The Western Front Way | Walk As One
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TOWARDS THE SECOND CENTENARY

In 2016, a team of enthusiasts, led by Sir Anthony Seldon, and Tom Heap, walked sections of the route from Pfetterhouse in France, near the Swiss border to Nieuport in Belgium. The 475 mile route formed the line along the Western Front, spanning three countries and impacting all nations globally between 1914 and 1918. The effects are still felt today and the construction and walking of The Western Front Way will preserve the memory for the next century and beyond. Every year the route becomes more defined, our local relationships grow and we establish ourselves as not only pioneers of the pathway, but the first to attempt the challenge. In 2017, we walk again.’

THE VISION

Every year we aim to walk The Western Front Way – Le Chemin de Mémoire, the main aim being the creation of a permanent pathway. The idea was, inspired by a letter written by Alexander Douglas Gillespie, a 2nd Lt in the Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders, who was killed in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Referring to No Man’s Land, shortly before his death he wrote, “I would like to send every man, woman and child in Western Europe on pilgrimage along that Via Sacra, so that they might think and learn what war means from the silent witnesses on either side.”

‘Seventeen million people lost their lives in World War One’

‘For every mile we walk, 35,789 lost their lives during World War One’

‘For every metre we walk, 22.2 lost their lives during World War One’

Please see the map below soon for start and end points of the 22 day walk. Should you wish to join us, please email [email protected] As with last year, until we have the pathway and final route complete in the future, you are responsible for your own travel and accommodation along the route. Highlights of the 2017 walk will contain exploration of the Champagne region, the centenary of Cambrai and of course, the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele. Along the way we will explore and expand contacts and allies along the way who will contribute to the vision we all aim for daily.

OUR CORE VALUES & AIMS
  • To establish and construct a 475-mile, permanent pathway along the Western Front, from the Swiss border, through France to the Belgian coast. ‘We are walking through history’.
  • To emphasise the health benefits of walking and camaraderie that comes from such a journey.
  • To educate through history and disseminate the consequences of war – each step representing one life lost.
  • To create a new vehicle for remembrance for a further hundred years and beyond, and develop guides and apps to support walkers
  • To remember and bring together all nations through the community of walkers.
  • To commemorate the words of A D Gillespie in particular, and remember those of all nations who fell or were wounded during the First World War.
  • To encourage schools, institutions and companies to walk all or part of the route alongside those pursuing a more personal quest.
  • To support local businesses and encourage the tourist trade along the route.

Sir Anthony Seldon

Anthony Seldon is the author of over 30 books on British history and other topics. Most recently, he has written Beyond Happiness and Cameron at 10. He is the former head of Wellington College in Berkshire, and is currently the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham.  He is also an Executive Producer on Journey’s End, working with Guy De Beaujeu of Fluidity Films.  It is due to be filmed later in 2016.

 

Inspired by the story of an ancestor who was wounded on the Western Front in 1915, Anthony has always been interested in the history of the First World War. In 2013 he wrote, with David Walsh, The Public Schools and the Great War. While working on this project, he came across Alexander Douglas Gillespie’s story. This has inspired him to walk the Western Front himself, to see what remains of the 450 mile frontline that once occupied the attention of the world.

 

A Message from Sir Anthony:

The walk was first described a hundred years ago by Second Lieutenant Douglas Gillespie, the night before he died at the Battle of Loos, in a letter to his headmaster back at school. He wanted a Via Sacra (sacred road) to be established after the war, along which all would walk to remind them of the grief that war causes.

 

The motive for the walk is to remind people about the consequences of war and to commemorate all those who fell. I will be fund-raising for Médecins Sans Frontières. If there is a message in the walk, it is that there is a danger to countries retreating into nationalism, as they did in the years leading up to 1914.

 

This will be something of a pilgrimage and a fascinating one.

Alexander Douglas Gillespie

In 1914, Alexander Douglas Gillespie was a bright man with a promising future. At Winchester College, he won the King’s Gold Medal for Latin Verse, the Silver Medal for Latin Speech, the Warden and Fellow’s Prizes for Greek Prose and Latin Essay, and the Duncan Prize for Reading. He was elected in 1908 to a Scholarship at New College, Oxford, and took his degree in 1912 with a First Class in Classical Moderations and a Second in Literae Humanitores.

 

He was reading for the Bar when war broke out in 1914, and volunteered his services at once, obtaining a commission in the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He went to the front the following February and was killed at the Battle of Loos on the 26 September 1915. With no known grave, he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

 

His most famous letter, published in the Wykehamist of 14 June 1915, was written to his Headmaster and was subsequently picked up by the national press for its vision of what might be done with the Western Front after the War. He suggested a via sacra (sacred road) between the lines. ‘I would like to send every man, woman and child in Western Europe on a pilgrimage along that via sacra, so that they might think and learn about what war means from the silent witnesses on either side’.

