Battlefields of Europe That Helped Define Canada
October 9-22, 2022
Join Travac as we visit some of the many sites that have been built to commemorate the contribution of our brave young men and woman who fought during the Great War and World War II. The courage and battles fought by these men and women during these wars made Canada the wonderful respected country it is today. You will have a chance to see some of the locations where the fieriest battles were fought.
We will travel to the liberated countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and France visiting some of the Commonwealth and Canadian cemeteries, memorials and museums built to show the thanks and appreciation to these men and women.
During the tour you will experience the enduring gratitude from the people of the region towards Canadians for the ultimate sacrifices made in two world wars.
Your experience in France, Belgium and Holland will be enhanced by the natural and architectural beauty of the towns and villages you will visit. While each of these towns played and important role in either the first or the second world wars, they have since flourished in peace. Their attraction is their magnificent past- a past that in some cases goes back over a thousand years. Indeed, these villages are an important part of the fabric that draws us to Europe.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lest we forget
Depart Ottawa by motorcoach for your overnight flight to Amsterdam from Montreal. You will be served a dinner and a continental breakfast on board your overnight flight(s). (D)
Groningen 1 night
Upon arrival in Amsterdam you will meet your Travac Tours Director in the baggage claim area, as a group we will proceed to the bus. You will be taken on a canal cruise of Amsterdam. Our hotel for the evening will be in Groningen. Please keep in mind that check in time is 4:00 pm. A welcome dinner is included tonight. (D)
Nijmegen 1 night
Today we will depart Groningen and head toward Hoogeveen, where we will visit Kamp Westerbork.
**Kamp Westerbork was the site of a large transit and work camp in the Dutch province of Drente. Over 100,000 Jews, Gypsies and resistance members were taken to Westerbork. The camp consisted of an orphanage, school, industrial barracks, punishment barracks, housing barracks, a larger square for roll-call and a railway. While interned at Westerbork in 1942, Bob Cahen described camp life in a letter:
“More and more new people have arrived in the camp. The barracks have become crowded, overcrowded. The smithy is working flat out producing beds, one after the other. Straw mattresses or other mattresses haven’t been available for a long time now. The people just have to lie down without one, on the iron. People were lying or sitting outside. At night, they would sleep in or under barrows or under the open sky. There was not enough food.”
Anne Frank was among the thousands held at Westerbork. Anne died with her sister in Bergen-Belsen in April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war. The last train left Westerbork September 13, 1944 carrying 77 young children who had been taken away from their hiding places by the Nazis. Westerbork was liberated April 12, 1945 and 876 prisoners were set free when the Canadian Army came upon the camp. After the liberation, the camp remained in service and various activities took place there, but in 1971 the last barracks were torn down. Kamp Westerbork is now a commemoration centre. (For more info visit www.veterans.gc.ca)
After our visit we will make our way Nijmegen for the night, with stops in Apledoorn to see a Man with 2 hats statue – the twin to this statue can be found at Dow’s Lake in Ottawa Commissionaire Park and Arnhem the location that you may remember from a bridge too far.
Mons 1 night
Today we will start our journey with a stop at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Nijmegen holds an annual walk in which both military and civilians participate- this event is over 4 days and the participants walk 30km, 40km or 50km in a day ending at the Groesbeek Cemetery. We will continue to Mons where we will visit the Price Memorial.
Ypres 3 nights
Today we will depart our hotel, heading towards Dunkirk. “Dunkirk spirit,” an expression used to describe the tendency of the British public to pull together and overcome times of adversity, is still heard in the United Kingdom today.
Dunkirk, and the evacuation associated with the troops trapped on Dunkirk, was described as a miracle by Winston Churchill. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could not stop the onslaught. For the people in western Europe, World War Two was really about to begin. The “Phoney War” was now over.
The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches around Dunkirk. 330,000 men were trapped here and they were a sitting target for the Germans.
The beach at Dunkirk was on a shallow slope so no large boat could get near to the actual beaches where the men were. Therefore, smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to a larger boat based further off shore. The little ships of Dunkirk were 700 private boats that sailed from Ramsgate in England to Dunkirk in France between 26 May and 4 June 1940 as part of Operation Dynamo, the rescue of more than 338,000 British and French soldiers, who were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk during the Second World War. It is thought that the smallest boat to make the journey across the Channel was the Tamzine – an 18 foot open topped fishing boat.
