Our journey to Paris of over 800 kms, will trace much of the Western Front in France and Belgium at the height of World War One.
Beginning in Westhoek on the Yzer, we’ll visit Veurne, Dunkirk, Armentieres, Fromelles and Lille, go down the Canal du Norde, along the Somme to Villiers-Bretonneaux, up Mont San Quentin, and finally down the Marne to Paris.
Flanders today seems an idyllic patchwork of farmland and towns, many built around market places that appear to date from medieval times. But the appearance is deceptive. World War One devastated south-western Belgium.
For hundreds of years when wars were fought in Europe, particularly between France and Holland or England, Flanders would be where great battles were fought; Waterloo, the most famous.
In World War One, the Germans saw Nieuwpoort as an ideal staging point for invading Britain. Tens of thousands on both sides lost their lives and lie in the many well tended war cemeteries.
The war went on three levels. As well as in the trenches most of us are familiar with, tunnellers, including Australians dug a warren of tunnels down into the sandy soil; so many that in the 1990s parts of towns reportedly collapsed as they were not filled in after the war.
Ten thousand feet above the ground the men of the Australian Flying Corps along with the Royal Flying Corp were pioneering a new technology and ways to wage war. The Australians, many of whom had grown up in the bush were recognised for their skills as observers and developed the first aerial mapping techniques as well as excelling at bombing, and dog fights.