 

A volume of his letters entitled “Letters from Flanders” was published in 1916. Source: Anthony Seldon and David Walsh, Public Schools and the Great War, p. 133

WALK IN 2017

Dear Friends of The Western Front Way Foundation,

 

It’ll soon be that time of the year when we’ll be helping to promote the whole concept of the Western Front Way by holding an accompanied walk over 23 consecutive days choosing key stages from our overall route Switzerland to the Belgian Coast.

 

Western Front Way 2017 Accompanied Walk: July 12th to August 3rd.

 

Whilst some days return to parts of the route covered in our inaugural walk in 2016, there’s plenty of new stages and locations of great historical and reflective interest.

 

New for 2017 are days at Cambrai and in the Champagne region to coincide with the centenary of major events there in 1917. These stages also offer us the chance to demonstrate a key feature of our research in design to outline what happened throughout 1914-18.

 

The centenary theme has also been applied to the Ypres Salient but the timing will also coincide with centenary events being held there at the end of July. Please note that we are also subject to the public ballot system for tickets to the Passchendaele commemoration. However, much like the amazing scenes and atmosphere witnessed in Albert for the Somme Centenary last year, there will be public events in Ypres itself. We are hoping that our ability to walk into the salient from the south and via Messines will be possible. Alternative routing may be necessary for this year but we will endeavour to update all potential walkers as information becomes available.

 

We will also be incorporating a new stage covering Compiegne and a finish at the Glade of the Armistice Railway Carriage. As we near Rethondes our route intends to track the arrival of the German delegation and earlier in the day follow the path of the BEF retreat to the Marne post Le Cateau.

 

We also plan to include a day in the Argonne which is also to help hopefully build interest for American involvement in the centenary of 1918. Again, the ground was fought over throughout WW1 and will consider the mining at Vauquois.

 

There is a different stage too included from the Vosges. We intend to walk into the hills around Munster: the Altmattkopf, Reichsackerkopf and Munchberg to name just three important features of the day. This will combine with important repeats of the fantastic days spent at Hartmannswillerkopf and the Linge last year.

 

Other important features include:

 

  1. A variation to our walk along the Chemin des Dames to acknowledge the fighting between French and German forces particularly in 1917.
  2. Plans have been made to provide a poignant combination of two stages into one day to commemorate the advance out of the Somme in February to April 1917. This follows a representational part of the many routes taken by the Allies in their cautious push east through the scorched earth of the German Operation Alberich (it’s strategic withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line). It will naturally then connect into our Cambrai days for the battle areas south east of Arras for fighting there in the two phases of the 1917 Battle of Arras from April 9th, for Cambrai in November and December 1917, the German spring offensive of 1918 and the Allied return to the sector in September 1918.
  3. We have a day walking from the strategic village of Monchy le Preux into Arras again. This year it will contain more memory of recent centenary events at Easter. We will also incorporate some extra routing through Gavrelle. We complete the day by walking out of Arras up onto the Vimy Ridge. Please note: this year though, we will not be starting the next day from the next stage at Vimy and a tour of the tunnels although efforts will be made to secure the possibility at the end of the walk to Vimy from Arras.
  4. The walk will have it’s day at Loos to commemorate Douglas Gillespie’s fighting and loss in September 1915. We will begin from Hill 70 and will also consider the mystery of the loss of Rudyard Kipling’s son John of the Irish Guards. We’ll take a route through Vermelles that changed hands time and again including eight times in one day, the area of the Hohenzollern Redoubt and the notorious Brickstacks to cover the northern attack at Loos at Cuinchy, Cambrin and the La Bassee Canal. We finish at Givenchy les Bassee and the memorials to the Tunnellers and 55th West Lancs Division.
  5. We return to the Somme but this year it will incorporate sections of the main stages to offer a single day in the British sector. We will also demonstrate our great desire to acknowledge the part played by the French on the Somme in 1916 by having a day in their sector. This will also allow reflection on events throughout 1914-18 in the areas around Chaulnes to Peronne.
  6. We begin our walk again at Pfetterhouse near the Swiss border to take in the fascinating Kilometre Zero and will walk to Altkirch considering the early engagements of August 1914.
  7. We end again on the Yser. Taking the meaningful walk from Dixmuide along the Tranchees de Mort and the old raised railway embankment that defined the front line from October 1914 once the Belgians had opened the sluice gates to inundate the low-lying land here. We’ll go through the edge of Ramskapelle and then Nieuport to meet the sea. It’ll also be timely to reflect on the British Corps deployed in the dunes around Nieuport in June and July 1917.

 

Some stages from 2016 have been omitted this year but will clearly return for accompanied walks in the future. Please enquire if there are interests and queries about ground that we’ll cross and cemeteries directly on or near our route.

