What Travel Writers Say


The Great War - a Canadian Tour of Memorials in Europe

© by Mike Keenan
 
Arc de Triomphe - Paris

Tom Douglas is a friend and fellow writer. He is also an accomplished war historian. What does that have to do with travel? Plenty! Did you know that 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of D-Day? Tom will soon be featured during a "Great Canadian War Memorial Tour" organized by Globus that runs April 4-14 and includes stops in Paris, Caen, Dieppe, Vimy Ridge and Ypres.
     My own experience of exploring the battlefield at Ypres was deeply moving. I toured the Belgian trenches and observed the killing fields up close. I climbed down into fortified dugouts that held our brave soldiers, and I was told about the terrible grey mud that claimed so many lives of the unfortunate wounded souls who literally were drowned and smothered in the clutching craters.
     If you have been watching the TV series, Downton Abbey, as I have, you have experienced the bitter visual taste of that terrible war. The upper crust Grantham family and their array of servants must endure the war with members from both upstairs and downstairs intimately involved in the merciless fighting. By November, 1916, the Great War has rendered everything and everyone changed and damaged. Downton Abbey is transformed and made into a convalescent home for wounded officers while at the front, Mathew and William, representing both classes must face untold daily horrors.
     One terrible scene displays the ultimate futility in the trenches when one agonizing night, the young servant, Thomas, deliberately holds a candle in one up-stretched hand above the trench, and is instantly shot be an enemy rifle, crippling and returning Thomas to England.
     I remember that when I returned home from Ypres, having absorbed its history, the first thing that I did was grab as many of Pierre Berton's detailed books as I could, and read them all. And, I had to re-read Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae's famous poem, " In Flanders Fields".
     For Tom Douglas, the upcoming historical trip combines two loves - Canadian military history and travel, and it includes a stop at the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian war cemetery, where Sgt. Murray Oliver Kirby, the best friend of Tom's father, is buried. Kirby was killed on D-Day at age 27.
     Douglas has written several best-selling books about Canada's participation in the two world wars, including Canadian Spies: Tales of Espionage in Nazi-Occupied Europe During World War II and Valour at Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I. His D-Day, Canadian Heroes of the Famous World War II Invasion, has sold 30,000 copies. That book will be given to each couple who participates on the spring trip.
     Tom tells me that he has toured war sites in Europe approximately twenty times since 1962, but he is excited that he will still see some locations for the first time in April, including the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium.
     Another highlight will be the Imperial War Museum in London. He has explored Vimy Ridge before, but not since its restoration was concluded in 2007. He and his wife, Gail, organized a 50th anniversary D-Day cruise aboard Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1994 with all 900 cabins sold out. Special guests were Vera Lynn, Bob Hope, Walter Cronkite and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Quite a trip!
     This journey starts with two days in Paris, a third at the landing beaches to Caen, from Caen to Dieppe, and Dieppe to Amiens and Arras. Day six is at Vimy Ridge, day seven at Ypres, then to Dover and two days in London. The tour is one of three that Globus is organizing for Canadian travellers in the coming year. "People are starting to think about our military heritage," says Tom. Land portion cost of the Great Canadian War Memorial Tour is $2,760. Single supplement is $905. For information, call 800-268-3636.
     Of course, if you want to experience the Great War closer to home, I recommend Ottawa's impressive War Museum. Plaster casts of the Vimy Memorial will be a sure highlight. You can rent "All Quiet on the Western Front," my favourite classic 1930 film or drive to Toronto to take in the Mirvish production of "War Horse" at the Princess of Wales Theatre. I also recommend reading Jane Urquhart's novel, "The Stone Carvers," a 2001 Canadian novel that follows three generations of a Canadian family, focusing on the lives of a wood carver's two grandchildren as it explores the building of the Vimy Memorial to commemorate Canadian war dead in France.

Bailleul, hotel de ville - Pascal Morès   Boulogne-sur-Mer Eastern Cemetery - Anne-Sophie Flament   Caen Abbaye aux hommes - Pierre-Jeanson   Canada War Museum Ottawa, Canada    Dieppe - Jean Decaux   Etaples military cemetery - Anne-Sophie Flament


John McCrae   Vimmy - Philippe Frutier   Vimmy Memorial - Samuel Dhote   War Museum Vimy Sculpture    War Museum Vimy Sculpture   John McCrae gravesite - Anne-Sophie Flament


Photo Credits
Courtesy of Tourism France and Visit Britain
Mike Keenan: War Museum

Place de l'Hôtel, Ville d'Arras - Samuel Dhote

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun. Click for Caen, France Forecast


From the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point
The Western Front 1917


Google Earth Required:

Commonwealth Cemeteries: http://www.gearthhacks.com/downloads/related.php?file=32503

Download the file that interests you and Google Earth is used to open it - use the controls to zoom in to the various cemeteries.



If you go
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_great_war
Canadian War Museum: http://www.warmuseum.ca/home/
Downton Abbey: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/
Globus: http://www.globusjourneys.com/
All Quiet on the Western Front: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0020629/
War Horse: http://www.mirvish.com/shows/warhorse
About.com: http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwari/World_War_I.htm
Fiction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_novel#World_War_I_and_after
Movies featuring: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_I_films
Historic Sites by Country: http://www.historvius.com/historical-sites-by-country/
Storming Juno: http://stormingjuno.com/

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
YouTubes - Check These Out!


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