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! This groundbreaking 2020 WW1 Australian Battlefield canal boat cruise/tour is proudly named after the famous and explosive Major General 'Pompey' Elliot, who commanded the legendary 15th Brigade who fought so fiercely in the famous 2nd Battle of Villers- Bretonneux. This anniversary tour includes: Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux, 6 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  takes you southwards from Fromelles & Ypres and includes famous Australian, Canadian and British actions of WW1, with the cruise segment also taking you further southwards between Cambrai & Saint Quentin as the navigable Somme weaves its 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: 'Pompey'
Tour Code: POMPEY207D
Starts:       Lille
Finishes: Amiens

Date: Depart:    20 April 2020
Date: Returns: 26 April 2020
Tour Guide: Fully certified Spirit of Remembrance GBG Battlefield  Guide
Price Per Person: (Share Twin/Double) UK £2,090  (*Payment in £)
Single Room Supplement: £580 (*Payment in £)
Google Tour Map

 *Booking Form:

Day 1: Monday: 20 April: Arrive Lille
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: Tuesday 21 April 2020
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: Wednesday 22 April 2020
(*Cruise Day)
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)
We then travel onto Vimy Ridge and a *quick stop (*time permitting) to view the breathtaking Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge - near Arras (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.

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 travel onto Cambrai and our boutique hotel for tonight, the Hotel Beautus. After checking into our hotel and a quick freshen up, we head to the nearby canal where we meet 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 the St. Quentin canal, cruising silently along the waterways which have seen so much through the years. On board, our local historian who will regale us with stories of the area and people who lived and served in this once sleepy town.

As night falls, the screen descends from the ceiling showing us images of the past before and during the First World War, continuing through the war years and introducing us to the people and places we will visit. We will 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 6 years - 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 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 & Dinner

Day 4: Thursday 23 April 2020
(* Cruise Day)
After breakfast at our hotel we then visit "Deborah", who we learnt about last night - a rare First World War tank, now housed in her own museum. We then board our 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 cruise sector from Masnieres to Honnecourt. 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 return by coach to our hotel in Cambrai where we will have dinner tonight.
Accommodation: Hotel Beatus, Cambrai, France or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & Dinner

Day 5: Friday 24 April 2020
(Cruise Day - end cruise)
After leisurely breakfast we depart from the hotel for our morning cruise departure. Today's cruise from Honnecourt to Saint-Quentin takes us through the battlefield of Bellicourt where the Australian troops broke through the Hindenberg Line with our cruise also taking us through the extensive canal tunnel where the Germans hid from the allied bombardment. Once in the area we will have lunch onboard and then board our coach for our visit to the Australian battlefields and memorials in the Bellicourt area (as discussed/covered in yesterdays briefing aboard the boat.) After our tour of the battlefield area we will then travel to the beautiful and very strategic WW1 city of Amiens for our next 2 nights accommodation.

(Tomorrow we will be taking part in the famous Anzac Day ceremony at Villers-Bretonnuex, where on Anzac Day 1918 the AIF stopped the Germans from taking Amiens and thus forever changing the course of the war.(Dinner tonight is at own cost - giving you the opportunity to wander and discover this beautiful town.
Accommodation: 3+* Hotel Amiens
Meals: Breakfast, lunch

Day 6: 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 the evening is free to once again explore this lovely town. We strongly suggest that you visit breathtaking and very famous World Heritage 13th century Notre-Dame Amiens Cathedral where a very special Australian section is inside the cathedral.
Accommodation: 3+* Hotel Amiens
Meals: Breakfast, (Full hot buffet breakfast/Lunch) lunch

Day 7: Sunday 26 April
Today, after breakfast we check out of our hotel for our final days touring of the principal battlefields in this region. Our first visit is to  Lochnagar Mine Crater, the largest underground mine blown 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, the largest Commonwealth memorial in the world, 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. Lunch will be at a nearby restaurant.

After lunch we have a quick visit to another terrible killing field nearby - this time for the Newfoundland regiment (fighting as part of the British Army - and NOT Canada) at Beaumont Hamel. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment was ordered into battle here as part of the start of the the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916. On this day the Regiment suffered the worst loss in its history. It never recovered as a fighting unit again. The Regiment started its attack at 9.15 am. By 9.45 am most of the men in the regiment were either dead or wounded. Among the 732 casualties from just over 800 men of the regiment, 255 were dead, 386 were wounded, and 91 listed as missing. Every officer in the regiment was either wounded or dead. Only 68 men answered the regimental roll call the day after the attack.

Now the last part of the days touring - and NOT included by ANY other Australian Battlefield tour operator. We now travel back to Amiens  - via 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.

Leaving this amazing final stop on our tour, we head back to nearby Amiens where our tour finishes tonight on arrival. Note, if required, and at extra cost, we can extend your hotel accommodation here for tonight and any further extra nights. (Please advise us at time of booking.)
Accommodation: None
Meals: Breakfast, lunch

* 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.) 

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.

Tour Costs Include:
 Family Historian research for client family members
6 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 7
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