DUNKIRK, FLANDERS & WIDER CAMPAIGNS 1346-1945
Exceptional History, Art, Landscape & Culture from Crecy 1346, Agincourt 1415, William of Orange, Napoleon, The Somme, WW2 to the canals of Bruges
Dunkirk 1940 and so much more. The beach, the canals, the dunes, the film, the memorials, the town, the wrecks, together with the dramatic wider campaign and the oft forgotten 1944/5 siege.
A fantastic entrée to our unique style of touring taking in centuries of history. Staying in stunning Chateaux and historic hotels, we travel across the lowlands and hilltops of Flemish France and Belgium, enjoying great military history, breathtaking art and stunning locations. We unveil layers of hidden history across the eras, the founding of our Grenadier Guards and breathtaking Bruges.
Almost unknown to the history books and TV shows, we visit the "real" Crécy and Agincourt sites (not just the traditionally "accepted" sites), dipping into The Spanish Armada, Henry VIII, Charles II, The Glorious Revolution, Revolutionary & Napoleonic France, WW1, WW2, truly bringing locations to life.
A top-quality cultured romp through time!
ALL-INCLUSIVE SMALL GROUP TOUR
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end." Winston Churchill, 4th June 1940
Henry VIII's Cap Gris-Nez fort
Spanish Armada at Gravelines
William of Orange's Cassel
Napoleon's Boulogne 1805
Beaumont Hamel, Somme 1916
Talbot House, Poperinge
Ypres Cloth Hall & Menin Gate
Dunkirk Campaign, Mole & Beaches
La Coupole V2 rocket launch complex
Douglas Bader trail
Grenadier Guards in Bruges
We really enjoyed putting this tour together. It'll appeal to a wide ranging mix of history buffs and those who just love beautiful places and intriguing tales.
We've allowed plenty of time to relax, and of course to enjoy great gastronomy and the best hotels.
Give us a call, we'll be delighted to answer any questions you have.
Your booking is fully price protected against changes in exchange rates, taxes and duties
We guarantee not to cancel your tour if it doesn't reach a 'minimum' number of guests. You'll enjoy an even more personalised tour!
Day by Day Summary
Saturday 7th September AM: Cross the Channel, Beaumont Hamel and Chateau
We gather in Folkestone early AM to travel across the channel together, and once in France collect any guests who have travelled direct by train from London to Calais. For your comfort we can arrange pre-tour overnight accommodation in Folkestone.
We then drive to the Northern Somme, visiting Beaumont Hamel, site of Henry Mallins' famous video of the Lancashire Fusiliers and the detonation of the great mine prior to their attack on 1st July 1916. We visit the sunken lane, the great crater and the adjacent cemetery for a complete picture of what went right and what went wrong on this now truly beautiful corner of the Somme.
We then check in to our stunning 14thcentury monastery and now 4* Chateau hotel La Chartreuse du Val Saint Espirit hotel, itself a listed historical monument, for two nights.
Sunday 8th September: Crécy, Agincourt and the Hundred Years War
We spend the day visiting two of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years War.
En route to Crécy we stop to pay our respects at the gravestone of the remarkably courageous Captain Matthew Latham of the Buffs. He lost an arm and much of his face defending the King's colours at the battle of La Albuera 1811 during the Peninsular War. His treatment was paid for by the Prince Regent, and after the war he retired to France, married a French lady, and lived to the ripe age of 79.
Onwards to Edward III’s victory over the French at Crécy 1346, where we visit both the accepted site beside the village, and the revisionist site next to the forest of Crécy. We explain the history of the time, the campaign, the battle, how maps and medieval memoirs play their part, and the critical importance of the King's cook.
On through beautiful scenery and tiny villages to Agincourt 1415, where Henry V’s victory gained legendary status through the words of Shakespeare. Again the "accepted" site just doesn't fit with all the accounts, so we explore the area, the source material, and the archaeology of the past two centuries to view a number of alternatives locations. The Longbow was vital at both battles; we look at how both played out and their impact on military tactics over time.
We complete our day relaxing back at the Chateau and enjoy another of its restaurants.
Monday 9th September: Boulogne, from Henry VIII to V2 Rockets
In 1805 Boulogne was the heart of Napoleon's preparations to invade England, ultimately frustrated by Nelson's victory at Trafalgar. We learn about these frightening times from the cartoons of the era, see the chateau where Napoleon was based, his monument above the town and his legacy. Boulogne played its part in WW1 and the WW2 Dunkirk campaign, and we stand where this played out, with the tale of the German tank crew who celebrating "sinking" a British destroyer.
The chalk cliffs of Cap Gris-Nez are home to the old 1546 "Black Nose" fort of Henry VIII from a time when both Calais and Boulogne were under English control. We visit this fort, also a beachside Vauban fort, and see how the German defences of WW2 stud the landscape.
In the afternoon we visit the monumental la Coupole, the massive dome built as the launch-site for the dozens of V2 rockets per day intended to rain down upon England, and discuss the impact of the major allied air force response in Operation Crossbow.
