Canal boat cruising WW1 Australian Battlefields in France



Western Front Association


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Welcome to our NEW 2020 Canal Boat Premium Battlefield Tour series! Our 7 night 8 day 'Monash' WW1 Battlefield Cruise/Tour is named in honour of Sir John Monash, Australia's great WW General. This tour also includes the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux, scene of Australia's greatest WW1 victory. This WW1 Australian Battlefield canal boat cruise/tour includes: 7 nights 3-star plus  accommodation, entry fees to all museum and attractions as detailed in the itinerary, most meals, 3 days amazing canal boat cruising, all premium coach transport as detailed, certified SOR Historian/Battlefield Guide, full Family History research work-up for ALL clients (if requested)  - and much more!

Starting in Lille and finishing in Amiens, this tour/cruise first takes you by coach southwards from Fromelles & Ypres and includes famous Australian, Canadian and British actions of WW1, with the cruise segment then taking you north from Saint Quentin to Cambrai as the navigable canal(s) weave their way through a network of lakes formed centuries ago by flooded peat extractions, further enhanced by pristine neighbouring woodland and cultivation, with just the occasional village and lock to navigate.

About Backwater Tours & Cruises: And the NEW high comfort canal day boat ("Natalia") for comfort day cruising in France & Belgium

STAR-NEWS-30 The Tour: 'Monash' (7N/8D)
Tour Code: AUMONASH208D
Starts:      Lille
Finishes: Amiens

Date: Depart:    22 April 2020
Date: Returns: 29 April 2020
Tour Guide: Fully certified Spirit of Remembrance GBG Historian/Battlefield Guide
Price Per Person: (Share Twin/Double) £2,290.00  (*Payment in £)
Single Room Supplement: £690.00 (*Payment in £)
Google Tour Map

 *Booking Form:

Day 1: Wednesday 22 April
Arrive at your leisure. Accommodation has been reserved for you at our historic hotel in Lille: Couvent des Minimes. Check in is at 1400. Should you wish an early check in simply let us know and we will organise it for an additional cost. Lille - is a vibrant and historic city full of fabulous restaurants and bars - and the shopping is great! The day and evening are at leisure - enjoy.
Accommodation: Couvent des Minimes, Lille, France (or similar)
Meals: None

Day 2: Thursday 23 April 
After a delicious buffet breakfast we check out of our hotel and depart for our short drive to the Ypres Salient.
During our day we will have visits to:
 Ploegsteert Visitor centre (entry included) 
 Passchendaele Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke (entry included)
Lunch at local restaurant
Hill 60 - Australian Tunnelling Corps Memoria€l
Menin Road & Polygon Wood - 5th (Australian) Division Memorial
Tyne Cot War Cemetery (3 VC winners are buried here)
Late this afternoon we check-in to our hotel in Ypres, where there is a short break so you can freshen up.
Dinner is in one of our favourite local restaurants only a short stroll away from our hotel and the famous Menin Gate.
This evening we experience the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony. Walk back to our hotel or explore Ieper and its interesting nightlife.
Accommodation: Novotel Ieper Centrum Flanders Fields Hotel, Ieper (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Day 3: Friday 24 April 
After an early breakfast and checkout we depart in our coach to the battlefield of Fromelles, where we learn about the tragic battle of 19 - 20 July 1916, where Australia incurred the greatest loss in its military history.
At Fromelles we will visit:
VC Corner Australian Cemetery
Cobbers' Memorial
Pheasant Wood military cemetery (Fromelles) (Including the Fromelles WW1 Museum) Leaving Fromelles, we then stop in for a quick visit (*time permitting) at the breathtaking Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge, just outside of Arras.(Spirit took 600 people here for the 100th anniversary on 9th April 2017.) Here we will learn how an all Canadian assault on the *9th April 2017 (*Vimy Ridge Day) took this impregnable fortress. (In our opinion, this is one of the most aesthetically beautiful and inspirational war memorials in the world.) The 9th April is equivalent to all Canadians as Anzac Day (25 April) is to all Australians. We then travel onto to Beaurains (outside Arras) and our short visit to the brand new (opened June 2019) CWG Experience (Commonwealth War Graves) where we will be able to watch the Commission's team of skilled craftsman at work, taking a tour of their workshops and observing them as they continue their century long task of caring for some of the world's most impressive and recognisable monuments and memorials as they have done for the last 100 years.

