SECOND AUSTRALIAN TOUR ‘to Flanders Fields’
Morning program in FRANCE
Fromelles represents the very first battlefield experience for Australia’s 5th Division in France. It features the Australian Memorial Park with its major bronze sculpture entitled ‘Cobbers’ and its official battle exploit plaque nearest to the old German frontline of 1916. Fromelles is certainly one of the most moving experiences you will have.
The close by VC Corner Cemetery is the only totally Australian cemetery on the Western Front. The old Wall of Honour bears the many names of the 5th Australian Divison’s Missing in this ill-fated battle.
Pheasant Wood Cemetery, inaugurated on July 19th 2010 holds the 250 soldier remains located by a Melbourne citizen in a mass grave beside Pheasant Wood. A majority of headstones have names thanks to DNA testing.
The city of Armentières was ‘the Nursery’ to all Anzacs. From here they departed for their first trench experience in Flanders. This lovely French town has a special place in all hearts thanks to ‘Mademoiselle of Armentières‘.
We are having a short lunch here on the market place.
Afternoon program in BELGIUM
Ireland Peace Park
Before entering Messines your tour will take you to the famous ‘Christmas truce’ place of 1914, followed by a visit of Island of Ireland Memorial Park, inaugurated in 1998 by Queen Elizabeth II, King Albert II and Mary McAleese (President of the Republic of Ireland).
The town of Messines was taken by the New Zealand ANZAC division . Part of Anzac Corps II, they advanced this steep hill to reach Messines. You will realize how steep and challenging and long the advance was. Near the hill top, the New Zealand Memorial Park is commemorating the battle of Messines. Two other memorials in town are commemorating the huge scale advance of 7th of June 1917.
Between Hollebeke and Zillebeke lies Hill 60, a strategic high point in this mostly flat land, which holds the memorial to the 1st Australian Tunneling Company. Because of the intensity and proximity of the fighting, Hill 60 is effectively a mass grave for soldiers of all sides. This hill holds the crater, made by the tremendous explosion prepared by Australian tunnellers. The earth still bears the scars of fighting and an old pill-box.
Close to Zonnebeke lays Polygon Wood with its artificial mound called’butte‘, where the official memorial to the 5th Australian Division stands upon, overlooking the important cemetery. Flamish people call it simply ‘The Anzac cemetery’. Only 428 headstones out of 2,103 are named. Over three quarters of these graves are ‘Unknown Soldiers known to God’ After Armistice, Australian Soldiers began to construct this imposing memorial. Only later was the land formally acquired …
On the old battlefield of Paesschendaele lays today Tyne Cot, worldwide the most important Commonwealth War Cemetery with nearly 12,000 headstones, more Walls of Honour and three pill-boxes conquered by Australian soldiers of the 3rd Division. Its outstanding and very moving Visitor’s Center is dedicated to the memory of all Fallen in 1917.
The venerable town of Ypres was involved in four great battles which bear its name. Ypres endured German shellfire almost perpetually for over four years. The old lovely town, up to then encircled by his middle-aged fortified walls and moat, was totally destroyed by the end of the Great War, but was most beautifully reconstructed, as close as possible to its old image, a credit to the love of its inhabitants.
In the last part of tour in Flanders you visit the famous Cloth Hall as beautifully reconstructed as is the whole center of the old city and Menin Gate, the most important Memorial for the British Missing of the Ypres Salient, with one aisle dedicated to Australia’s Missing in Flanders and another aisle dedicated to Canada’s Missing in Flanders. It lists the names of Fallen for Britain, Ireland and the Dominions – apart from New Zealand which has its own half rotunda in Tyne Cot. Up to 16th of August 1917 all Missing Fallen of the third battle of Ypres are engraved (close to 55,000 names). Every single night since the memorial was inaugurated in 1928, at 8.00 o’clock night time is held the famous LAST POST, to remember the mateship & courage of those soldiers and men, fallen and missing in Flanders, gathered here by their names on the walls of Honour inside and outside.
LAST POST finished, we are driving back on motorway into France. For this reason, this is the longest tour proposed.