Poets on the Western Front
Words, Music and Landscapes
The War Poets created some of the most powerful expressions of the human realities of the Great War which were instrumental in leading to a fundamental re-appraisal of the utility of war after the armistice and have moved generations of readers ever since. We travel from the trench where Henri Barbusse was a stretcher bearer, the hill where Ivor Gurney was wounded, the Somme crucifix where he composed one of his finest songs, to the battlefield which inspired Wilfred Owen’s ‘Spring Offensive’ or in the cellar in which he wrote his last letter. To understand fully the works of these great writers and musicians requires an understanding of the historical events and to hear the words or music in the actual landscapes which inspired them.
Our guide Simon Jones has taught literature and art of the Great War at Liverpool and Lancaster Universities. He is thus ideally placed to juxtapose the idealistic beauty of poetry and music against the horrific realities of war in a poignant and moving way that cannot fail to leave a lasting impression.
Between the patriotism and idealism of the volunteers of 1914 and 1915, to the bitter reactions after the Somme in 1917 and 1918, the literature of the Great War occupies a far wider spectrum of reactions than is often understood. Engendered by the Battles of Loos and Artois in September 1915, Charles Hamilton Sorley's poems and Henri Barbusse's novel Le Feu (Under Fire) seem avant-garde in their anger and explicit detail. In these battles and the Somme in 1916 we also see soldiers trying to prepare themselves for the test of battle and death and, for many, writing was a form of survival. In the works of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon we see survival and disillusionment, intense friendships and grief for lost comrades. With Wilfred Owen, they begin to write to educate and shock those at home who seemed unable to understand the reality of the war, as well as to exorcise their own nightmares.
Day 1 – Depart. Depart London St Pancras by Eurostar to Lille. Travel to the Loos Battlefield and the deaths of Charles Hamilton Sorley and Kipling's son, John or 'My Boy Jack' and the front line initiations of Isaac Rosenberg and David Jones which inspired 'Break of Day in the Trenches' and 'Starlight Order' from In Parenthesis. Check-in to our hotel in Arras for three nights.
Day 2 - On the Somme. The Battle of the Somme, including Serre (Streets, Manning and Owen), Crucifix Corner (Gurney) and Pozières (Butterworth), Louvencourt (Roland Leighton), Bois Français (Graves and Sassoon), Devonshire Trench Cemetery (Hodgson), Mametz Wood (Sassoon, Graves, Jones and Wyn Griffith) and finally Lutyens' Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval.
Day 3 – On the Somme. To Vadancourt for Gurney's poem 'The Silent One' and Fayet for Owen's 'Spring Offensive', Joncourt for his Military Cross, then his final days in November 1918 in the cellar of the Forester's House and the canal at Ors.
Day 4 – Return. Arras for the deaths of Edward Thomas and Isaac Rosenberg, Zouave Valley for Henri Barbusse and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony. Continue to Lille for our return Eurostar journey to London.
Recommended Reading List
25th - 28th July 2017 (4 Days)
Eurostar Standard Premier, 4 star hotel, buffet breakfast, 3-course dinner with drinks each evening, all entrance fees and expert guide throughout.
ACTIVITY LEVEL: 1
Guide : Simon Jones
Tour price: £1195.00
Single supplement: £160.00
Price without Eurostar: £1045.00