men who, in the face of their own mortality, foretold their own fate, and those of the men they led into battle.
At Mametz Wood stands the wonderful tribute to the Welsh Division, a truly magnificent red welsh dragon, breathing fire and defiance towards the old German lines.
Carnoy, opposite the village of Montauban, finds us at the site of one of the most fabled stories of the Somme, that of Billie Neville and the kicking of the footballs towards the German lines " The Great European Cup final"
Finally, the magnificent Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, dominating the Thiepval Ridge and commemorating over 73,000 men missing during the battles of the Somme.
This is where traditionally the story of the Somme ends, in doom and failure. But of course, this was just the beginning. Lessons so painfully learned from that day served the British Army well and tactics and deployments were to change radically in the light of that experience. Our tour can cover those developments and we can visit the sites where sucess was gained. The tank made its world debut on the battlefield in September 1916, at Flers, and was to start a change to land warfare that was to have repercussions the world over. We can examine the contribution of the Empire, the Australians at Mouquet Farm and Pozieres, the Canadians at Courcelette, the South Africans at Delville Wood, the New Zealanders at Longueval.
Accomodation can vary from farmhouse B&B to 4* hotel according to the traveller's requirements. Hotels in Albert offer good standards, as do some up-market B&Bs.
Prices are per person and start from, assuming two persons sharing:
Two days £679
Three days £849
Four days £1,089
Single room supplements of £30 will apply. This is a charge made by the hotels and beyond my control. For Daytrips, or any other enquiries, please call on 01842 862014, or contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to me at: Past Endeavours, 18, Pashford Close, Lakenheath, Suffolk IP27 9ED