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Western Front Tourist's Guide


This is a contributed item. Please direct your feedback concerning the contents of this item to the author using the e-mail link below. By all means let them know if you find it interesting. They enjoy hearing from you!

Contributed by Michael E. Hanlon.

Mike is Website Editor for the ø The Great War Society. He has written extensively on the Great War and guided tours of the Western Front. Contact him if you would like advice on your journey.

American Memorial

Montfaucon American Memorial. A replica of Statue of Liberty is atop the monument.
Extraordinarily memorable sites are indicated by an asterisk [*]. A. Belgian Sites of August 1914 preliminaries 1. Liege Forts 2. Nieuport and Yser Canal 3. Namur Citadel 4. Mons Site of the 1914 Battle British Memorial to start and finish of war at La Bascule Many other Belgian and French Lorraine locales have statues or monuments, but they are so remote they do not justify a special trip unless you have a specific interest in the action fought there. There are, however, some fascinating sites to visit in Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Nieuport along the coast and the Belgian trench sector north of Ypres. B. From the English Channel to Compiegne 1. Ypres Salient [Maps spell it "Ieper"; Tommy Atkins called it "Wipers".] Visit Cloth Hall first to see the "High Tech" Flanders Fields Museum and to get map. a. Many battlefields sites to visit but do not miss: Hell Fire Corner Hill 62 / Sanctuary Wood Museum [Best preserved trenches] Hill 60 The Hooge Crater and Museum Tyne Cot Cemetery at Passchendaele German Cemetery at Langemark Polygon Wood b. Menin Gate * Daily 'Last Post' Ceremony at 8:00 PM c. Messines & Environs Town Museum including Hitler water color of church Typical mine crater near Spanbrokemolen Ploegsteert Wood Memorial - Near where Churchill served 2. De Lorrette Heights / Arras Vicinity a. Notre Dame DeLorrette Cemetery, Ossuaria & Museum * b. Canadian Vimy Ridge Monument and Memorial Park Try to schedule a tour of the underground tunnel network. c. Dud Corner, Loos d. Indian Memorial at Neuve Chappelle e. St. Quentin Canal captured by Australian & US Forces Digger Statue at Mont St. Quentin 3. Near the Somme in Picardy Battlefield maps available in all the towns a. Sites Near Albert; Albert Basilica * Newfoundland Park / Beaumont Hamel [close] Theipval Ridge Mnt To Missing/Ulster Division Mem. Locknagar Mine Crater Welsh Memorial at Mametz Wood Tank Memorial at Pozieres Ridge Tommy Statue at Flers High Wood * Delville Wood, South African Memorial b. French Great War Museum at Peronne c. Sites Near Cambrai Battle of Cambrai Tank Action Canadian Memorial at Bourlon Wood d. 1918 Sites Australian National War Memorial at Villers Bretonneaux American Monument at Cantigny 4. Armistice Glade - Compiegne All together: Alsace/Lorraine Monument Foch Statue * Armistice Railroad Car C. The Paris Area 1. Les Invalides-French Military Museum 2. Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier * Daily Relighting of Eternal Flame: Ceremony at 5:00 PM 3. Hall of Mirrors at Versailles Palace 4. Lafayette Escadrille Chapel (continued...)