Today we will visit Hill 62 Memorial, St Julien (the Brooding Soldier), Langemark (German Cemetery) and Essex Cemetery. It is in this cemetery where John McCrae (1872–1918) wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields. A cenotaph for McCrae is located in the cemetery.
Today we will visit Passchendaele Canadian Battlefield Memorial that marks the site of Crest Farm where Canadians encountered some of the fiercest resistance they were to meet during the war, and the Memorial Museum Passchendaele which tells the story of the war in the Ypres Salient with special emphasis on the Battle of Passchendaele.
The Tyne Cot Cemetery will be visited today. Tyne Cot Cemetery is the resting place of 11,954 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces. This is the largest number of burials contained in any Commonwealth cemetery of either the First or Second World War. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.
Every evening at 8:00 pm at the Menin Gate Memorial, a deeply moving ceremony takes place under the vast arch of the Menin Gate. The traffic stops and buglers from the local fire brigade play ‘The Last Post’. The Menin Gate is the most famous Commonwealth war memorial in Flanders and perhaps the world. Tens of thousands of soldiers passed through here on their way to the front, many of them never to return. Opened in 1927, the memorial bears the names of 54 896 soldiers who were reported missing in the Ypres Salient between the outbreak of war and 15 August 1917. The Menin Gate was designed in classical style by Sir Reginald Blomfield. This ceremony takes place every evening at 8 pm. Sometimes the ceremony is attended by just a few spectators, or on more formal occasions hundreds can be present. Irrespective of numbers, the Last Post remains a unique and moving experience.
Arras – 2 nights
Today, we will leave Ypres and make our way to Arras, France. We will stop to visit a memorial to the Airmen of the Great War, where the names of 46 Canadians are listed. We will also stop at the Dury Canadian Memorial, recognizing a battle in which seven Victoria Crosses were won by Canadians.
This afternoon you will be visiting Vimy Ridge, where Canada became a nation. This is a site all Canadians should have an opportunity to visit. A guided tour will be available.
This morning we will leave the hotel to visit the Beaumont Hamel, where you will find the Newfoundland Regiment Memorial, a memorial site in France dedicated to the commemoration of Dominion of Newfoundland forces members who were killed during World War I. The 74-acre (300,000 m2) preserved battlefield park encompasses the grounds over which the Newfoundland Regiment made their unsuccessful attack on 1 July 1916 during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme was the regiment’s first major engagement, and during an assault that lasted approximately 30 minutes the regiment was all but wiped out. Purchased in 1921 by the people of Newfoundland, the memorial site is the largest battalion memorial on the Western Front, and the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved. Along with preserved trench lines, there are a number of memorials and cemeteries contained within the site. Keep your eyes open for the danger tree, a skeleton of a tree that lay in No Mans Land and had been utilized as a landmark.
Next we visit Lochnagar Crater. At 91m wide and 21m deep, this is one of the largest war-time craters ever created. You can walk around the rim on a duckboard trail. The mine dug by the 179th Tunneling Company Royal Engineers, under a German field fortification known as Schwabenhöhe, is the front line south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme department of France. The mine was sprung at 7:28 a.m. on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
We will also visit Thiepval Memorial – the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme battlefields bears the names of 72,194 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces. These men died in the Somme battle sector before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave. The date of 20th March was the day before the German Army launched a large-scale offensive, code-named “Operation Michael”, against the British Army Front in the sector of the Somme. Over 90 percent of those commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial died in the 1916 Battles of the Somme between July and November 1916.
Caen 2 nights
Today we will depart Arras and travel to Caine with visits to Dieppe beach. We will also make a stop at Le Quesnel Canadian Memorial – at this battle the Canadians fought along with the British, French and Australians to capture 5,033 prisoners and 161 guns.
Canada’s experiences in war have been marked by great triumphs but also by harsh setbacks. The Dieppe Raid during the Second World War was one of the darkest chapters in Canada’s military history. It did, however, help lead to important lessons learned.
