The First World War was one of the largest, deadliest global conflicts in history with 16 million dead. It led to the demise of four empires: Austrian-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian; and the rise of Communism and Fascism. The victors redrew national borders liberating and creating a number of independent nations. One hundred years later, the repercussions of their actions still dominate today's news. Join historians Ed Bearss and Mike Kelly on this tour that commemorates the centennial of the "War to End all Wars."
Tuesday, October 10 Individual departures from the US for Brussels, Belgium.
Note: Staff (Ed Bearss & Marty Gane) plan to fly to Brussels 1-2 days early. We will post their flight information in the next few weeks.
Wednesday, October 11 Brussels - Bruges
Individual arrivals in Brussels. Meet Battlefield Guide Mike Kelly, Historian Ed Bearss, and Tour Manager Marty Gane at the Brussels Airport no later than 9:00 am. Board our private coach and depart Brussels Airport at 9:30 am for the picturesque medieval town of Bruges, a World Heritage Site. Spared destruction during both world wars, this charming fairy tale town boasts cobbled streets, a myriad of canals, and gothic buildings. We will take a cruise on a canal boat and stop at the Church of Our Lady to see Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child featured in the recent film The Monuments Men. Check into our hotel outside of Lille, our base for three nights. Overnight at the Holiday Inn Lille – Ouest Englos, France
Thursday, October 12 Ypres
Following a morning orientation lecture, we will drive to Ypres for a walking tour of the historic district with stops to see St. George’s Church and St. Martin’s Cathedral. Following lunch in the town square, we will tour the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum located in the town’s famous medieval Cloth Hall. We will see the Menin Memorial Gate. A moving tribute to the fallen, the “Last Post” Bugle Ceremony, has occurred at the Menin Gate every evening since 1928.
Overnight at the Holiday Inn Lille – Ouest Englos, France
Friday, October 13 Ypres Salient - Battle of Messines
Today is devoted to the Ypres Salient. Stops will include the Essex Farm where Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in May 1915, and the village of Langemark, the scene of the first poison gas attacks by the German Army in April 1915. After visiting the Langemark German Cemetery we will visit Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world. The Hooge Crater Museum has one of the finest WWI collections in Flanders. Following a tour of the exhibits, we will have lunch in the museum’s café.
This afternoon, we will learn about the Battle of Messines that marked the zenith of mine warfare. General Plumer of the British 2nd Army planned to take the Messines Ridge by detonating a series of underground mines laid beneath the German 4th Army lines. The night before the attack, General Plumer remarked "Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography.” The charges were detonated simultaneously on June 7, 1917 creating 19 large craters. We will see two of them: Hill 60 and the Spanbroekmolen Crater, known today as “The Pool of Peace.” Overnight at the Holiday Inn Lille – Ouest Englos, France
Saturday, October 14 Battle of Mons
Today, we will pay our respects at the Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial, the only American World War I cemetery in Belgium. We will learn about The Battle of Mons, which was the first major action of the English Expeditionary Force in the First World War. At the St. Symphorien Cemetery, we will see the burial sites of privates John Parr and George Ellison, believed to be the first and last Commonwealth soldiers, respectively, killed in the Great War. We will proceed to Amiens and check into our hotel. Overnight at the Holiday Inn Express Amiens, France
Sunday, October 15 The Somme
The Battle of the Somme (July 1-November 18, 1916) was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. Fought along a 15-mile front for 141 days, more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. We will see the Lochnager Crater, one of 17 mines detonated on July 1. At Beaumont-Hamel, we will walk the trench lines at the Newfoundland Memorial Park. This 74-acre park is dedicated to the men of the Newfoundland Regiment who were all but wiped out on the first day of the battle. At the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, we will gaze at the names of over 72,000 men who died at the Somme and have no known grave. We will also visit the Ulster Tower. Northern Ireland’s memorial to its dead, the tower was the first war memorial to be erected on the Western Front. We will gain insight about the rigors of daily life in the trenches at the underground museum in Albert.
