A RESEARCH group is offering to take battlefield pilgrims to the Belgian town that has come to symbolise the suffering and sacrifice of the First World War.

British soldiers arrived at Ypres in October, 1914. They defended the town during four long years, beating off constant attacks by the Germans who had occupied the surrounding high ground on three sides.

Thousands of men were killed and wounded but Ypres never fell. After the war, the town became a symbol of resistance to the invader and a focus for Britain’s remembrance.

This November, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict, and also the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force in Flanders, Birmingham-based Battlefield Memorial Tours is to take a coach party to visit Ypres and various other sites of historical interest.

There will also be opportunities to take relatives to the graves of loved ones, for which there will be no extra charge.

However, the high spot of the visit will be the annual service of remembrance held at the Menin Gate on November 11. The commemoration of the 1918 Armistice has been held every November since the 1920s, with only a short break during the Second World War.

The Menin Gate bears the names of more than 55,000 British and Empire soldiers who were killed on the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. It stands where there was once a gap in the town’s ramparts through which the soldiers marched up to the front lines.

Battlefield Memorial Tours press spokesman John Phillpott said: “This really will be the trip of a lifetime.

“It will provide the opportunity for people to mark the centenary of the enormous commitment made by Britain to defend neutral Belgium in the face of a numerically superior aggressor.”

The visit – during November 10-12 – will also take in the First World War tunnels at Arras, and the Second World War German rocket bunker La Coupole, near Calais.

For more information, contact tour organiser Brian Long on 01629 650780 or visit www.battlefieldmemorialtours.co.uk