Leaving the CWG Experience, we then travel onto the beautiful small city of Arras nearby. Arras was all but destroyed in WW1 with the Front Line running through  the centre of the city itself. Now completely rebuilt, Arras is an architectural gem and the location of the amazing Wellington Tunnels (named after Wellington in NZ). It was here the WW1 NZ tunnellers carved out of these 2000 year old caves massive secret caverns and accommodation facilities for up to 20,000 men to live in until the allies launched their suprise attack on the German positions on April 9, 1917.

We then visit the Arras main town square for late lunch, before leaving for our hotel for the next 3 nights in Amiens. This afternoon and evening is free to wander this beautiful small city. We strongly suggest that you visit the breathtaking and very famous World Heritage 13th century Notre-Dame Amiens Cathedral where a very special Australian section is inside the cathedral. Dinner is not included tonight to allow you to further discover the myriad of lovely restaurants and bars in this beautiful city.
Accommodation: 3+* Hotel Amiens
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 4: Saturday 25 April (Anzac Day)
Leave the hotel this morning VERY early. Security is very strict at the ceremony and we want to arrive with plenty of time for security processing. We anticipate arriving at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux and cemetery around 3-3.30 am so we have time to give you an opportunity to experience the full commemorative programme for the Anzac Day ceremony. It is usually very cold before dawn at the memorial so be prepared and wear layered clothing as the day will change from sub freezing temperatures in the early morning to usually quite a warm day.(You will have Spirit rainproof poncho in case it rains). Full details (when posted by DVA) of the ceremony here: 

Once the service is over we will then visit nearby Adelaide Cemetery (where our unknown soldier came from) on our way to a well deserved full breakfast at the delightful Le Moulin des Ecrevisses restaurant. After breakfast we head back north to visit the newly refurbished *Franco- Australian (Victoria School) Museum in the Villers Bretonneux township, then we revisit the Villers-Bretonneux AWM and the 'jewel in the crown' of the Australian WW1 Remembrance trail - the new (opened 2018 by PM Turnbull) 'state of the art' digital Sir John Monash Centre.  Aftr thsi we have a quick visit to nearby Le Hamel Memorial Park, scene of one of Monashs greatest victories (all over in 90 minutes..) where we will have a late picnic lunch. After this we then make our way back to lovely Amiens and our hotel for tonight. Dinner is not included tonight as it has been a very long day and a very early start tomorrow, so the evening is free again if you wish to again explore explore this lovely town.
Accommodation: 3+* Hotel Amiens
Meals: Breakfast
(Full hot buffet breakfast) lunch

Day 5: Sunday 26 April
(Cruise Day)
Early breakfast and depart our hotel today. A very full day today  for a very full day, with our cruise also starting this afternoon! Our first stop today is NOT included by ANY other Australian Battlefield tour operator. We now travel to Naours - where we stop to examine the INCREDIBLE cave system under the rustic village of Naours - up until now - a hidden but integral part of Australia's WW1 history, where thousands of original and totally preserved drawings, signatures and other markings were left by Australian  troops on leave - in these amazing 2000 year old underground tunnels. We then visit the Lochnagar Mine Crater, the largest underground mine blown in the war under the German positions. It is a MASSIVE crater, however the mine did not actually assist the Allied attack at all - with the German defenders quickly regrouping to stop the British advance. We then move to the  horrific killing fields of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, probably the worst battle of WW1 for the Australian forces, where In less than seven weeks in the fighting here (and at Mouquet Farm) three Australian divisions suffered over 23,000 men killed and wounded, with over 6,800 men killed and or died of wounds. This 7 week period of action and casualty rate was actually more than the casualty rate of 8 months fighting in Gallipoli in 1915.

We then move to the nearby major British memorial at Thiepval for a quick rest stop and to check out this amazing memorial. Thiepval is the largest Commonwealth memorial in the world, and it commemorates the 72,000 men of British and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 that have no known grave. 72 THOUSAND men alone in this one section of the battlefield.

