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Battle of the Somme memorial

Battle of the Somme memorial

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D-Day cruise is already sold out with trips to northern France expected to follow

With the centenary of the start of the First World War in summer 2014, expect a big surge in visitors to Northern France to see the battlefields and the memorials of the carnage on the Western Front.

The Government has announced a £5.3m scheme to send two children and a teacher from every state-funded secondary school to the area.

Since the centenary programme was announced, operators have started to launch packages to Normandy and the Western Front.

Rail holiday specialists Great Rail Journeys and Treyn offer battlefield tours to the memorials, cemeteries and museums of the Great War, departing by Eurostar from St Pancras International. The tours focus on the Ypres Salient and The Somme, key areas on the Western Front, where towns have seen remarkable restoration projects.

Great Rail Journeys has a five-day ‘Battlefields of Flanders’ tour from £425, between April and October, with return rail/coach travel, four nights’ B&B, two dinners, a Ypres visit for the Last Post ceremony, visit to Essex Farm Cemetery, Talbot House and Lijssenthoek, entrance to ‘In Flanders Field’ museum, a visit to Passchendaele, Tyne Cot Cemetery & the Hooge Crater Museum, Bayernwald Trenches, with a tour manager.

Treyn’s battlefields tours- also Apr- Oct- costs from £295 and include a four-day ‘Bruges & Ypres’ tour, which return rail travel, three nights’ B&B, a guided walking tour of Bruges, an excursion to Ypres and the battlefields, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Bayernwald Trenches, Hill 60 and The Last Post, with tour manager throughout.

Meanwhile, Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) has a special cruise to commemorate battles of the First and Second World Wars.

CMV’s Mike Hall says the BBC two-part programme, ‘D-Day -The Last Heroes’, presented by Dan Snow, generated many calls for a D-Day cruise, to recall the historic events of June 1944 when 4,126 Allied ships went to Normandy in ‘Operation Overlord’.

On the anniversary of D-Day in 2014, CMV’s ship Discovery will join other craft off the coast of Normandy.

A ceremony in memory of those killed in the fighting that day will be held on board.

This cruise also visits the medieval French town of Honfleur, with an optional tour to Pegasus Bridge on the River Orne, captured by the 6th Airborne Division before the invasion arrived next morning.

Passengers can sail from Bristol – Avonmouth on June 1 for a six-night cruise back to Bristol from £619 (sharing twin inner cabin), or take a seven-night trip back to Liverpool from £729.

CMV’s other ship, Marco Polo, has sold out a seven night D-Day Anniversary cruise from London Tilbury, with a one day visit to the Battlefield of Ypres from £739.

:: INFORMATION: Great Rail Journeys (01904 521980 or www.GreatRail.com); Treyn (01904 734940 or www.railholidays.com); Cruise & Maritime Voyages (0844 414 6185 and www.cruiseandmaritime.com).