Military History Tours Testimonials
These people have enjoyed their Military History Tour, and gave us permission to publish what they thought of it.
Philip Dutton Chris Kelly Sheryn Phillips and family Tony and Kay Bill and Jennifer McKellar Bob and Dianne Stirton Merle and Don Smith Wayne and Quentin Finch Leighton Smith and Rosemary Filewood Clare Wall Michelle and Richard Boffey Jim McKay Bruce Calder and Louise Mayo Barb Hopcraft Len and Leone Guest Jenni & Bronte Edwards Pam and Ron Dures Pat White Joan Alma Brand Chris and Lindy Richardson Geoff Woodgate
Just a note to thank you for all you did it getting me to the Somme and the special Commemoration 1918-2018 at Hamel. It was a never to be forgotten experience and the whole experience thanks to both both John Lee and John Howells was top class.
Thank you for a great tour and support throughout the Somme locations culminating with the special Centenary Commemoration at Hamel. In addition to that, the two highlights for me were the people of the village that same day and you and your great expositions of those events on those sites 100 years or more ago.
With special thanks,
Hi to both of you (John Lee and John Howells), I wanted to thank you both for the brilliant presentations you delivered during our recent Le Hamel trip, it was evident that you had done a great deal of research in preparing all of the data that you gave to us, and delivered it in a very understandable and engaging way. You were both very good tour guides, and I wish you well in future tours.
John Lee I wanted to thank you very much for taking me on the second leg of the tour, you went to all lengths for me to visit those sites at Fromelles, Polygon Wood and White House cemetery in Ypres, together with our visits to, VC corner, Hill 60, Mesen, Irish cemetery and the German student cemetery near Ypres, again your narratives were excellent. I thank you very much for all that we did on that second leg of the tour.
Once again, thanks to you both for a very memorable tour that allowed us all to participate in the Le Hamel centenary service.
All the best
Dear Paul and John
Just wanted to thankyou once again for an amazing Journey.
For Josh, Matt and I it was a trip of a lifetime and closure personally for myself as I was finally able to lay a wreath at Villers-Bretonneux to remember my great uncle, Phillip Gillman.
Your knowledge and expertise was faultless, John, as your passion for our history engulfed us all. In fact, when Matt went back to school, he had an assignment to do on Sir John Monash, and he remembered a lot of what you had said along the way. That’s how incredible you were.
I would, in a heartbeat, do it all again for the memories you left us with were priceless, and for me, my 5 years in the saving and planning well worth every moment that you gave us.
Thankyou once again for an incredible journey.
We had a fantastic time with Military History Tours, your guidance was second to none and as we read some of the WW1 books that we bought along the way, we’re able to relive some of our visits to the Somme and the Western Front.
It's not until you experience a tour like this, that you realise the enormity of the 1914-1918 great war.
Being made aware of where Kay's uncle George spent his time in the war at Sailly-le-Sec was extremely special for us. Your efforts in making us all aware of each particular area that we visited enhanced the experience so much – in all it's something we'll never forget.
Regards to you, Paul and everyone at Military History Tours.
Tony and Kay
We've finally arrived home so it's time to give credit for the a great adventure.
In all respects the Military tour was a great success. You should take great pride in how well it went. Your organisation is brilliant and we all felt very secure.
The highlights were many. Of course the dawn service and meeting with the citizens of Villers-Bretonneux. Meeting the French mostly was lots of fun . The sites we went too were well chosen and we learnt a lot.
Bus 4 was lots of fun. Daniel was a superb driver not fast but very calm. Jen and I thought Alistair was very good. His gentle mocking type control very effective. He clearly had done a lot of research and this show in his presentations. We were most thankful for his presentation around Jen's grandfather's grave.
Just wanted to let you know we have received our Beersheba DVD from Ron Huban.
We just watched it and it brought back so many of the wonderful times we had whilst on tour.
Our reason for the trip was the fact that Robert's dad was in the Light Horse at Beersheba and the history side of the tour was just amazing. Your historians are so knowledgeable and present the whole picture of the events so very well. Thank you and also thanks to your historians.
It was a fabulous tour and the addition of the biblical history and the history of Israel, made it a very full and very worthwhile trip. We especially loved the Kabuttz trip, the Dead Sea, but especially special was the time we spent in Jerusalem. We just loved the mix of how the Arabs and Jews and other Christians lived and worked side by side - IN SIMMERING HARMONY.
The history of Israel was just so interesting. Like so many others on our trip that I spoke with, I thought Israel was just for the Jewish people. I have learnt so much, making the recent news stories on Israel, so much easier to understand.
We have now done Gallioli (where Robert's dad was also), Beersheba and Western Front trips with you. We have enjoyed them all, but as you said at the end of the Beersheba dvd, this was a very special trip.