After our quick stop here we then travel to Saint-Quentin, scene of some of the fiercest fighting at the end of the war - and another quite amazing series of Australian victories nearby. On arrival we head to the nearby St. Quentin canal where we join our delightful canal cruise boat for this afternoon - and the next 2 days - 'Natalia'. We are welcomed aboard by the crew and enjoy a lovely fresh French 'boulangerie' style lunch complete with free wine, soft drinks & tea and coffee. We then start our cruise along this famous canal on our way to our overnight disembarkation at Honnecourt, cruising silently along the waterways which have seen so much through the years. This afternoon, besides a presentation on tomorrows battlefield touring we will also have an extensive French wine and cheese presentation!

During/after this, and whilst cruising the canal we will learn from our group guide/historian about the bitter battle in 1918 to take the Hindenburg Line and the famous battle of Mont St. Quentin where the undermanned and exhausted Australians under Sir John Monash achieved a quite incredible victory against the heavily entrenched German forces. We also learn about the further battles in this area - the Battle of Bellenglise and the Battle of the St Quentin Canal (which you are cruising on!) where with both battles - under Sir John Monash - the battle weary AIF along with British and American forces broke through the Hindenburg Line, hitherto deemed impossible to breach. We will also learn about the inspiring Mont St Quentin Australian memorial, the American & Australian attacks on the St Quentin Canal line, the mouth of the St Quentin Canal tunnel and the inspiring Bony American Cemetery. After arriving in Honnecourt we then travel by coach to check in to our boutique hotel in Cambrai for tonight and the next 3 nights, the Hotel Beautus. After check-in and freshening up - time for a drink to go over the days activities before dinner. (Dinner tonight is included.)
Accommodation: Hotel Beatus, Cambrai, France (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & Dinner

Day 6: Monday 27 April
(Cruise Day)
This morning after breakfast at our hotel we will take our coach back to the Saint-Quentin - Bellenglise area to visit the battlefield areas we learnt about yesterday afternoon whilst on our cruise, our tour taking us back to the region of the tunnels where the Germans hid from the allied bombardment and put up such fierce resistance to the allied attacks to take the Hindenburg Line. Once in the area we visit the Australian battlefields and memorials in the Bellicourt area. We then leave this area about midday and make our way back to Honnecourt to board our canal cruise boat and partake of another delicious lunch as we cast off for our cruise segment today taking us back to Masnieres After lunch we will have another special guest event presentation for French cuisine/food/wine/cheeses etc.

We will also be joined by the owner of the Hotel Beatus and historian on the Battle of Cambrai. He will show us photographs and tell us stories of his experiences regarding the British WW1 tank 'Deborah' and how he researched for over 6 years - and found - the abandoned and totally buried (on the former WW1 battlefield) British WW1 tank - finally beginning excavations in 1998 - when he located 'Deborah'. She is not just any old tank, but incredibly historic - she is the only tank that survived the historic tank battle of the worlds first tank battle: 'Battle of Cambrai in October 1917.

It has been a busy day so we take time to relax as our "floating lounge" heads for the bank near Masnieres, where a French style dinner barbecue awaits us. Our executive coach and friendly driver are there at the end of the night to take us back to our hotel, where you can turn in or head for a night cap in the hotel's lovely French "estaminet", (bar), complete with a proper zinc covered bar top.
Accommodation: Hotel Beatus, Cambrai, France or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & BBQ Dinner

Day 7: Tuesday 28 April 2020
(* Cruise Day - end cruise )
After breakfast at our hotel we then visit "Deborah", which we learnt about last night - a rare First World War tank, now housed in her own museum. We then travel by coach to visit the 'killing grounds' of Bullecourt, scene of another dreadful series of battles for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in April and May 1917 where in the first battle in April alone - the Australian 4th Brigade lost 2,229 soldiers out of 3,000 and 1,170 Australians were taken prisoner, the largest amount of Australian prisoners taken the war. The 2nd Battle in May was also a disaster, thanks again to abysmal British staff planning.

