A Tour Guide's account of a Western Front trip


Thursday morning dawned & I was up bright & early for breakfast, I was picking up the coach at Maidstone services and was about to embark on a History school trip to the Western Front with the addition of a visit to the Christmas Markets in Lille. I was guiding a school group from the south of England & had driven down the day before & overnighted there.  


The coach arrived right on time & I renewed old friendships with staff which whom I had travelled with before. It was also the first time with a new coach driver who soon turned out to be both competent & good company.


En-route to Dover, I went through the safety procedures aswell as exchange rate, timings etc.


On the outskirts of Dover there are a few things to point out, such as the observers posts dating from 1938 and the castle with its six layers of tunnels & earth & the ground upon which Louis Bleriot landed in 1909. As an example of warfare being a stimulus for technological change, it was only ten years later that Alcock & Brown flew the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly after that we were on board the ferry & crossing a calm Channel.


Upon arrival in Calais there was the view of the new fencing  & the Jungle settlement which has featured so heavily in the news recently. This was also an ideal opportunity to go over a bit of revision with the students about what Europe was like immediately before the outbreak of the Great War & then it's causes & what happended during the first few weeks of the Great War.


The first stop we made was at Essex Farm cemetery in Ypres in Belgium. Here I pointed out the grave of Henry Houghton who lived before the war on the same street that I live on now. We then went to see the grave of Valentine Joseph Strudwick and the students were very shocked to see that the age recorded on the headstone was that he died at 15 years of age. This provoked thoughts of underage soldiers and that Strudwick was not the youngest buried in the Salient. We also saw the layout of cemeteries, the Great Cross, War Stone & rows of white headstones, a Jewish headstone & also that of Terrace Barrett VC.


We moved from the cemetery to the McCrae Memorial, and the story of the poem In Flanders Fields, before looking into the dugouts.


The next stop was at Langemark German Cemetery, pausing to look at the signpost showing subsequent uses of poison gas. In the entrance to the cemetery I was able to relate the story of Hemann Koupman, one of the soldiers whose name is recorded in oak panelling on the wall, including his last letter home. We looked at the newly refurbished cemetery, whilst also observing the very different feel from the CWGC cemeteries.


As it was now getting dark, we headed into Ypres to our accommodation at The Poppies. We later dined at Ganzeke Restaurant & then went chocolate shopping before returning to the hostel.


Next morning, we headed south of the border to France to visit Vimy Ridge. We first stopped to admire the magnificent Canadian memorial before moving to the tunnels and trenches.Heading north again, we dined in the Pacific Eiland restaurant before visiting the award winning In Flanders Fields museum in the Cloth Hall. The last visit of the day was to Tyne Cot, the largest CWGC cemetery in the world where we looked at the headstones, the memorial wall and observed a minutes silence after the Exhortation.


Returning to Ypres, we gathered under the Menin Gate Memorial for the Last Post Cemetery. The three students selected to lay a wreath on behalf of the school were nervous, but not half as nervous as me as their Guide when invited to recite the Exhortation in front of a crowd of over 500.


We returned to the hostel, tired but having enjoyed a good day.


The last day saw us load up the coach and head south again to just outside Lille to an artisan bakery where we all baked a St. Nicholas bread dough and made and ate a healthy lunch. From there it was on to the Lille Christmas market, a meal at Cite d'Europe at Calais and then to the port.


The wind had been picking up all day and although we were there in plenty of time for our ferry we were likely to face a delay. The students, staff & I decided that we had gone off Storm Desmond. However a DVD of Warhorse saw off some of the time on the dockside before most of us had a sleep.  We safely returned to the school in the early hours of the morning after an enjoyable and educational visit to the Western Front.


 Bruce Hubbard Bruce Hubbard BA (Hons), PGCE, DASE
Bruce has a degree in History & is a retired secondary school teacher with over 30 years' experience. A long-standing member of the Western Front Association & the Great War Forum. He has worked for Galina since 2007 & was a school client for several years previously.
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    We are dedicated to bringing you the latest news and updates regarding travel. 