As Robert's dad was taken prison on Crete in the Second World War, we did Greece and Crete independently (with an enormous amount of help from Graham Fleeton), before we went into Israel. It was just such an emotional time, for Robert and for me, as I was very close to Robert's dad. Standing on the water's edge at Sfakia, imagining Robert's dad as well as many others, standing there watching the last boat leaving, I got the goosebumps. I have thought of many many things that they might have said. I will not put my thoughts onto paper!!!!!
We will keep checking your website for any future trips.
Kindest regards to you, your work collegues, and your family.
Many thanks for your email and it is good to know that the Bullecourt Memorial plaque is still in place. Thank you also for attaching it as the plaque had a special meaning for us. I may or may not have mentioned to you that when at the Bullecourt memorial service in the street, I went into the Town Hall behind us. I bought a book on Bullecourt and the author was signing them. When he knew my connection he was very kind and his mother was nearby. She was so excited upon meeting me and said she knew the name William Charles Madden well as she maintains the Roadside Cross Memorial. I showed her a photo of him which she was very pleased to see. From my point of view it was a great meeting.
We have just returned and are having problems with jetlag. After all the world travels we have done this is the worst! Maybe we slept too long on the plane as from Doha to Perth we slept for 7 hours.
We had a lovely few days in Paris and now have just put our photos on the computer so we shall be anxious to view them. The Rhine River Cruise with Evergreen was excellent and we enjoyed a couple of days in Amsterdam.
The weather here is so much warmer than in Europe. We shall never forget how cold we were at Villers-Bretonneux on ANZAC Day. That was such a wonderful service.
Thank you ever so much for the wonderful tour, we loved it all. You made it so interesting and we talk about it all the time. Many thanks also for the discs which arrived recently and as yet we have not had a chance to look at them. However, we shall do that soon and I am sure the photos are very rewarding. I have a very nice photo of you and “little” John which I shall send you in due course.
Until next time,
Dear 'Little' John,
Many thanks indeed for our fantastic tour; it was amazing and we enjoyed listening to your interesting stories. Thank you also for all the running around you did regarding the plaque.
Until we meet again. Take care.
We would like to thank you and your team, Matt , John and Elena for a memorable trip.
We found you and the your team went the extra mile (kilometre) taking us to places where normal tours do not go, to enable us to enjoy the wonderful experience we had through Greece and Crete,
The trip was both emotional and rewarding, following in our father’s footsteps , the 2/4th Bn , plus the History of Greece , Crete and good humour from the all of the people on the trip.
We returned home from Europe last week, our heads still reeling from all that we saw and experienced in France and Flanders during our recent "Our Other Anzac Day" tour with MHT.
We should like to express to you and your team our grateful thanks for all the detailed planning, superior arrangements, and friendly leadership that made this tour such a memorable experience for us.
We could not fault any element of the arrangements made for us.
All the hotels were extremely comfortable, although we would like to mention especially the very friendly and welcoming hospitality of the Ibis/Styles at Assevillers and the touch of luxury offered at the Pullman St.Pancras in London, a truly lovely place to unwind after the emotions and physical exertions that were an inevitable part of our journey through France and Flanders.
Very high level driving skills were required from time to time of our coach driver, whose name I think was Dominique, but he handled all driving situations masterfully and with good humour.
Our four leaders, Ron, Alastair, Greg and David, could not have been more helpful.
Their knowledge of the battlefields and the care with which they answered questions and imparted their knowledge and insights to us added greatly to our understanding of the strategies and events that had unfolded across those terrible battlegrounds. In particular, the ease and courtesy with which they managed to accede to all requests for special cemetery or memorial visits by members of our group without disrupting the scheduled arrangements for the group, were greatly appreciated by us and by others, as was the friendly guidance and support offered by our historians throughout.
We shall be strongly recommending Military History Tours to anyone we encounter who expresses an interest in undertaking battlefield visits and we ourselves hope to travel with you again in future.
Leighton Smith and Rosemary Filewood
Apologies for not following up sooner to say how much Richard and I enjoyed travelling with all of you in Turkey. After the Military History tour, we spent a further few weeks in Turkey and a week on a boat trip which included some of the Greek Islands off the Turkish coast. For our last week we joined a cycling tour in Cappadocia. I've attached a few photos. Happy for you to use the photos and to let others know how much we enjoyed the trip. Thanks again for all you [at Military History Tours] did to make the trip such a success.
Hope your trip to SA will go well. Be safe driving.... I am sorry we missed you to say a proper goodbye at Kum hotel, we had a look but John said you had gone off to get some quiet time and get your computing done.
