Battle of the Bulge Tour – The German Ardennes Offensive 1944-1945
Updated: Apr 13
Finally, after over a year of waiting, I travelled to the Ardennes on a tour of ‘The Battle of the Bulge’. Having read books and articles and watched many films and TV Series (we all know my love of Band of Brothers), it was an incredible experience to be able to travel to where these events happened and put the battle into perspective. This blog aims to give an overview of the tour (there was so much I could write about) and the places that I was finally able to visit.
The first visit was to the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Hombourg. Here is the final resting place of 7987 men of the U.S forces, as well as a memorial to 450 men who are missing. Small markers on the memorial indicate those that have been found and brought in from the cold, since the inscriptions were made. It was a moving start to the tour. Standing, looking out across the cemetery, which is now the resting places of just a small number of men who were lost, is a great place to reflect on the scale of what really happened between 1939-1945.
The tour began by following the opening of the German Offensive in the Ardennes and the route of the 6. SS Panzerarmee (commanded by Josef ‘Sepp’ Dietrich), specifically Kampfgruppe Peiper . We visited the Dragon’s Teeth (Siegfried Line Defences) at Hollerath. Here, men of the US 99th Infantry Div. tried to hold off the German advance.This was followed by a stop at Lanzereth, where the I&R Platoon succeeded in holding off the advance of Kampfgruppe Peiper for nearly 17hrs, drastically slowing down their push to the Meuse River and on to the port of Antwerp.
In a previous blog post, I had written about the men of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion and it was incredibly moving to visit the memorials of both the ‘Wereth 11’ and to the 80 men of the US forces at the Baugnez crossroads near Malmedy, all of whom where murdered by Kampfgruppe Peiper. James. A. Stewart, one of the men brutally murdered at Wereth, is buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery.
The final visit of the day was to La Gleize and the December44 museum. The museum is home to a collection of over 5,000 objects and artefacts relating to the Battle of the Bulge. It is also home to a King Tiger Tank (number 213).
The second day of the tour followed the route of ‘Band of Brothers’. We, however, first stopped off at Recogne German War Cemetery which is the final resting place of 6,800 German soldiers who died during the Second World War. Both sides of each headstone are engraved with the names of the three men who lie there.
Following on from here we visited the town of Noville and then on to Foy, where an attack began in January 1945. Many people who are familiar with the Band of Brothers episode in which Lt Speirs of Easy Company, runs along the road through Foy, with cover provided by Lt Carwood Lipton. It is also where Staff Sargent ‘Shifty’ Powers takes out a sniper located in a window in the village. This was followed by visit to the Fox holes in Bois Jacques.
We then visited the area in which the Germans approached U.S soldiers and requested an 'honourable surrender', as they began to surround the town of Bastogne.
When the letter requesting the surrender of U.S forces was received by General McAulliffe, the famous reply was,
‘To the German Commander.
The American Commander.’
In Bastogne, we visited the 101st Airbourne Museum and I was also able to visit the graves of extraordinary Belgian nurses Renee Lamaire, who was killed in the fighting in Bastogne on 24th December 1944, and Augusta Chiwy who passed in 2015. Having previously written about both Renee and Augusta, it was an honour to be able to visit their final resting places.
From here we went on to visit the Bastogne War Museum which has a large collection of artefacts and exhibitions as well as multi-media installations that explain the fighting in the region. The Mardasson Memorial dedicated to American soldiers killed during the Battle of the Bulge.
The final day of the tour began with a visit to what is known as 'Parkers Crossroads' in Baraque de Fraiture, where Major Arthur C. Parker's 589th Field Artillery Battalion held up the advance of the 2nd SS Panzer Division between 19-23rd December 1944. This was followed by a spot at Trou Du Loup, where the 2nd SS Panzer Divison were finally halted, on Christmas Day 1944, by K Company, 289 Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division.
We then visited CWGC Hotton War Cemetery which is the final resting place of 649 soldiers of the commonwealth and the town of Bande where 34 civilians were murdered by the Gestapo in December 1944.
The final visit of the tour was to the beautiful town of La Roche-en-Ardenne and the Battle of the Ardennes Museum, which is home to a unique and vast collection of artefacts, weapons, equipment and vehicles (plus it has a British Section).
As I said, the wait to go to the Ardennes seemed to go on forever, but it was over far too quickly. Standing where these events took place, has truly changed how I view the Battle of the Bulge. I will be honest; I was a little sceptical about the tour but it was one of the best things that I have ever done. I am aware that many people of done tours before and all the help and advice along the way was much appreciated. And... If you are thinking of going …GO! (It was a Leger tour, if anyone was wondering) The tour was excellently planned and guided. I learnt so much, met some wonderful people and got to visit places that I would otherwise never have been able to get to. I am already planning next trip.
Here are some links for anyone who would like any further information. (All images are my own unless otherwise stated)