Having initiated the Schlieffen Plan the German Army attacked through Belgium and Northern France in the summer of 1914. The ancient Flemish town of Ypres was in the eye of the storm as the last major centre of communication in Belgium between the German onslaught and the Channel ports of Calais and Boulogne. The British Expeditionary Force managed to hold the onslaught and Ypres became an unsightly bulge into the German front line – the Salient. This was just the first battle in a long War for Ypres. From October 1914 until October 1918 four major battles were fought across the Salient and between them Ypres was a grim landscape of attrition and destruction, its fine medieval architecture reduced to rubble. In April and May 1915 the Second Battle of Ypres saw the first use of poison gas on the Western Front as French colonial troops panicked before a cloud of green chlorine gas and the Canadians subsequently held the line in the face of further use of this dreadful weapon. The Third battle of Ypres from July to November 1917 became known by the name of a small Flemish village destroyed by the fighting – Passchendaele. The battle became synonymous with misery, mud and death.
This tour will guide you through four years of bloody fighting in the Ypres Salient. From Gheluvelt where the British Expeditionary Force demonstrated what its superior infantry skills could achieve to Vancouver Corner the horrors of gas warfare were first realised. You will stand in trenches occupied by the German Army in the area where Adolf Hitler fought as a corporal in a Bavarian Infantry Regiment. We will take to some of the many cemeteries that punctuate the Salient, including the sombre German cemetery at Langemarck, and the impressive Menin Gate that commemorates nearly 55,000 men who were lost around Ypres but who could never be identified.