The Dieppe Raid saw more than 6,000 men come ashore at five different points along a 16 kilometer-long stretch of heavily defended coastline. The raiding force was made up of almost 5,000 Canadians, approximately 1,000 British commandos, and 50 American Army Rangers.
While many men were lost and the raid did not meet most of its objectives, many historians feel that the lessons learned played an important role in the success of later actions. For example, the Dieppe Raid and later beach assaults contributed to improvements in amphibious landing techniques. While the cost of gaining this knowledge was steep, it likely saved many lives on the beaches of Normandy when the Allies returned to the shores of continental Western Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The men who participated in the Dieppe Raid paid a great price. Of the 4,963 Canadians who went on the mission, approximately 2,200 returned to England and many were wounded. More than 3,350 Canadians became casualties, including approximately 1,950 POWs. 916 Canadians died as a result of Dieppe on the beaches, in the air or at sea supporting the landings. Some died as German captives or of their wounds after returning to England. A total of 210 British and Americans also lost their lives.
The Dieppe Raid also took a considerable toll on the ships and aircraft that supported the assault. The campaign saw the war’s single worst day for Allied aircraft losses, with 119 aircraft shot down as they protected the supporting ships.
The Canadians who participated in the Dieppe Raid were among the more than one million men and women from Canada who served in uniform during the Second World War. The efforts of all of these Canadians helped ensure that victory was achieved. The sacrifices and achievements of those who gave so much to restore peace and freedom to the world cannot be forgotten. (Boxed Lunch)
Today we will visit the Juno Beach Center. We will have a guided tour of the beach and bunkers (German Observation post and command post) and a self-guided tour of the museum. We will also visit one of the Normandy beaches.
By the spring of 1944, Germany had occupied France and much of the European continent for almost four years. A narrow stretch of water, the English Channel, was all that separated the German forces from Great Britain.
Even with all these preparations, the Normandy campaign would be very difficult. The shores of Northwest Europe were littered with German land mines, barbed wire, heavy artillery batteries and machine-gun nests. There were also anti-tank walls, shelters constructed of thick concrete, anti-aircraft guns and many other types of defensive positions. For these reasons, the coastline from Denmark to the south of France was known as “Fortress Europe.”
Many Canadian soldiers in the Normandy campaign were young and new to battle, but their courage and skill meant they often helped lead the Allied advance against a determined enemy. Canadians soon captured three shoreline positions on D-Day and established themselves near the village of Creully, but this was to be only the beginning of the struggle to liberate France.
Against difficult odds, the Canadians advanced against the best troops the enemy had. Victory in the Normandy campaign, however, would come at a terrible cost. Three hundred and forty Canadians were killed on Juno Beach on D-Day alone and the Canadians would suffer the most casualties of any division in the British Army Group during the Battle of Normandy. More than 5,000 made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives, and lie buried in a place far from their homes and loved ones. Others returned home with injuries to body and mind that they carry to this day.
Victory in Normandy would be only the beginning of many months of hard fighting on the ground in Western Europe. Canadians would play an important role in the offensives that would finally defeat the Germans and end the war in this part of the world.
Paris – 2 nights
Today we will make our way back to Paris stopping to visit Abbabye D’Ardeene enroute. On arrival in Paris we will have a guided city tour.
Today is a free day to explore Paris.
We will depart Paris for our journey back to Ottawa.
Itinerary subject to change.
Groningen- Best Western Hotel Groningen Centre
Hotel AddressRadesingel 50
+31 50 316 2955
Nijmegen- Mercure Hotel Nijmegen Centre
Hotel AddressStationsplein 29, 6512 AB Nijmegen, Netherlands
+31 24 323 8888
Mons- Hotel Lido
Hotel AddressRue des Arbalestriers 112
+32 65 32 78 00
Ypres- Novotel Ieper Centrum
Hotel AddressSint-Jacobsstraat 15, 8900 Ieper, Belgium
+32 57 42 96 00
Caen- Ibis Styles Caen Centre Gare
Hotel Address52 Quai Amiral Hamelin, 14000 Caen, France
+33 2 31 34 20 00
Paris- Mercure Paris Opera Louvre
Hotel Address95 Rue de Richelieu
+33 825 80 39 39
Arras- Mercure Arras Centre Gare
Hotel Address58 Boulevard Carnot
+33 3 21 23 88 88