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Passchendaele 100 Years On

On 30th July, the night before the centenary, official commemorations began to mark 100 years since the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly referred to as Passchendaele. 

Passchendaele is synonymous with suffering and sacrifice. Between 31 July and November 1917, a series of set-piece battles, piecemeal attacks and individual acts of incredible bravery claimed the lives of 76,580 British and Commonwealth soldiers.  Similarly, around 65,000 Germans lost their lives in four months of gruelling warfare. 

With just a few miles separating Ypres from the Channel Ports and with it the Allied supply routes, it was absolutely essential to ensure Ypres did not fall into German hands. 

Whether you are new to the subject matter, or if you've been meaning to visit a relative's resting place, I'd be delighted to help bring the stories of our nation's past to life. 

Explore the stories of the men and women who served, and make your pilgrimage with me. 

Royals take part in the commemorations 

Royals take part in the commemorations 

Captured in Black & White

As I say pretty frequently on this site, it is the job of a tour guide to bring the land to life - to help you see what is essentially, a lot of green landscape! 

Every so often however, a photograph comes along that captures perfectly what we are looking at - helping to transport us back in time. 

Below is an image taken at Tyne Cot Cemetery 100 years ago and below that a modern view. 

Get in touch to come and explore some sites with me.

Sophie 

Peaceful Now

Like many others have collected over the years, I have literally thousands of present day battlefield images. Whether that's me exploring new places, taking coach tours or smaller private tours, I've got lots of memories kept in those jpegs. 

This is one of my favourites. 

This image captures something I love to do, particularly on the Somme, to just sit and reflect.  I've got quite a good imagination, so I often try to recreate the scene in front of me - to place the men, their movements, the sights and smells. After all, that's what a good guide does for their group. But, there is something so perfectly peaceful about sitting on your own and reflecting. 

#PeacefulNow 

100 Years Ago Today, Lord Kitchener Killed

100 years ago today, 5 June 1916, Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War was killed.

He and his staff were aboard HMS Hampshire travelling to Russia on a diplomatic mission when the ship hit a mine and sunk off the west coast of Orkney. 

Kitchener is most famously known for having his face on the great recruitment poster, Your Country Needs You.  It continues to be considered a masterful piece of wartime propaganda as well as an enduring and iconic image of the war.

Kitchener promoted the idea of the Pals Battalions, family, friends, colleagues joining up together,  training and serving together. Whilst this strategy saw hundreds of thousands men sign up to fight, numbers that were desperately needed to counter the strong German force, ultimately it would prove to be a socially devastating strategy. 

On 1st July, these Pals Battalions went into battle for the first time.  Many of these battalions were to suffer terribly.  A notable example was the 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington), East Lancashire Regiment, better known as the Accrington Pals. The Accrington Pals were ordered to attack Serre, the most northerly part of the main assault, on the opening day of the battle. The Accrington Pals were accompanied by Pals battalions drawn from Sheffield, Leeds, Barnsley, and Bradford. Of an estimated 700 Accrington Pals who took part in the attack, 235 were killed and 350 wounded within the space of twenty minutes.

Towns and villages across the UK were left mourning the loss of hundreds of their men from just one day of battle. 

Advise on Visiting the Somme this Summer

This July marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Huge commemorative events are taking place at Thiepval, the Ulster Tower, Beaumont Hamel and Serre, and accordingly so, security will be incredibly tight. In fact, locals are now referring to the zone in which the events are taking place as the 'ring of steel'.

Due to this, my advice to pilgrims wishing to make their way to the battlefields of the Somme, is to go either before the end of June or a few days after 1st July.  This will allow you full and unrestricted access across the villages of the Somme region.

The Somme is a calm, still and strangely relaxing place. I don't think this will be the case on 1st July 2016, so do book your trip with me when we can explore together in the serene calmness of pre or post 1st July! 

sophiesgreatwartours@gmail.com