Overnight at the Holiday Inn Express Amiens, France
Monday, October 16 Battle of St. Quentin Canal
Outside of Corbie, we will see where Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was shot down in 1918. Proceed to St. Quentin. At the pivotal Battle of St. Quentin Canal (September 29-October 10, 1918), combined forces of British, Australian and American troops made the first full breach of the “Hindenburg Line.” We will see the Bellicourt American Monument that commemorates the sacrifices of the 90,000 American troops who served in France during 1917 and 1918. We will also visit the Somme American Cemetery near Bony. Check into our hotel in Vienne-le-Chateau, our base for 3 nights. Overnight Le Tulipier, Vienne-le-Chateau
Tuesday, October 17 Verdun
After two years of trench warfare, the Germans decided to strike a powerful knockout punch at the heart of the French defense line in hopes of demoralizing the French army and forcing a quick surrender. The Germans fired 2 million shells in the opening 8-hour bombardment. Tens of millions of shells were fired over the course of the next ten months. We will spend the day examining Verdun (Feb 21-Dec 18, 1916), the longest single battle of WWI, lasting 300 days and leaving an estimated 800,000 dead, wounded, and missing. The French emerged as victor but neither side could claim any military gains.
We will see Fort Douamont, the largest of 19 forts protecting Verdun. On day 3 of the battle, a small German raiding party took the fort without a fight, shocking the French. We will walk through the remains of the village of Fleury-devant-Douamont that changed hands 16 times between the French and German troops and was ultimately destroyed. Officially designated as “Mort pour la France” – Dead for France, it was one of 9 villages in the Meuse that were never rebuilt. We will see the Underground Citadel, the Memorial of Verdun and see the Douamont Ossuary that houses the remains of 130,000 French and German soldiers.
We also plan to stop near Riaville and Marcheville where Col. Hiram I. Bearss (Ed Bearss’ 3rd cousin) earned the Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism.” During the battle these two towns changed hands four times, finally remaining in the possession of the 26th Division. Under terrific machine-gun and artillery fire, Colonel Bearss was the first to enter Marcheville, where he directed operations. Later, upon finding his party completely surrounded, he personally assisted in fighting the enemy off with a pistol and hand grenades. Overnight Le Tulipier, Vienne-le-Chateau
Wednesday, October 18 St. Mihiel Salient
We will begin the day with a visit to the tiny hamlet of Seicheprey, where on April 20, 1918, the AEF fought one of its first World War I engagements.
We will learn how the German victory at the Battle of Flirey (September 1914) created the St. Mihiel Salient, cutting off vital French supply and communication routes between Nancy and Verdun. The Germans held this salient which penetrated deep into French territory for 4 years. The reduction of the salient was the objective of the first large-scale offensive by American forces under the independent control of the American Commander-in-Chief, “Black Jack” Pershing. The Battle of St. Mihiel (September 12-16, 1918) marked the first use of the terms "D-Day" and "H-Hour" by the Americans and the action was depicted in the 1927 film Wings. Lt. Col. George Patton commanded American-crewed Renault FT tanks during the battle, leading the tanks from the front for much of the attack. We will visit the St. Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial situated on the edge of Thiaucourt and the American Memorial on Montsec. Overnight Le Tulipier, Vienne-le-Chateau
Thursday, October 19 Meuse-Argonne Offensive
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was a major part of the final Allied offensive of the First World War that stretched along the entire Western Front. Fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, the battle cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). We will discuss two of the most famous events of the Meuse-Argonne. Near Charlevaux Mill, the “Lost Battalion” was trapped in a small pocket for 6 days and held firm until an Allied relief force reached them. At Châtel-Chéhéry, we will see the Sergeant York Memorial. York received the Medal of Honor for his actions on October 8, 1918. As part of a 17-man patrol, under heavy fire, Alvin infiltrated enemy lines, killed 21 Germans and took 132 captives.
