Where to visit...

I'm rather stuffed for something to do this weekend, so I'm tempted to get in the car and drive to some battlefields. Camping somewhere overnight is definitely an option, so I would reckon on ideally two hours but no more than four hours from The Hague. This effectively puts pretty much all of Belgium and some bits of France within my reach. Since it's the anniversary of the Somme, somewhere World War I-related would be good, otherwise I'm not fussy. Waterloo is always an option, but I understand there is little to see there. Are there any bits of the Maginot line worth seeing within that distance?

Any suggestions?


Book Reviewer
A German can get through Belgium in less than 4 hours. :twisted:

There's not a lot at Waterloo to see, a simple museum and the Lion mound, but the battlefield hasn't been developed much so you can still see what the soldiers did. You need to know what you're looking at otherwise its just a field. You used to be able to get into the farmhouses at Hougemont or Saintes, but I didn't try last time so don't know if its possible. Game to play at the official shop - finding something with Wellington or Blucher on it. So much Napoleon memorablia you'd think that they won. Apparently the Frogs are the most frequent visitors :?

For the Somme start at Ypres. There's a fair few preserved trench lines and a lot of the cemetaries nearby. It's about an 90 minutes from Waterloo. The Menin Gate's worth looking at and they play the Last Post at sunset. Also try the Canadian Memorial - very moving.

As to the Maginot, I don't know, but if you find something let me know. I'm going through that way in August and want to show my boys.
All depends how well read you are on European Battlefields, or are you looking for a couple of cemetries, a museam and a tank on a plinth.

If you want something in depth, the Battleground Europe (£10 each) set of books will give you detailed decriptions of a particular WW1/2 battle and the maps make it very easy to follow on the ground. There are 4-5 on various sectors of the Somme, each would give you a very good insight. Also once you are there, most bars, tourist info offices have local guide books / maps to help you on your way.

There is also a very good museam under the Cathedral in Albert on the Somme , well worth a look.
I'm currently liking the sound of Ieper (sorry, just had to be pretentious as a Dutch speaker!), (Ypres), it would appear to be about 2.5 hours from me.

so, if I go there is it just a question of going into the town and asking? Is it well signposted? Are there likely to be battlefield guide for sale?
There is a very good source of information on the street between the Menin gate and town square well worth the visit. Compare Tyne Cot and Langemarck war cemetries. The last Post ceremony is a must.
There is a book shop that sells all these types of books (and in English) on the road from the Main Square to the Menin gate. Again, around Ieper, there are about 5 different sector books and one called 'Walking the Salient' which gives you a good overview. The tourist office has plenty of info to and there is a good museam in the main square. A good place to start, before picking where you want to go after.

Ieper has a municiple campsite just outside the old walls (from the Menin gate, turn south, about 200m through the sports ground) and is a 5 min walk from the centre of town and of course go to the 8pm (every eve) Bugle at the Gate. Very moving. Then go and find your name on the wall.

Oh, and don't whatever you do miss Tyne Cot up near Passchendaele, its the largest Cem in the Salient.
Or from a different era: Agincourt & Crecy are quite interesting - the landscape hasn't changed much, and with the help of the information boards you can get a good idea of how the ground was used to good effect by the English.
Thanks, guys -- but please keep the suggestions coming, as this could serve as a useful resource! Actually, has anyone thought of writing such battlefield trip suggestions up for the wiki?
I have always found that when on Battlefield tours the better read you are beforehand, the more you benifit from seeing the actual ground. Otherwise, a field is a field is a field if you aren't well versed in what happened there in...

A good one I have always found is find a relative who was there (easier with WW1/2 than Henry V expedition) and try to follow where they went. Makes it all so much more real. Also, Ypres in Nov in the mud with your wellies brings it more to life as you struggle across fields. You suddenly understand what they mean when the books say 'the Bn had become stuck and couldn't move forward'.

For another really very good one is read Ambroses' Band of Brothers and do Bastonge in the Ardennes (or Piepers Kmfg). Even the wife will like this one, as the country side is very picturesque.
I've done Arnhem already, as well as the local battle in 1940 when the Hoek van Holland Fort turned its two smaller turrets inland and gave some German paratroopers the good news in some woodland a few kilometres back. There's a good museum in the fort that is worth seeing, but you have to be able to read Dutch.
stoatman said:
I'm currently liking the sound of Ieper (sorry, just had to be pretentious as a Dutch speaker!), (Ypres), it would appear to be about 2.5 hours from me.

so, if I go there is it just a question of going into the town and asking? Is it well signposted? Are there likely to be battlefield guide for sale?
Ieper (Ieper centre) is well signposted from the motorway, there is currently some road works being carried out at the moment, so be aware of some diversions, though i think they have finished the ones around town.

Well, from Holland you're well placed to do Ypres, but with a wee bit of research you could tune into Marlborough's campaigns. Oudenaarde & Malplaquet are both accessible but don't have too much (anything) in the way of visitors centres, but you can get an idea of the land.

If you're going to hit the Somme this weekend, print 'official' programme off.

If you need accommodation you've got problems, we booked late and are in Arras (40mins drive) at the Trois Luppars. Stayed there last week on a recce, reasonable 2/3 star stuff.

For the whole area, I had (have?) a book that I thought was entitled 'The cockpit of Europe' about all the major campaigns & battles in Belgium & Flanders from Roman times. I can't find it on the web though, and suspect I've loaned or lost it.

Major & Mrs Holt's guide is always a good starter for a visit. Ypres features, and includes tours by length, time, and interest. You'll have to go back anyway as there's so much there. Also look out for the local girls cooling down in the fountain by the Cloth Hall.
There is a LOT to see at Waterloo - if you take a decent guide or a book. The ground tells you a lot. The Lion mound and panorama are good and there are lots of silly souvenirs.

Ypres is good. Holts do a DIY book based guide. A lightning tour of the salient can be done in four hours -but its only scratchign the surface. If you are visiting Ypres stay fopr the Last Post Ceremony.

Mons is worth a visit. You might find the HMSO "Battlefields of NW France and Belgium" by Richard Holmes useful.

You could try overloon. Excelent Dutch tank musuem on the site of a battle honour of 3rd infantyr Division which took the place after 7th US Armd Div had a bloody nose. The German dug outs are intact. Many of the tanks were the ones left on the battlefield. (They are restoring a Panther to running order) Some of the tank crews and soldiers who took Overloon are in the small CGWC next to it. A moving place to visit.
Namur & Dinant are very scenic riverside places to visit, with lots of military history. The huge fortress at Namur is very impressive, and is surrounded by satellite forts in the surrounding hills. Lots of tourist info about its role in the various wars from Roman time onwards. Very good place to look at the Ardennes campaigns of 1940 and 1944/5.

One place I'd like to see is Alesia - the hilltop village fortress (the modern village of Alise-Sainte-Reine still there) where Caesar trapped and defeated Vercongetorix. Unbelievable that the Romans built and defended 18 kms of fortifications from two Gaulish armies inside and outside. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alesia


Mons is close by(ish) and contains the one CWGC cemetery you should visit if you just visit one. St Symphorien, contains the first and last soldier killed in WW1, the first VC Lt Dease RF.

Plus you need a decent guide book so go for either the Holts series of Before Endeavours fade by Rose Coombes. saves wandering the battefield aimlessly like I did!
If you ever feel like company on such a trip I too am in The Hague.

Similar threads

Latest Threads