Battlefields Armistice Centenary Ride 2018

Saturday 15 to Friday 21 September

To commemorate the centenary of the ending of World War One we will ride the front lines, approximately, as they existed from Verdun to the Dutch coast at the cessation of hostilities in November 1918. 

On day one, Saturday, we will cross to France by Eurotunnel then take an easy ride to Arras then next day onto Verdun where we will stay for two nights in the town centre at The B&B Hotel. Verdun meant to the French what Ypres meant to the British, it would never be surrendered, and the four year battle of attrition by the Germans was designed to destroy the army and morale of France.

The peak of the fighting was the Battle of Verdun in 1916 which was the most murderous in history between France and Germany. There were 300 days and nights of combat without a break, 300,000 dead and missing, 400,000 wounded. This struggle for annihilation, through an artillery duel without precedent, symbolises and summarises the whole war. On day three, Monday, our visits will start at the Verdun Subterranean Citadel, where the French chose their ‘unknown soldier’. Afterwards we’ll visit the Memorial of Verdun, the Douaumont Ossuary and Fort Douaumont; pictured below.

On Tuesday, we will follow the front line to Sedan and visit the largest fortified medieval castle in Europe with its area of 36,000 sq yards on seven levels. Construction started in 1424 and the castle's defences were constantly improved over the ages. It is the only remaining part of the once enormous fortifications in and around the town. Sedan remained occupied by German troops for 4 years.

We will then continue along the front line to Mons in Belgium for an overnight stop at the Ibis Hotel. Next morning we’ll visit the poignant St. Symphorien cemetery with its mixture of British and German graves. 

By the time the Armistice had been signed, the front in Belgium was an average of 45 miles east of the old front line and ran from Mons around Ath and Ghent to Terneuzen in Holland. We will follow this line as closely as we can to the 19th century Fort Ellewoutsdijk which is located on the  Dutch coast.

We will then ride to Ypres where we will stay for two nights at the lovely Ariane Hotel and attend the Last Post ceremony at the imposing Menin Gate; (below).

On day six, Thursday, our trip will include Essex Farm where in May 1915 John McCrae was moved to write his famous poem "In Flanders Fields". We will also contrast the vast Tyne Cot memorial centre and the tiny memorial set up personally by the last surviving British ‘Tommy’, Harry Patch, to his fallen comrades. We shall also visit the new Passchendaele Museum and if time allows West Flanders HD.

On Friday, in the morning there will be the opportunity to round off our trip with a visit to the ‘In Flanders Fields’ interactive museum in the magnificent Ypres Cloth Hall or you may choose to accompany me to other significant sites in the area. After lunch we will head for home.   

Over the seven days we will travel about 750 miles from Folkestone to Verdun and back which should use about £100 in fuel and road tolls. The channel tunnel will cost about £80. The longest ride in one day will be from Arras to Verdun which will be both on and off motorways. Members are very welcome to make their own way and meet us there. Hotels for the five nights will be the Trio Luppards in Arras, B&B Hotel in Verdun, Ibis Mons Centre Gare, and the Ariane Hotel in Ypres.

Costs will be about £600 for double rooms, a little less for singles, and there will be some entry fees. Lunches, dinners and drinks will be additional expenses of your own choice.

Please pay a £30 deposit per person using the 2018 booking form. To ease travel and time taken for refuelling and refreshments places will be limited to around 10 motorcycles/rooms so will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Steve Whitmore