Railways and Wartime - Northern France
Monday 1 July to Wednesday 10 July 2013
This unique tour visits “wartime” venues spanning almost nine centuries, from the Bayeux Tapestry, celebrating 1066, through to the liberation of France at the end of WW2 in 1945. Although railways have only been around for less than two centuries they have played a major role in supporting “modern” warfare and the post war development of many European countries. The reminders of war and railways are everywhere, engendering extremes of emotion from admiration through to despair. One cannot help but be overawed and humbled by the experience.
Day 1 To the Channel Islands
We make our way from Poole to Jersey on the fast ferry. There will be a welcome dinner at the hotel in the evening. We stay here for two nights.
Day 2 Occupation
Occupied at various times by the Romans, French and Vikings, it’s hardly surprising that the island’s character, culture and landscape, from the parapets of Mont Orgueil Castle to the western beaches, have been heavily influenced by centuries of battles. The occupation that left the greatest mark was by Germany between 1940 and 1945, when elaborate fortifications were built with narrow gauge railways servicing them. We visit the underground tunnels and military hospital at St. Lawrence and the lookout tower at Les Landes. The afternoon will include a visit to Mont Orgeuil Castle, calling at the Pallot Railway Museum and a ride on the Victorian steam train.
Day 3 Mont St. Michel
Today we ferry over to St. Malo, and travel by road to visit the World Heritage Site at Mont St. Michel. We visit the Abbey’s museum, which depicts the life of the monks, the old town, the ramparts and Abbey grounds before we continue to nearby Pontorson where we board the train for Caen for a 2-night stay.
Day 4 From 1066 to "D-Day"
Whilst we will be visiting the world renowned tapestry at Bayeux, the thrust of the day is the liberation of France in 1944. Visiting Pegasus Bridge to view the first property in France to be “liberated”, continuing with a brief visit to “Juno Beach”, Colleville Cemetery followed by an extended visit to Arromanche, where you are free to tour the many sites commemorating the D-Day invasion. Nearby are the German gun emplacements and the D-Day museum. The remnants of Churchill’s legendary “Mulberry” floating harbour are visible all along the shore line.
Day 5 Paris
Day 6 Fontainebleu and CdF Pithiviers
Today we have a coach excursion to see evidence of a different type of war, civil war! The Palace of Fontainebleau was constructed as a hunting lodge only to be reduced to a shell by the “revolutionaries” in the 18th Century but Napoleon restored the palace to its regal glory before his exile. Today, the building, its art treasures and gardens are a feast for the eyes. After lunch, we visit the nearby CdF Pithivier narrow gauge railway. Whilst strictly not a wartime railway, it is typical of the way redundant wartime material was reused to rebuild a crippled nation.
Day 7 Amiens and CdF Froissy
The “petit train de la Haute-Somme” is the last remaining section of the extensive military railway network built for use in Northern France during WW1. It ferried men, munitions and other supplies to the front line, at its peak transporting 1500 tonnes of ammunition each night. At Froissy station the military museum has an extensive display of vehicles (about 40 locomotives and 120 items of rolling stock), typical of those used to transport provisions to the trenches during the Battle of the Somme. The area’s claim to fame is that it was here that Germany’s famed pilot, the “Red Baron” met his fate. Overnight in Amiens.
Day 8 Trench warfare
Today we visit the WW1 “front line”, where heavy fighting was the norm for almost the whole of the war. At the underground museum in Albert we experience the harsh sights, sounds and lighting that was the everyday life of soldiers in the trenches in 1916. At Pozieres, which presented a significant obstacle to military advancement, we will have the chance for reflection at the English cemetery. At Thiepval we will have time at both the War Graves Commission, memorial to the 72,000 British and South African troops who fell on the Somme and have no known grave, and the International Museum which explains the origins of the conflict and its consequences. We end our day in the pleasant river-side town of St.Valery, our home for 2 nights.
Day 9 Railways of Baie de Somme
We have a full day to savour the three connected lines that comprise the CdF Baie de Somme. The railway is noted for its unique metre and standard “mixed” gauge track work. Steam predominates to the North and East whilst diesel power is the order of the day to the West on the “train to the sea”. You are free to roam and possibly, visit the railway workshop and depot which is nearby.
Day 10 Homeward Bound
We return home via the coastal line to Calais and board the Eurostar train to St. Pancras.
|Single room supplement:||£195|
|Deposit for this holiday:||£100|
Rates of exchange used are as at 1st August 2012