The Eastern Front 1941 - 1943
The Great Patriotic War
This is a rare opportunity to explore traditional Russia and sample its history, traditions, architecture and landscapes. Our ten day tour covers the three decisive turning points of the Great Patriotic War (as the Russians call it): the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk. We begin outside Moscow at Borodino, the site of Napoleon's victory in 1812 and coincidentally the same defence line held in 1941. Preserved trench lines and bunkers are visible here as are ruined buildings at Stalingrad (now Volgograd). At Kursk we peruse fascinating local museums, tank scrapes and restored trench complexes en route. Traditional Russian single story wooden houses and iconic Orthodox churches form the backdrop to our journey, which involves considerable travel with internal flights to Volgograd and comfortable overnight 1st class (two-berth) sleeper train to Kursk, other nights are spent in four star hotels or equivalent.
“The duty of the men at Stalingrad is to die”.
Adolf Hitler: during a lunch conference January 1943
The battle for Moscow during the autumn and winter of 1941-2 was the first time a German Army was checked and then repelled during the Second World War. A second German summer offensive in 1942, another seemingly irresistible Blitzkrieg across the southern Soviet Steppe ran out of momentum when it engaged in a costly battle of attrition at Stalingrad. Yet another Soviet surprise winter counter offensive surrounded and overwhelmed von Paulus's Sixth Army in the ruins of Stalingrad and dangerously isolated another Army Group in the Caucasus. The loss of a complete army group was irreplaceable to the Reich. The German summer offensive at Kursk in 1943 was the final gamble, involving 6,000 tanks, 4,000 aircraft and two million men. It achieved a fleeting tactical success but the strategic initiative was irretrievably lost. The tour explores how near the Germans got to Moscow in 1941, why Blitzkrieg failed at Stalingrad in 1942 and examines many of the myths surrounding the huge tank battle at Prokohorovka in 1943.
Day 1 - Depart.
Fly London-Moscow and check-in to our hotel for two nights.
Day 2 - The Defence of Moscow.
We travel out to the battlefield of Borodino to explore and compare the battles of 1812 and 1941. We then follow the German advance on Moscow through Istra and Yahrohmato to Chimki, its closest point, just short of the Moscow ring road.
Day 3 - Stalingrad the Attack.
Fly Moscow-Volgograd, landing at the former Luftwaffe airbase at Gumrak. We begin the tour of the Stalingrad city area from the Mamayev Kurgan heights, with its impressive memorial complex to overview the German assault. We visit the still preserved Grain Elevator, the Volga river crossings and Pavlov's House. Check-in to our hotel at Volgograd for three nights.
Day 4 - Stalingrad The Defence.
Today we view the victory parade in Volgograd combined with a boat trip on the Volga to view the defence from the Soviet perspective. We travel to the north of the city to view the factory district and Lyudnikov's Island.
Day 5 - Finale in Stalingrad.
We visit the Panoramic Museum and Grudinin Mill to discuss street fighting and the final encirclement from von Paulus's final HQ at the Univermag Department Store. We drive to the western outskirts of the city, the edge of the steppe, to see the Soldier's Field and the German entry points into the city.
Day 6 - Moscow.
After our return flight to Moscow we visit the Central Armed Forces Museum, before catching the overnight train to Kursk.
Day 7 - Northern shoulder Kursk Salient.
Today we drive north from Kursk to view Model's Ninth Army assault of Ponyri, 'the 'Stalingrad' of Kursk, visiting the railway station, the focus of the fighting and the superb local museum. Moving to the Teplov Heights monument we view the furthest extent of Model's advance and visit the defending Soviet general Rokossovky's bunker headquarters. Check-in to our hotel for one night.
Day 8 - Southern Advance to Prokhorovka.
We drive the southern part of the salient following the 'death ride' of the Fourth Panzer Army to Prokhorovka, the site of the largest tank battle of the war. We follow the fortunes of the SS Adolf Hitler Battle Group, visiting preserved trenches and gun emplacements en route. Catch the overnight train from Kursk back to Moscow.
Day 9 - Kubinka.
We spend a full day at the magnificent tank Museum at Kubinka, which exhibits every tank and self-propelled gun type employed on the eastern front and many more. These include the massive howitzer that bombarded Sevastopol and Warsaw and the 'Maus' Mark VIII Panzer, the biggest tank produced during the war.
Day 10 - Moscow and home.
After visiting the Great Patriotic War Museum, displaying much of the epic art and equipment of the War and more besides, we fly Moscow to London.