Western Front Battlefields


Just a short distance from Calais, Ypres is where the British managed to prevent the enemy advance from over running the seaboard of Northern France. A number of massive engagements were fought in the region, including assault at Paschendael in 1917. Hugh follows the defence of Ypres throughout the war, and visits a slection of museums and cemetaries.


For a moment at the start of the Battle of Arras, Ludendorf thought that the Britsh and Commonwealth armies had broken through and were on the verge of victory. It was not to be and the atrition rate per diem would become higher than that of the Battle of the Somme. Hugh visits Vimy Ridge, the Arras caves (where 20,000 British soldiers were concealed 67ft below ground, Monchy le Preux, Telegraph Hill and Bullecourt, Arras is one of the most evocative battlefields.


Some 400 British tanks steamed through the Hindenburg Line and changed modern warfare for ever. As at Arras, however, early success changed to stalemate and the British ended up back on their starting line. Hugh visits the site of the early breakthrough and Bourlon Wood where the attack stalled. The spot where Wilfred Owen was to be killed in the following year is nearby on the Canal du Nord.


With around 60,000 killed, wounded and missing on the first day of the British assault, the Somme remains a byword for a murderous battle. Yet Kitchener's volunteers fought like heroes and caused the enemy to retire to new positions on the Hindenberg Line. Hugh traces the development of the battle, including the use of mines (Lochnagar Crater).
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