We will see the American Monument in Montfaucon and pay our respects at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery where 14,246 men are buried. It is the largest U.S. military cemetery in Europe. We will continue to Varennes. In June 1791, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested at an Inn in Varennes in their unsuccessful attempt to flee Paris during the French Revolution. On the edge of town, we will see the Pennsylvania Memorial, a monument for the 28th Infantry “Keystone” Division. Check into our hotel in Reims. Overnight Mecure Hotel, Reims Centre
Friday, October 20 Belleau Wood - Château-Thierry
Today, we travel to the Marne River to discuss the Battle of Belleau Wood (June 1-26, 1918), one of the most famous battles in Marine Corps history. We will see The Marine Memorial, a black marble monolith with a bronze relief sculpted by Felix de Weldon, the artist who sculpted the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, DC. We will also visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
The Second Battle of the Marne (July 15-August 6, 1918) was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. The German defeat marked the turning point of WWI. It was followed by a relentless allied offensive known as “The Hundred Days Offensive” which culminated in the Armistice with Germany. The Battle of Château-Thierry was fought on July 18, 1918 as part of the 2nd Battle of the Marne and was one of the first actions of the AEF under General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. In the little village of Chamery, we will see the fountain erected in memory of First Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was killed in a dogfight over the area on July 14th 1918. Overnight Mecure Hotel, Reims Centre
Saturday, October 21 Forest of Compiegne - Paris
En route to Paris, we will visit the site of The Battle of Cantigny (May 27-31, 1918), the first American battle of World War I. We will continue to The Armistice Museum and Memorial in the Forest of Compiegne. It was here that the armistice, officially ending all fighting on the Western Front, was signed in a railway carriage of Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s private train. It went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on November 11, 1918 ("the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”). Hitler chose the same site for the signing of France’s surrender to Germany on June 22, 1940. The museum displays a duplicate of the rail carriage as the Nazis burnt the original railway car in 1945.
Proceed to Paris. Toast our tour at this evening’s farewell dinner. Overnight Paris
Day 12: Sunday, October 22
OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO VERSAILLES
Sunday, October 22 Versailles optional excursion
Take a tour of the Palace of Versailles where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Overnight Paris (hotel to be determined)
Monday, October 23
BATTLEFIELD GUIDE: We are delighted to announce that Michael Kelly, the Director and owner of Apollo Battlefield Guide will accompany us as our WWI expert guide. Mike is an associate member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides and a member of the Western Front Association. A university educated British historian, Mike has been guiding on the Great War Battlefields for nearly 20 years. He served for 12 years in the Royal Navy and 25 years as a police detective in C.I.D. with specialist appointments in Surveillance Units and the Regional Crime Squad. Mike has served as guide for several premier battlefield tour companies, as well as many University and College groups from around the world. Mike is currently writing a book on Sergeant Alvin York which is scheduled to be published in time for the 100th anniversary of York’s famous battle action on October 8, 1918.
GUEST HISTORIAN: We have also invited our dear friend Edwin C. Bearss to join us on this trip as our special guest. Author, lecturer and one of our nation's preeminent historians, Ed's encyclopedic knowledge and unflagging energy are legendary. A native of Sarpy, Montana, Ed is a decorated WWII Marine Corps veteran from the Pacific Theater. Ed has enjoyed a 41-year career as an historian for the National Park Service. In 1981, he was named Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service, a position he held until 1994. Ed has led many WWII tours from Normandy to the Rhine River; the Battle of Crete, and the Italian Campaign.Ed is very excited to see the area in France where his highly-decorated cousin, “Hiking” Hiram Bearss, fought in 1918!
TOUR INCLUDES (13 days/11 nights):
* Guest Historian Guide: Edwin C. Bearss is scheduled for this tour
* Battlefield Guide: Mike Kelly is scheduled for this tour
* Services of a professional tour director: Marty Gane is scheduled for this tour
* 11 nights hotel accommodations
* Private, air-conditioned, motor coach for all sightseeing
* 2 wine/beer receptions, daily breakfast, 9 lunches, and 5 dinners
* All admissions, tours and excursions as described in the itinerary
* All taxes, baggage handling (one bag per person), & gratuities
* Pre-trip notes, reading list and map book
What is Not Included:
Airfare; transfers between airport and hotel; trip insurance; personal items such as wines, liquors, a la carte orders, room service, laundry charges; and meals and other items not specifically mentioned as included.
Price does not include airfare, however, we are happy to help with flight arrangements. We will post staff flight details shortly in case you would like to book seats on the same flights as Historian Ed Bearss and Tour Manager Marty Gane.
COST: 13 DAYS/11 NIGHTS
Double Occupancy: $5,395 per person
Single Occupancy: $5,995
COST: OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO VERSAILLES (TBD)
(NOTE: All costs are based on a minimum of 25 participants.)