We set off for Ypres from Calais in the mid-morning and spent time at sites around the area, immersed in World War I. We then rode on in the afternoon to our overnight stop in Lessines.
In the morning we rode on towards the Nimy Bridge in Mons and heard the story of the first main action of the war as the Germans advanced over the rail bridge towards Mons itself. On the bridge were the first two recipients of a Victoria Cross (Dease and Godley). The group went on to pay respects at the grave of Dease and to visit the beautiful setting of St Symphorien German and British cemetery .
After moving off from Mons, the group were treated to a ride in the beautiful lowlands of Belgium and north towards Brussels for the battlefield at Waterloo. The museum and restaurant were popular spots for a visit and afterwards, we all rode around to the Charleroi road and to La Belle Alliance, where Napoleon spent the early morning of 18 June 1815.
After reaching our overnight in Liege, the group spent a pleasant evening in the old City, ready for the long run north into Germany and the Ruhr valley.
Day three was spent winding ever closer to the Mohne and Sorpe dams. The group arrived at the Sorpe at lunchtime in warm sunshine. A stroll to the dam was followed by Chris giving an account of the two aircraft that managed to reach the dam and successfully release their UPKEEP mines. He also talked about the surviving dambusters - including Jonnie Johnson who was the bomb aimer for the first mine dropped here in McCarthy's aircraft.
We then set off for the Mohne dam and the beautiful tranquility of the Mohnesee. A pleasant late afternoon spent walking around the area, taking in the sun at the cafe and hearing a full account of Operation Chastise on the evening of 16-17 May 1943. Chris talked about every aspect of the raid, from the design and concept, the objectives, the unfolding events and the aftermath, including the impact on civilians and the industrial production of the Ruhr and Rhine areas.
After finishing the day with an evening run towards the Eder, the group spend the night reflecting on the day and enjoying a variety of local cuisines (including local steaks and salads).
The next morning started at the Eder and took in the Ennepe and Bever dam which was attacked by one UPKEEP mine in error. The countryside was spectacular and the routes included several deep valleys and over forty different towns and villages - with clear open roads to open up the bikes on perfect ribbons of clear tarmac.
The morning brought blue skies and the prospect of a ride in dappled sunshine through the Ardennes in the direction of Bastogne. We stopped off at the Baugnez crossroads to pay repsects enroute to an afternoon at the museum in 32 degree heat.
The party then rode to our overnight stop at the ancient walled town of Givet on the Meuse and then embarked on the long run back to Calais