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The Itinerary

Operation Wacht am Rhein Tour ' Battle of the Bulge'

16 – 19 August 2019

Price per person £585.00 Single supplement £75.00
Deposit per person £75.00

Hitler’s final counter-offensive in northwest Europe, launched in December 1944 was aimed to split the Allied armies and recapture Antwerp, the Allies most vital supply port.  It achieved strategic and tactical surprise and was launched in poor weather, which neutralised Allied air power.

To make the quick breakthrough essential to the success of the offensive, Hitler created the 6th Panzer Army of four SS Panzer divisions under the command off SS General Josef Sepp Dietrich. This army represented the Schwerpunkt (main thrust), which was launched from the northern Ardennes near Monschau. Simultaneously, another new Panzer Army, Manteuffel’s 5th would attack in the centre and Brandenberger’s 7th Army in the south. These armies, totalling thirty divisions and supported by more then 1,000 aircraft, were assembled in the greatest secrecy and screened by the most sophisticated deception plans. Even the codename Hitler initially gave to the offensive, WACHT AM RHEIN (watch on the Rhine) was intended by its defensive connotations to mislead. Hitler also deliberately misleads Rundstedt his C in C in the west. When Rundstedt eventually heard about the plans he was appalled, he though the choice of the almost impenetrable Ardennes ‘a stroke of genius’ but that the offensive lacked ‘all, Absolutely all’ the right conditions for success. However he was only a figurehead, the tactical commander was Model the C in C Army Group B, but he to considered the plan unrealistic. Both suggested a less ambitious plan that Hitler dismissed with contempt.


Itinerary

16 August (Friday)

11.04 Depart London St Pancras for Brussels via Eurostar and arrive in Brussels at 14.05 local time.
Coach will collect us from the station and we will drive to Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. During this journey the background to Hitler’s gamble in launching a winter offensive in the hills of the Ardennes and the reasons why the Allies were surprised will be explained.
In the American Civil War, crossroads often became the site of important actions. Today we look at another action at a strategic crossroads here at Baraque de Fraiture. This involved an important delaying action that lasted two days and has since become known as the Battle of Parkers Crossroads thus providing us with yet another link to Bedford Forrest and the battle of the same name in the Civil War. We will continue on to Bastogne and check in at the Hotel Melba where we will stay for 3 nights.

17 August (Saturday) Kampfgruppe Peiper 16th to 24th December 1944

Today is devoted to a tour which follows in the footsteps of Kampfgruppe (Battle group) Peiper. This especially created unit was part of the 1st SS Division which was one of the key armoured divisions striking the Americans in this surprise winter attack. Joachim Peiper was a Waffen SS officer and he had the job of leading the advance and seizing crossings across the Meuse River. Peiper was given command a special 3,500 man armoured task force. We will follow Peiper and his men and learn how his rather ambitious timetable of reaching the Meuse in 48 hours was frustrated by US troops. 
Depart hotel and drive to the village of Lanzerath.
At Lanzerath we will learn how a 19 year old Lieutenant Lyle Bouck with  his under strength Intelligence and Reconnaissance  platoon of the 99th Infantry Division held up a battalion of German Paratroopers and thus also delayed Peiper’s Kampfgruppe advance for 9 precious hours. 
As our time in the Ardennes is limited we will be unable to completely follow Peiper’s original route and thus jump ahead to the site of a historically significant action. We will visit Baugnez Crossroads and learn of the role played by Peiper’s men in the infamous Malmedy massacre where 84 US prisoners were murdered.
We now follow Peiper’s Kampfgruppe as it races to capture important bridges at the small town of Stavelot. These were necessary so that Peiper could cross the Ambleve River and then shift north towards the river Meuse crossings. Here we will see how Peiper’s attempt to seize a crossing here was frustrated by small groups of Engineers.
At Trois Ponts those “Damned Engineers” helped further delay Peiper’s advance.
Cheneux. It is here that paratroopers from the famous 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment captured the village of Cheneux and helped stop Peiper’s advance. 
La Gleize - We visit the museum at La Gleize and learn how Peiper’s column ended up here out of fuel and low on ammunition and had to abandon its tanks and vehicles. 
Then on to Stoumont and Targnon the furthest point of the advance of Peiper’s main column.
Return to our hotel via Habiemont Bridge (if time allows). The demolition of this bridge prevented any further advance of Peiper’s task force.

18 August (Sunday)

Today will be devoted to examining selected sites associated with the battle for another key crossroads this time at the now famous town of Bastogne. The TV mini series the Band of Brothers will forever link the town with the role played by the 101st Airborne Division during the siege.. We will see this morning that this siege might never have taken place but for the efforts of many units whose now long forgotten defence of sites east of Bastogne delayed the German advance.  We will then take a tour of a local museum and visit key locations linked to the role of the now famous Band of Brothers.
Depart hotel for Clervaux.
We begin our day in the pretty Luxembourg town of Clervaux whose castle was the headquarters of the 110th Infantry Regiment and will look at why the defence by this town and its surrounding villages has led to it being called the Alamo in the Ardennes. 
At the small hamlet of Neffe two critical actions will be discussed which delayed the initial German advance and helped ensure Bastogne was held successfully.
Lunch in Bastogne.
This afternoon will be devoted to the role of the famous Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division whose defence of the town has been portrayed by Hollywood several times. We will take a guided tour of the Heintz Barracks museum and visit selected sites associated with the north eastern part of the perimeter that was defended by the division and also enjoy a short tour of three locations portrayed in the enormously successful TV mini-series.
Tour of Heintz Barracks Museum at Bastogne.
During the siege of Bastogne Heintz Barracks served as the main headquarters for the 101st Division. It was here that the acting commander of the division Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe composed his famous reply to a German request for surrender - “Nuts”. Local staff will take us on 1.5 hour tour of the barracks and restoration areas.
Band of Brothers Mini Tour. 
The last part of the day will be devoted to a tour of the actual sites relevant to the actions of Easy Company in the Siege of Bastogne. We will see the remnants of foxholes occupied by the paratroopers in the Bois Saint Jacques and a memorial to the company.

19 August (Monday)

Depart hotel for La Roche en Ardenne.
We will commence our journey back to Brussels but take a route that will allow us to visit 3 locations relevant to the little known commitment of British troops in the Battle of the Bulge.  On the way we will talk about how British troops of 30 Corps became involved in the battle.
La Roche en Ardenne.
We will make a short stop here in the picturesque town of La Roche en Ardenne to see the spot where British and American formations fighting here linked up.
Waharday Area.  
We visit this village east of the town of the Marche commencing at a viewpoint to describe the attack of 53rd Welsh Division in January 1945.
Our next and penultimate stop of the tour is fittingly to Hotton Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery where most of the British dead from this battle are buried.
Hotton - Our last stop will be at the village of Hotton where there will be time for a quick snack lunch. Your guide will offer those who wish the option of taking a short 20 minute walk to learn about the defence of the bridge here. 
Return to Brussels to catch the 16.56 Eurostar service to St Pancras arrive 18.06.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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