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Presenter : Zay Harding

World War I Special


In this Globe Trekker Special, Zay Harding travels across Northern France and Belgium, visiting key World War One locations on the Western Front.

Zay’s journey starts in the town of Meaux, 25 miles from Paris, the closest that the German army came to capturing the French capital, and the site today of the newly opened Museum of the Great War.

Moving on to the Aisne region, Zay visits the Confrecourt quarries, remarkable for a rock-cut chapel and many other historic carvings made by French troops who sheltered here, just behind the front lines, between 1914 and 1918.

Zay-Harding-Tries-on-a-100-year-old-gas-maskAt Ypres in Belgium, location of many of the war’s bloodiest battles, and site of the first use in 1915 of the terrible new weapon of poison gas, Zay tries on British and German gas masks from a remarkable private collection.

Back in France, Zay visits Verdun, where the war’s longest all-out battle took place in 1916, at the cost of around 300,000 French and German soldiers’ lives.  At the centre of the battlefield, a vast cathedral-like ossuary houses the bones of 130,000 of the soldiers whose bodies have never been identified.

Just a few miles from Verdun, at the hill of Vauquois, the most important battles took place underground.  Zay explores a warren of tunnels dug by the French and Germans, in which over 500 massive mines were detonated, obliterating the village that once stood on top of the hill.

Zay-Hareding-in-VerdunneElsewhere, British troops fought alongside a large number of troops from Commonwealth countries.  Zay visits Fromelles, where a mass grave of Australian soldiers was recently discovered; they have been reburied in the first Commonwealth War Graves cemetery created since World War Two.

Near Cambrai, Zay is shown one of the First World War’s most remarkable relics, a massive intact tank that was unearthed in recent years in a local field.

Another new weapon that made a big impact in the war was the aeroplane.  Zay visits an airshow near Paris to see World War One planes in flight.

One of the most important factors that led to Germany’s defeat was the late entry into the war of the USA.  Zay visits the battlefield along the St Quentin canal, where US troops broke through the German front lines in autumn 1918.

Finally, at Mons in Belgium, Zay visits the poignant St Symphorien cemetery, where some of the last of the 10 million soldiers to die in the war are buried, including a Canadian who was killed just two minutes before the ceasefire.

For more information about the War, read our Study Guide on What Caused World War 1

La Ferte Alais air show Original-WWI SPAD XIII


American Battle Monuments Commission 
Commonwealth War Graves Commission 
Musee de la Grande Guerre
Excellent new WW1 museum in Meaux, just outside Paris. 
Tourisme Pays de Meaux 
Evasion Aisne 
Office de Tourisme de Soissons 
Tourisme Nord 
The Tank of Flesquieres
Site where it’s possible to arrange a visit to see the remarkable British WW1 tank discovered near Cambrai by the amenable and very knowledgeable Philippe Gorczynski. 
Spirit of Remembrance Tours]
Tourisme de la Meuse 
Association des Amis de Vauquois
Organisation through which a visit to a remarkable warren of underground WW1 fighting tunnels near Verdun can be arranged. 
Visit Flanders 
Toerisme Poperinge

Places Mentioned - Belgium, France

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