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:
- A variation to our walk along the Chemin des Dames to acknowledge the fighting between French and German forces particularly in 1917.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.