 

Andrew Mullen
07850698544
MSc, MBA, BSc & bar, BA & bar, CertEM

Download 2017 Route Summary

Team

We’re very fortunate to have some fantastic people behind the Western Front Way Foundation

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Rory Forsyth

Director

Having completed the walk in 2016, Rory has taken over management of the Executive Board. When asked recently about the future of the Western Front Way he said, ‘To be here, right at its inception is an honour. The pathway we strive daily to make a reality will be a living, four hundred and seventy mile memorial to all those that fell in all years from all nations. We will build the legacy that can ensure current and future generations have somewhere to find those moments of reflection for the next centenary. Rory is an author, keen sportsman and World War One enthusiast having been going to the battlefields since he was a boy.

andy-hill

Andy Hill

Board Member

Andy counts himself very lucky to have walked most of the 2016 Walk. “He feels that the Way is far more than just a long distance footpath as it combines the stunning sadness of the battlefield cemeteries with stories of great heroism and sacrifice. The Way also allows us to traverse beautiful country and enjoy the excellent camaraderie along the route with the rest of the group”. Probably the most useful bits of him are his feet as he has completed many long-distance walks including walking from Dorset to the southern tip of Spain, the wonderful SW Coast path, the Pennine Way and the donkey walk in the Cevennes!

Jamie-Forsyth

Jamie Forsyth

Chairman

Jamie has a keen interest in military history and has made several visits to the Western Front over the years, along with tours to Gallipoli, Arnhem, Monte Cristo and the Normandy beaches. He was commissioned into the Cameronians(Scottish Rifles) in 1984 before a career as a chartered surveyor. After walking with the team in 2016, he was able to combine his interest in keeping fit and learn more about this momentous event in history. ' There is a sense of challenge in trying to understand what happened along this huge distance where so many found themselves away from home for the first time in a foreign country and facing the ultimate sacrifice. Being part of an ambitious project to allow many to participate in the future, is a small contribution to a an enormous debt we owe.

Lal-(Alison)-Mills

Lal (Alison) Mills

Board Member

A great niece of Alexander Douglas Gillespie, keen walker and keep fit enthusiast. Worked for a Member of Parliament. Has organised very successful large concerts, talks and events fund-raising for local charities. Member of Ringwood PCC, past trustee of Almshouses in Brixton, and parent governor of a school for SEN children. Also helps her husband running his mixed farming estate in Hampshire. Added her name to the WFW project having walked 250 miles through France in 2016 with Sir Anthony Seldon. Inspired by her great uncle’s vision of that Via Sacra which she hopes one day will become a reality.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter

Board Member

Amanda recently joined the Western Front Way team bringing her expertise in fundraising, donor relations and client relationship management gained from working in the not for profit sector for over 20 years. She runs a bespoke consultancy Achill Management whose clients range from multi million pound turnover NGOs to small start ups. Amanda has been a charity CEO, a school governor, a NED on her local health thrust, a trustee on numerous boards and is currently Chair of Applause the Rural Touring Theatre charity for Kent and Sussex. She is a keen walker and her three great passions are education, equality and the environment.

Now that we've completed our second accompanied walk, we must record that our initial route designer and historian Andy Mullen has announced that new challenges and opportunities presented have meant that he will not be continuing with us into the next phase. We would like to offer thanks to him for all of his efforts to make the WFW a reality. As we develop into our next phase, we wish him the best of luck on his new projects

Merchandise

Purchase official Western Front Way merchandise from us directly by clicking on the links below. Please note these images are for illustration purposes only and the design may be subject to change.

Die-Cast Western Front Way Lapel Pin Badge

Die-Cast Western Front Way Lapel Pin Badge

£3 + £1p&p












Western Front Way Sew on Fabric Badge

Western Front Way Sew on Fabric Badge

£3.50 + £1p&p












Register as a friend

We’d love to hear from you and appreciate all the support from members of the public, charitable organisations and commercial enterprises. The Western Front Way is not a one year event. Our aim is to make it a permanent feature for remembrance, for reflection and for all nations, for all people. We will need your support. The idea proposed by AD Gillespie was vast, but so too is our drive to complete it as it was intended. Please join our mailing list to become a ‘Friend of The Western Front Way’. We will provide updates on the walk this year, news reports on developments and show you how you can help directly.

We in the Western Front Way core team want this to be the principle legacy of the centenary of the First World War, you too can help us succeed by becoming a friend.

Sponsor Us

You can be at the inception of the creation of the pathway. For the walk in 2017 to take place and encourage the values mentioned above, donations or whatever size can be made directly via BACS to The Western Front Way Foundation, Sort Code 83-91-36, A/C No 01810016 . We in the THE WESTERN FRONT WAY core team want this to be the principle legacy of the centenary of the First World War, you too can help us succeed by becoming a friend.

 

For more information visit the website www.thewesternfrontway.com and contact Rory Forsyth
[email protected]
17 Broughton Road, London, SW6 2LE
07867-550-290

 

Click here for the Sponsors Letter. Click here for the Gift Aid Form.