D. From the Aisne/Marne Region to the Swiss Border 1. Aisne/Marne Region Battle maps hard to find locally here. I recommend xeroxing the Marne Battle maps from a WWI history or atlas and then transferring the appropriate data to your road maps. a. 1st Battle of the Marne Sites Gallieni Monument [Hard to Find] b. Battle of the Marne Monument; 1 mile n. of Meaux c. Retreat from Mons Memorial at La Ferte S. Jourarre Plan a picnic here along the River Marne d. Chemin Des Dames Area Small Museum on Chemin Des Dames * Notre Dame Chapel Caverne du Dragon Soissons British Memorial To Missing Cathedral US 28th Division Monument at Fismes e. Chateau Thierry/ 2nd Battle of the Marne Sites * Belleau Wood / Aisne/Marne Cemetery [close together] Hill 204 US Memorial US Memorial Chapel at Chateau Thierry Mezy - "Rock of the Marne" location [No monument] Site where 3rd Division turned back last German Offensive of the war - 3rd Div. Monument is in ChT. 2. Champagne Region a. Reims and Vicinity Cathedral Fort Pompelle b. French Navarin Farm Monument and Ossuaria c. Blanc Mont Ridge US Monument - North of Somme-Py d. Monuments to Black 369th & 371st US regiments that served under French Command [Hard to locate; near west boundary of Argonne Forest.] 3. Argonne Forest and Vicinity Detailed Maps for Meuse/Argonne, Verdun & St. Mihiel avail. in Verdun. Carefully plan your tour routes here: Site of Lost Battalion at Charlevaux Mill Sgt. York Monument - Chatel Chehery * Butte de Vacquois Cheppy - Missouri Monument [Site of Harry Truman's service] Varennes-en-Argonne Museum in Town Hall Pennsylvania Memorial In Vicinity: Crown Prince's Dugout Montfaucon US Monument * Romagne-en-Argonne US Cemetery 4. Verdun Get a detailed battlefield map at visitor's center in Verdun but don't miss: a. In Verdun: * Citadel - Where France's Unknown Soldier was selected Verdun Victory Monument Children of Verdun Monument Rodin "Call to Arms" near RR Station b. On Left Bank of Meuse and Environs: Voie Sacree Monument Cote 304 Morte Homme c. On the Right Bank: Faubourg Pave National Cemetery Andre Maginot Monument Wounded Lion Monument marking German high water mark * Memorial Museum Fleury Village Froidettere Casement * Ossuaria Bayonet Trench Fort Douaumont Fort Vaux Fort Souville Col. Driant's Command Post and Tomb 5. St. Mihiel Salient Point X and Les Esparges Spur 1st Division Monument at Vignuelles Mont Sec US Memorial US Cemetery at Thiacourt 6. Vosges Mountains - Near Belfort Requires special trip; not recommended unless you have a particular interest in the opening stages of the War. Jonchery - Monument to War's 1st casualty, Cpl. Peugeot "Old Armand" [Hartsmannwillerstopf] Cemetery and Memorial Battle of the Windmill Memorial at Montreux-Jeune
Sanctuary Wood
near Hill 62

The Ypres Salient as it appears today.
A. If you travel to the Western Front and wish to guide yourself you will need: 1. Michelin road maps; 2. Specific maps for the battlefields (usually available at key towns like Verdun, Ypres and Albert or Amiens; tourist boards can also help); 3. A quality accommodations / restaurant guide book that includes smaller towns. B. Optional but helpful: The detailed tour itineraries and maps available in: 1. BEFORE ENDEAVORS FADE by Rose Coombs: order from Imperial War Museum, London 2. AMERICAN ARMIES AND BATTLEFIELDS IN EUROPE: order from US Government Printing Office. C. If you wish to locate an individual's grave write the following: 1. AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION, Casimir Pulaski Bldg., 20 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 20314 2. COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION, 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshires SL67DX, U.K. 3. VETERAN AFFAIRS CANADA, 66 Slater St., Ottawa, Ontario K1A OP4, Canada D. Safety and Comfort Issues 1. Shoes are very important. They need to be comfortable, have waterproofing, and sturdy soles to protect the bottoms of feet. Watch out for barbed wire, especially. 2. Stay out of No Access "Red Zones" 3. Try to have a travelling companion; if not, don't go wandering off the beaten track 4. Don't poke the soil looking for souvenirs and remember that wild boars are carnivores 5. Ordinance is still being found on the battlefields and is often seen on the sides of roads for pickup by disposal units. DO NOT TOUCH THIS STUFF. 6. If you lunch at a French country restaurant [a highly recommended practice] watch your alcohol consumption. 7. Don't change hotels every nite; you will exhaust yourself. Good "base" cities include Ypres, Albert, Chateau-Thierry and Verdun 8. Occasionally, Monuments and former military facilities are on private property. The owners permission should be sought before entering. 9. Be ready for rain any time regardless of the daily weather forecast. 10. At counter-type restaurants, you will see a beautiful sausage that's whitish with pepper spots. Do not order it unless you REALLY love tripe. (continued...)
Indian Memorial

Near Neuve Chapelle.
D. Maximizing the Experience 1. Guides can be hired at almost all the key towns. They can be outstanding, but vary tremendously. Consequently, you will have to pay your money and take your chances, if you wish to go this route, keep your checklist handy, so your guide doesn't overlook something important. 2. Around every major battlefield, there are little treasures that never make guidebooks or official sources -- private museums, a bunker now being used to grow mushrooms, a family's private memorial to a fallen son, and so forth. The way you discover such "treasures" is to talk to the English-speaking locals. The people who work at the US and Commonwealth Cemeteries are walking gold mines of such information. Stop at the guest house at every American cemetery and say hello to anyone you meet at the British maintained sites. Also be on the look out in hotels and restaurants for displays of artifacts and memorabilia. Such collectors usually know their local areas cold and are willing to share their discoveries. 3. Join forces with fellow battlefield tourists. You will meet some during your jaunts. In the evening, ask at your hotel where such travellers like to relax. On the Western Front, Ypres around the Grande Place is unsurpassed for pubs and evening socializing thanks to its proximity to the British Isles.
Monument Anglais

Thiepval (Somme)

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