9th November 2018
To commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars, Bailey of Bristol Marketing Director, Simon Howard, took his two sons on a tour of historical battlefield sites as they visited France, Belgium and Holland this summer.
Two years ago I took my two sons, Henry (15) and Alfie (12) on a tour of Brittany and Normandy to see the D-Day World War II. This summer they were looking for a repeat trip to cover some of the areas that they had been learning about in History at school, so in August we decided to take a trip in an Autograph 75-4 motorhome to see some historical sites, using the Caravan and Motorhome Club oversees service to book the shuttle, ferries and campsites.
As we were looking at a number of different locations, being in the motorhome allowed us to get out and about, meaning we were not tied to one single base. As we visited six different sites in a week, if we had been in a hotel we would have been somewhat restricted to what we could have seen. Fortunately, many of the sites cater for motorhomes, meaning there was plenty of parking to allow you to see the places you would like to visit.
The first site we visited on our weeklong trip saw us spend some time at Dunkirk. Both Henry and Alfie had recently seen the movie so were keen to visit. We had a little walk along the waterfront and saw the jetty where a lot of the troops disembarked and headed back to the UK (as seen in the movie), before we visited a very informative museum - Museum Dunkerque - which talks you through the history of Operation Dynamo, which was the evacuation of British and French troops from the French coast.
On the second day, we went to visit some of the First World War battlefields in the Somme. My eldest son, Henry, had been there previously on a school trip earlier in the year, and he was keen to show us some of his favourite sites. We started at Thiepval, visiting the museum dedicated to the battles, before seeing the monument in honour of the unknown soldiers killed during the conflict.
The second site Henry took us to was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, where the Canadian troops saw action and sadly, there was heavy loss of life. In order to commemorate the loss of their loved ones, the Canadian soldiers’ wives had bought the land from the French government and built the memorial, creating their own little piece of Canada in France, complete with rocks, trees and even a statue of a Moose all the way from Newfoundland in their homeland. It was a fantastic site, where you can tour the battlefield, walking through both the allied and German trenches.
From there we made our way to Ypres, Belgium to visit the Menin Gate, where each evening they play the ‘Last Post’ to remember the dead, which was very moving. Ypres itself is a lovely little town, with lots of places to eat and drink, and we managed to park the motorhome in the centre of the town, tasting the local cuisine.
After our visit to Ypres, we decided it was time to visit Waterloo, the site of one of our military successes, as we moved further into Belgium. Visiting Lion’s Mound, we were able to overlook the Waterloo battlefield. Again, parking was very straightforward, and in order to get a decent view of the battlefield we had to climb Lion Hill, easier for two young lads (not so easy for me).
The view lets you take in the whole battlefield and is definitely worth a visit. After our big climb to the top of Lion’s Mound, we then made our way down Hougoumont Farm, taking in the original buildings from the battle.
From there we made our way into Holland to visit Arnhem and the bridge that the allied forces unsuccessfully tried to capture in Operation Market Garden, or as it is more commonly know as a ‘Bridge too far’. After visiting the bridge, we took in another fantastic museum, in the form of the Airborne Museum, which was in Oosterbeek, our final site before making our way to the Hook of Holland for the ferry to Harwich.
Over our weeklong European trip, the motorhome covered plenty of miles and having the Peugeot 2.0 Blue Hdi 160bhp engine meant that covering long distances was straightforward. Staying at campsites meant we were able to move about freely and take in all the historic sites on a trip that will live long in the memory.