We check in to our next 4* Chateau, the fabulous 18thcentury Cocove at Recques-sur-Hem for two nights.
Tuesday 10th September: Dunkirk 1940, 1944/5 & the film
Today we head to Dunkirk, famed for the 1940 evacuation. We learn the true history behind the miracle of Operation Dynamo from British and French perspectives, and the stories of those who were there. We visit the famous mole, the first-class museum, the beach, the dunes, the film locations and canals. We lunch on one of the little ships, explain and admire how the shrinking perimeter defences were so valiantly defended, the real causes and impact of the famous "halt orders" and the Belgian surrender.
We travel along the coast from Malo-les-Bains to Zuydcoote, Bray Dunes, de Panne to appreciate the scale of what occurred here, illuminated by many remarkable stories. As we head inland we explore the challenges of defending such countryside, returning to our Chateau before dining out in St Omer.
Here we share the remarkable wartime story of British flying ace Douglas Bader, the dropping of his replacement spare leg, and his escape from the town hospital and recapture, a tale of great bravery of many in the local resistance.
Wednesday 11th September: Cultural Cassel, Art, Architecture and History
A morning of culture and multi-era fascinations as we head to the hilltop of Cassel, voted “France’s Favourite Village" in 2018. Home to The Museum of Flanders, boasting exceptional Flemish Art from local to religious to military to modern, this is a staggering display, and we learn how the history of Flanders is intricately woven into the history of Great Britain.
We tour the village, once Roman fortress, scene of battle against the French by William of Orange who went on to become King William III of England, witness the results of French Revolutionary fervour, the home of Napoleon's General Vandamme, and the HQ of Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Föch during WW1.
From WW2 we have an amazing plan of this strategic location, drawn by a British officer whilst in captivity, as we trace the role of Cassel in the planning and wider defence of Dunkirk. We cover the staff meetings here and tales of courage of the Gloster, Ox & Bucks and specialist troops, the scars of battle still visible in the main square.
From this village with its staggering views, we head to the little barn of Wormhout, scene of one of many terrible events of the Dunkirk campaign, now a place of solitude commemorating the men of the Warwickshire regiment who were massacred here.
We then head to Poperinge for our next hotel. We visit the peaceful home of Talbot House, the chapel and concert hall established by two army chaplains during WW1 for the relaxation of soldiers and officers alike.
We stay here for two nights at the exceptional 4* Hotel Recour.
Thursday 12thSeptember: Ypres
We head to beautiful Ypres, en-route seeing how the City was commanded by the surrounding hills, visiting a moving site which strikes at the very heart of our appreciation and understanding of history. We then spend the afternoon in Ypres, admiring its exceptional restored square, the remarkable Cloth Hall museum, taking time at the Menin Gate in daylight and at the evening ceremony. The evening illuminations of Ypres must be seen, so we enjoy dinner here before returning to Poperinge.
Friday 13th September & Saturday 14th: Bruges
Today we drive to the magnificent medieval City of Bruges, known as the Venice of the North and UNESCO World Heritage City.
We discover Bruges following the journal of Cavalié Mercer, the most famous junior officer who fought at Waterloo. We check in to the hotel where he stayed, admire the cobbled squares, the old merchant guild buildings, and visit the base of the Belfort tower. With impromptu stops at chocolate emporiums, we explore the city visiting the old Cathedral to see Michelangelo’s 1504 Madonna and Child, walking the old canals past the City gates with their own history to tell.
We enjoy a private tour of the magnificent 1425 Longbow Guild, which now boasts Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mathilde of Belgium as members. This ancient Guild is the birthplace of the Grenadier Guards, founded here in 1656 by the future Charles II and a true privilege to visit.
We also tour the rich architecture and décor of the town hall before a relaxing boat ride along the canals. You'll have time for your own relaxing and shopping.
We spend two nights at the superb 4* Navarra Bruges, the former Hotel du Commerce, dining at local characterful restaurants.
Sunday 15th September: Bruges, Gravelines & Home
We head back into France, stopping in the ancient fortress town of Gravelines, between Dunkirk and Calais. Variously under Flemish, English, Spanish and French control, and scene of many historic events including the great battle of 1558 and the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. We have time to explore the ramparts, the square, and to take a moat boat trip before heading onwards to Calais and Folkestone.
You will simply be responsible for your travel insurance and any non-itinerary purchases or extras made by you, such as room service and additional drinks.
Great 4* Historic Hotels
All hand-picked and tested from our travels, we stay in top 4* Chateaux and hotels reflecting the spirit of the region. The 1320 monastery turned Chateau La Chartreuse Val Saint Esprit has its own unique historic tales to tell. We move on to enchanting Chateau Covove, the best hotel in the best location for our days in and around Dunkirk. The relaxing town of Poperinge allows us to breath the relief of soldiers away from the front lines whilst enjoying the splendour of nearby Ypres. Our final hotel in the centre of cobbled Bruges has great historic tales and high standards of its own.