In conjunction with Great war Historian and Durand Group member Dan Hill this three-day, two-night tour will focus on the tunnelling war on the Western Front. We will visit four separate tunnel systems, two of which are not usually available for public visitation and each offering a fascinating glimpse into an aspect of the First World War that you simply cannot see anywhere else. Pick ups include ups in Stevenage, South Mimms Services, Ebbsfleet Services & Dover Docks.
Day One - Friday 6 September 2019
After picking up guests we make our way to Dover for our crossing to Calais. Our first stop of the tour is to the Tunnellers Memorial in the village of Givenchy, dedicated to the incredible bravery shown by men of the Royal Engineers Tunnelling Companies who fought their own private war beneath the Western Front and is also the spot where Sapper Hackett earned the only tunnelling Victoria Cross of the Great War. We then visit the iconic preserved trench system and memorial on Vimy Ridge before making a tour of the ‘Grange Subway’ system, used by Canadian troops before capturing the ridge in 1917. Finally, onwards to our Hotel in Arras to check-in followed by free time in town for an evening meal. This evening we will be joined by a guest military historian with a presentation on the history of tunnelling in the Great War.
Day Two - Saturday 7 September 2019
Today we join the DURAND Group for a day of underground exploration, beginning with a visit to the fascinating Maison-Blanche Souterrain system, occupied by Canadian troops at the time of the Vimy Ridge offensive in 1917. This location is unique on the Western Front, with thousands of pieces of graffiti made by the servicemen that sheltered here throughout the Great War. This will involve a fully guided tour of the system by a guest military historian.
Time for lunch in nearby Bethune before re-joining the DURAND team at their newest exploration project, close to the village of Auchy-Les-Mines. After lunch we begin above ground, exploring the little-known ‘Hairpin Craters’, nestled away in the copses and woods around the area before descending again into the incredible Hulluch tunnel system where we have a fully guided tour through subways, mine-laterals, trench mortar positions and fighting tunnels, descending to depths of up to 10m below the site of German trenches. This opportunity offers a fascinating insight into life underground during the Great War. This newly discovered complex is not usually open to the general public and extends for miles underground, making it one of the largest systems on the Western Front. Following our guided tour, we return to the surface for a commemoration service at nearby St Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery, the resting place of many fascinating characters including Lieutenant John Kipling, only son of the writer Rudyard. Return to hotel for free time in Arras.
Day Three - Sunday 8 September 2019
On our final morning we make our way beneath the city of Arras itself, visiting the fascinating ‘Wellington Quarries’ an extensive mining system, expanded and used by New Zealanders throughout 1917. We make our last stop of the tour at the magnificent Notre Dame De Lorette with its stunning ‘Ring of Remembrance’, necropolis and French Cemetery before once more returning to Calais and making our journey back to the UK.
This tour will not be a ‘standard’ Western Front battlefield tour. Given the tunnelling aspects involved, you must be confident going underground and have a suitable level of fitness and mobility to safely take part in all aspects of the tour (including climbing a 5m vertical ladder). Please contact organisers to discuss any reservations or concerns before booking. Safety equipment is provided. Proof of travel insurance must be provided prior to departure (standard travel insurance). The organisers reserve the right to refuse entry to tunnel systems to the group or individuals if it is deemed unsafe to do so.