    Please find below a joint statement from the STF and ABTA as of March 13th 2020. Our current understanding of the situation regarding school trips is as follows:

    • The government has advised schools that they should not undertake international school trips at this stage. This is due to concerns that the schools would face significant challenges in making arrangements to ensure children’s welfare should adult supervisors or children be required to self-isolate. Schools will decide how to act upon this advice. If schools do cancel their trips, normal cancellation terms will apply.
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    • The Government is not advising schools to stop trips within the UK so schools can proceed as planned if they wish. The Government is advising schools to refresh their risk assessments.Customers wanting to cancel must do so at their own cost, normal cancellation charges apply.


    Written on Friday, 13 March 2020 15:35
  • Brexit FAQ's

    Last edited 30.01.2020


    We now know that the UK will leave the EU at 23h00 (GMT) on 31 January 2020. Following Brexit we will enter a transition period which will run, at least, until the end of December 2020. During the transition period everything will remain the same and you can continue to travel as you do now.

    We will continue to monitor the information provided by travel industry experts, organisations like ABTA and the UK Government and pick out what we believe is relevant for you.


    Common questions about travel after 31 January 2020


    Will flights still operate?

    Yes. During the transition period, everything will stay the same until the end of December 2020 and flights will continue as normal. 


    Will my coach journey still operate?

    Coaches will still be able to travel to, from and around EU countries as usual. 


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    Trains from the UK to the EU will continue to operate as usual. 


    Will we have to show our passports at each border?

    We do advise you keep passports handy when travelling throughout Europe, as you may be required to prove your right to travel at border crossings or security checkpoints.

    You can always check on https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice to find out more about visa restrictions for your destination.


    Will I need a new passport?

    Valid passports can still be used. You do not need to have six months left on your passport to travel to the EU. Your passport does however need to be valid for the whole of your trip. 

    If you are looking to travel to Europe from 1 January 2021, you will need your passport to both:

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    If you do not renew it, you may not be able to travel to most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

    If you would like to know more take a look at the latest Government advice.


    Will I still be able to use a collective passport?

    Whilst the position as to the validity of collective passports for travel to the EU has not changed, if you are able to arrange for each traveller to have an individual passport which has the requisite validity, this may help to forestall any issues which might arise.


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    The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows any EU citizen to access state medical care when they are travelling in another EU country. UK registered EHICs will still be valid throughout 2020.

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    Further advice on travel insurance can be found at https://www.abta.com/travelinsurance


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    We have placed forward contracts for foreign currency so fluctuations in the exchange rate are highly unlikely to affect the price of your tour.

    Please note however that, if there is a change in legislation that will affect your overall tour price and which is out of our control, eg visa costs, surcharges, this cost would be passed on to you.

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    What is the law on price changes?

    If there are increases in transportation costs, taxes or fees chargeable for services post Brexit, the law says that package holiday providers, like Next Generation Travel, are permitted to increase their prices. However, we are pleased to confirm that there would be no change within 20 days of your departure and we would cover the first 2% of any price increase. In the unlikely circumstances that prices were to increase by more than 2% you may be asked to pay an additional fee however where the price increase is 10% or higher, you have the right to cancel and receive a full refund of all monies paid, except for any amendment charges.


    Will overall prices go up in the future?

    Tour prices in the future will always be open to normal market and economic fluctuations such as currency and service prices. Our foreign currency forward buying policy means we always look to protect customers from the impact of currency fluctuationsHowever, overall tour prices may in the future be affected by changes in legislation such as visa costs, surcharges etc. or increased cost in services such as flights or ferry crossings.

    At Next Generation Travel our experienced staff will always provide you with a tour price which is based either on the actual current rates for your service or estimated rates which are based on our extensive knowledge of the travel and industry. We will always communicate any price changes as they are given to us and have an open and honest pricing policy, which will ensure you should have no surprises later on.

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    Brexit Advice for Travellers
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    Written on Tuesday, 24 September 2019 14:44
  • Brexit – Update January 2020
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