Marlborough - The First Churchill

The Great Captain’s Major Battles


Tour Introduction

For the first half of the week we will be based in the historic city of Donauworth in hospitable Bavaria. From the nearby Schellenberg we gain magnificent views of the Danube and its valley, whilst on the Höchstadt Plain below the city we will enjoy walking through the unspoiled countryside. From there we fly to the equally historic city of Mons in French-speaking southern Belgium – ‘the cockpit of Europe’ for the second half of the week. Both Bavaria and Belgium are renowned for their cuisine and local beers and wines – and we will do our best to introduce you to all three!


It is no secret that Winston Churchill drew huge inspiration from his ancestor John Churchill, later the Duke of Marlborough, who is generally regarded as England’s finest commander and one of history’s great captains. Marlborough understood how politics worked and during his career he revolutionised the art of warfare.

Marlborough’s mastery of his craft and outstanding leadership enabled two small countries – Britain and Holland – to challenge the might and ambitions of the King of France, Louis XIV. It was an age of formal warfare, still fought according to the rules of chivalry, with set piece battles and great sieges. But not even the genius of Vauban, the French King’s master of fortification, could prevent a series of victories culminating in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. This heralded the period of peace and prosperity in England and the birth of the British Empire overseas. During this epic tour we will visit Marlborough’s greatest and most interesting battlefields in chronological order: Shellenberg and Blenheim 1704, Ramillies 1706, Oudenarde 1708 and Malplaquet 1709.


  • With acknowledged authority Dr John Sadler
  • In-depth study of the Blenheim Campaign
  • Two centre tour based first in Bavaria then in Belgium
  • Climb the Schellenberg viewing the Danube Valley

"You've a fantastic guide in John Sadler, he presents the battles wonderfully"


Day 1 - Introduction. Fly London to Munich, drive to Donauworth and check-in to our hotel for three nights. Orientation walk of the town and its 18th Century defences followed by an introductory talk and welcome drinks.

Day 2 – Shellenberg. We climb the Schellenberg Heights to visit Fort Augustus and the other surviving fortifications which were stormed by Marlborough on 2 July 1704. This afternoon we explore the beautiful walled town of Nordlingen and visit the Stadtmauer Military History Museum with its interpretation of the city’s defences.

Day 3 – Blenheim. We spend the whole day on this iconic battlefield, starting with the Allied advance from Schwenningen, we walk the ground and examine the bloody actions on the Höchstadt plain, fought throughout the dust and sweat of the day. Thence to the climactic struggle for the village of Blenheim itself, the key bastion of the French defence line, which was finally surrendered as night fell.

Day 4 – Höchstadt & Transfer. Explore the town of Höchstadt with its battlefield museum and diorama. Continue to Munich for our flight to Brussels and thence to our hotel in Mons for 2 nights.

Day 5 – Ramillies & Oudenarde. In the morning we study the battle of Ramillies where Louis XIV hoped to restore the prestige of the French Army two years after his defeat at Blenheim. Then in the afternoon, we move ahead in time to the battle of Oudenaarde where Marlborough drew the French into battle, enabling recovery of territory lost over the intervening two years.

Day 6 – Malplaquet & Vauban. This morning we study the bloody battlefield of Malplaquet, fought in September 1709, where the Allies aimed to capture Mons and destroy the French Army once and for all. They succeeded, but it was Marlborough’s most expensive victory. After lunch, we visit the well-preserved fortress of Maubeuge to look at the theory and practice of Vauban fortifications. Drive on to the French town of Lille, with its lovely town square, for the final night.

Day 7 – Lille and Return. We continue our study of Vauban fortifications by looking at the Lille Citadel (besieged by Marlborough in 1708 and still a military installation) before catching the afternoon Eurostar connection to London.

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Marlborough - The First Churchill

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