We then head back to our canal cruise boat for another delicious lunch on board and our final cruise sector from Masnieres to Cambrai where our cruise ends. During this segment we will also have a suprise 'celebrity' guest lecturer at our disposal! On arrival in Cambrai we have a leisurly pre dinner gathering to go over our wonderful cruise stories before our farewell dinner.
Accommodation: Hotel Beatus, Cambrai, France or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & Dinner

Day 8: Wednesday 29 April 2020
Today our tour sadly comes to an end. After breakfast we check out of our hotel and head to the beautiful small city of Arras, all but destroyed in WW1 with the front line running through the centre of the town. Now totally rebuilt, Arras is an architectural gem and the location nearby to the amazing Wellington Tunnels (named after Wellington in NZ). It was here the WW1 NZ tunnellers carved out of these 2000 year old caves massive secret caverns and accommodation facilities for up to 20,000 men to live in until the allies launched their suprise attack on the German positions on April 9, 1916.

We then visit the Arras main town square for lunch, before leaving for our next stop, the breathtaking Canadian WW1 Memorial nearby at Vimy Ridge.(Spirit took 600 people here for the 100th anniversary on 9th April 2017), and learn how an all Canadian assault on the *9th April 2017 (*Vimy Ridge Day) took this impregnable fortress. (In our opinion, this is one of the most aesthetically beautiful and inspirational war memorials in the world.) The 9th April is equivalent to all Canadians as Anzac Day (25 April) is to all Australians. After Vimy we then travel back to Lille where our tour ends early this evening.

(we can arrange hotel accommodation here in Lille at Couvent des Minimes hotel (or similiar) for tonight and any further extra nights at extra cost.  (Please advise us at time of booking.) )
Accommodation: None
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & Dinner

On Board Canal Boat Cruise Facilities:
The cruise boat has been designed to comfortably accommodate a normal size coach-load of passengers in lounge-standard seating, with additional seating outside for those wanting to take in the views and fresh air. There are 6 bikes on board free of charge for anyone who would like to ride the towpath. The boats has two WC/washrooms and a galley serving beers and wines. Tea, coffee and drinking water are always available at no charge. There is no smoking on board.

Environmental Policies: Canal Cruising
The cruise boat is hybrid-engined (electric propulsion) and normally charges overnight from shore supply. Its diesel engines are only used if battery power is exhausted, so most of the time you can look forward to silent cruising free of exhaust fumes. The saloon roof is bedecked with solar panels which reinforce battery endurance and support the boat's air conditioning system.

A strict waste-avoidance policy is also in operation. We try to completely avoid the use of single-use plastics and we operate to a responsible recycling code. All meals and drinks on board are served using normal crockery, cutlery and glassware.  Our crew also has a brief to support the recovery from rivers and canals of floating litter whenever this is practicable.

* Important: Itinerary Changes:
(Please note: the itinerary is subject to change at the total discretion of the guide or Spirit of Remembrance - in particular regarding events that directly affect the present itinerary as shown -  before or during the tour that are - or could be beyond our control.) 

Tour Costs Include:
 Family Historian research for client family members
7 nights accommodation in  3*plus hotels
Highly experienced (and qualified) Battlefield Historian/Guide(s)
Local guides where necessary
All museum/exhibition/ admission/entrance fees for all venues/museums as detailed in the itinerary
Premium coach travel throughout tour
All canal boat cruising segments
Breakfasts Daily (European-style breakfasts) Day 2 - Day 8
All lunches a shown in itinerary
All dinners as shown in itinerary
All Farewell dinner(s) if shown as such in itinerary
Special deluxe souvenir colour tour booklet
High quality commemorative clothing: hat & backpack
SOR earphone headphones (earbuds)
SOR baggage tags
SOR commemorative pen 

Tour Costs do NOT Include:
Lunches, dinners, refreshments and beverages not detailed above
Tips, porterage and all personal extras
Airfares/Transport/Train travel to and from start and end point of tour
Travel/Cancellation/Medical Insurance. (*YOU must have valid travel insurance for us to travel on the tour)
Passport & related visa/documentation fees
Any optional excursion(s) not specifically stated as included in the tour cost
Items of a personal nature

 Our other Battlefields & Remembrance Websites:
Spirit of Remembrance: Battlefield Tours UK: Battlefield Tours Canada: Battlefield Tours USA: 75th Anniversary D-Day;  Anzac Day Hellfire Pass: Thailand