WFA National Tour Artois 1915
September 27 - September 30
Price Per Person: £750:00 (£125:00 Single Supplement)
Hotel: 3 nights Central Arras (on a B&B Basis)
This tour in open to the general public and is run in association with The Western Front Association, non-members will be encouraged to join the WFA.
Our second tour of 2024 with the WFA will study the battlefields of Artois 1915.
Dr Jack Sheldon will again be joining the team, bringing his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things German Army on the Western Front with him. Our own guide Julian Whippy will this year be working with Jack, as Julian has such strong family connections to the 1915 battles in this region, he lost two Great Uncles, at Aubers and Loos both of who have no known graves. 1915 was truly a terrible year for the BEF with little success and high casualties across all fronts.
This tour of Artois will start with a look at the March battle at Neuve Chapelle where two Indian Army Divisions fought alongside their British counterparts with only limited gains and certainly not the hoped for break in. We also then look at the Aubers Ridge battle of May 1915, as the British effort to support the French Tenth Army.
Advancing across sodden, flat, bare ground against strong defences the battle was an unmitigated disaster for the British. This day includes visits to the magnificent Neuve Chapelle Indian Memorial and Le Touret Memorial to the missing.
We then turn our attention to the British Offensive at Loos, September 1915. The coal producing Artois region still has much the same landscape and scars of 1915 with pit heads and slag heaps to mark the countryside. Harnessing the use of poison gas for the first time, the British were also setting loose untried New Army units in what was the largest British attack of 1915. Despite new weapons, tactics, and techniques the assaults once again failed to gain anything other than small sections of front. Our tour will look at the Londoners and Scots battle to break into the village of Loos and the hopelessness of the regular troops at the “Lone Tree” near Hulluch. We also see the site of the infamous Hohenzollern redoubt and the beautiful Quarry Cemetery and Dud Corner Loos Memorial.
Our WFA National tours have a hostory of selling out quickly, they are restricted to just 25 participants to ensure quality, together with the Western Front Association, we feel these national tours not only provide a comprehensive study of the campaign, they also offer an informal, social, weekend on the ‘old front line’ for WFA members and the chance to remember over a century on.
The tour will start with a pickup at Watford Gap Services before heading south to Ebbsfleet International Station offering superb convenient links from London rail hubs and in addition provides secure parking at a reasonable rate.
Transport is via an executive standard coach and return channel crossings are also included. The tour is limited to 25 spaces to ensure quality and make this tour feel like a personal pilgrimage as opposed to a large coach group. Personal visits to relatives or people of interest to you are positively encouraged and will be incorporated into the tour itinerary where possible whilst these will be reflected as the group fills up a preliminary itinerary is planned as follows.
Travel to Dover and across to Calais. En route to our Hotel we will stop near Vimy ridge at the heights of the Notre Dame de Lorette spur. We will there begin with an orientation to the ground (superb views across the region) from Jack with regards to the German 1915 perspective and of course the Allied hopes for the year.
The stunning ring of remembrance on this hilltop, unveiled in 2014 displays the names from all nations who were lost in the Artois fighting and it sits next to the French Ossuary and Cemetery which holds so many of the French dead.
Today we study the battles around Neuve Chapelle and Aubers, only a stone’s throw apart.
We look at how German breastwork defences held out against the British Artillery, with all its shortages, and how young Indian Army troops battled to capture the village and the nearby woods of the Bois de Biez, itself hiding the inevitable masses of German counter attacking reinforcements. We also visit the Portugeuse memorial of 1918 and the Indian Corps memorial at Port Arthur. Lunch time in Bethune is followed by a look at the CWGC Town cemetery.
The two-pronged May 1915 Aubers offensive is the subject of the afternoon. See where the “Steelbacks” (1/Northants) set out on their dawn attack, most never to return, the Battalion listing 549 dead at the end of the one-day battle, including Julian’s uncle from the East End of London. Hear the story of the nine times Wimbledon Champion, Anthony Wilding and his Royal Marine Field Gun unit at Aubers, and how he was tragically killed by shellfire at his post. The simple name, Rouge Bancs became synonymous with the losses of the battle’s northern pincer, inflicted so efficiently by the Bavarian Regiments near Fromelles, and witnessed the courage of James Upton (Sherwood Foresters) who was awarded the VC for his work as a stretcher bearer that day. We end the day at the moving Le Touret Memorial.
Battle of Loos September 1915
“From what I can ascertain, some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy’s trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire” Sir Henry Rawlinson
With chronic shell shortages and facing unfavourable ground, the British unleashed 140 tons of Chlorine Gas, pumped towards the German lines to open the attack on 25 September 1915. This tour day will look at the differing fortunes of the men advancing with the gas cloud that day and of course the stories of the Germans facing the chemical clouds for the first time. We begin near the village of Loos itself and the famous double crassier that dominates the fields and see how the converging cockney troops from the 47th London Division met up with the Jocks from 15th Scottish Division “like a crowd gathering on the way to Saturday football” and captured the village.
We see Le Rutoire Farm in the centre, HQ to Brigades from the 1st Division who failed to reach Hulluch.
In the northern sector we visit the site of the infamous Hohenzollern redoubt scene of ferocious actions right through October. At St Marys ADS CWGC we can see the grave of Rudyard Kiplings son Jack of the Irish Guards and then the nearby high ground of Hill 70, the site of what some veterans say is the real tragedy of Loos, that is it was close to a success.
We end with time at the Dud Corner Cemetery and Memorial to the missing overlooking the battlefield.
With a little time for any nearby personal cemetery requests we return to the UK via Calais.
Deposits can be paid via BACS transfer (IBAN if overseas) both account details are on the bottom of the booking form.
If you wish to pay by credit card, drop us an email and we will send you the relevant link.
Cheques can be made payable to “Battle Honours Ltd”