Thank you for your kindness and generosity with looking after our boys, otherwise we could not have swum. Richard and I thoroughly enjoyed the swim and also the time at Gallipoli was very moving and special.
Safe travels and thanks again
Michelle and Richard Boffey
With three consecutive days of howling winds and choppy seas it looked like this year’s swim would be a repeat of the challenging conditions of 2010. However, the winds dropped on the eve of the event and the water was glassy-smooth by the time 300 Turks and 200 foreigners set off, including one “enterprising” soul who leaped of a boat anchored about 50m off-shore. Seeing what happened last year, I advised the six swimmers on our tour to follow a “boomerang” route by heading straight for the radio tower until the right-hand turn at the buoy and then aiming for the ferry pier north of the finish line in order to avoid being swept south by the diabolical current just off the ramp. Michelle and Richard Boffey, Louise Mayo, Lyn Nicolson, Lyn O’Connell and Clare Wall finished under time and received a medallion and certificate. Louise and Michelle also finished 2nd and 3rd as part of a clean sweep by Australians in the 41-45 women’s division. Louise and Lyn O’Connell had four supporters from Canberra’s newly-formed Bull & Bear Inland Surf Club, whose striking outfits were greatly admired by the locals. Despite near-perfect conditions the winning time of 42.01 was about 4 mins slower than last year. All swimmers said that the favourable southerly current wasn’t as strong as expected so perhaps last year’s turbulent weather was a blessing in disguise for those who managed to “go with the “flow”. Alas, some people approached the ramp too far south and were taken downstream. An attached photo shows just one of many entrants who were futilely trying to make it to the ramp against the strong current as the allotted 90 minutes was about to expire. As always, the Turks were gracious hosts and gave their loudest standing ovation for Australia’s Irene Keel, who won the 71+ women’s category. Some welcome changes this year were that foreigners wore orange caps, both the briefing and award ceremony were shorter and the observation ferry sailed within 50 metres of the lovely fort-village of Kilitbahir just south of Eceabat. Like last year, the bus trip, visits to the battlefields and swim created an inspiring experience for everyone - thanks again to the expertise of our superb MHT tour guide John Howells. For full results of the swim, more photos, daily accounts and a short video by John that includes footage of the surf boat donated last year by Yamba SLSC.
See all of you at Gallipoli in 2015!
Thanks John – hot off the press and memories are stirred already.
Just to reinforce our pleasure in taking part in the Tour, both the military aspect which appealed strongly to me and the swimming element which was key to Louise.
We will be passing recommendations around.
Good hunting to you in South Africa as you prepare for the Boer War tour.
Bruce and Louise
Dear Garry, Graham, John and Neville.
Just a note to express my thanks for the wonderful job you did on tour. My first trip overseas and what a trip it was!
Every day I reflect on my amazing holiday. It was absolutely perfect! The food (including ham & cheese baguettes!!) the accommodation and the travel were lovely.
Having Maj. Gen. Maitland with us was an absolute thrill.
But the icing on the cake was you lovely blokes. Your knowledge and passion for this important part of our history was incredible.
You took us on an amazing journey of reflection, remembrance and reunion.
Thank you so much.
Well we finally made it home after the fabulous week in Amiens. We would like to take this chance to say congratulations to Paul Murphy and all the coach captains especially Peter Godfrey for giving coach 13 a fantastic time as well as very detailed information at each site we visited.
I must say that my wife tells me that I made a speech on the night we went to the canal restaurant and that I really don't remember it but she said that I didn't make a fool of myself and that you took the roasting in good faith. Well if this can happen on the next tour, which I doubt we will be attending then all is not lost. We are looking forward to the DVD coming out.
We went to Mennen Gate after the tour and there were quiet a many Australians. The ceremonies were moving but not as moving as the Dawn Service.
Once again well done to organisation and I sincerely hope that there will be many more tours as successful as the one we attended.
Len and Leone Guest,
My reason for contacting you direct is that I noticed on your Website that you were taking orders for the DVD being produced for this trip and we would like to know if Bronte's & my name is on your list
We have also attached are a couple of photos that we took that may be of interest for you and Graham Fleeton and a group shot of Bus 13.
The tour was everything we hoped it would be and in particular especially emotional for Jenni, as the first blood relative to have been there after the WW1, following in the footsteps of her Grandmother's three brothers who as you know were all killed on the Western Front. Of particular importance to us were the 2nd Division Memorial at Mont St. Quentin where Frank died which was very moving, especially with your explanation Peter of the machine gun crossfire they faced coming up the "high ground" and also to have stood on the soil of Mouquet Farm where Jack died and the 1st Division Memorial at Pozieres which was just an emotionally overwhelming moment for me and a lifetime goal achieved to just be there in person.
Bronte & I feel so very privileged to have been able to be part of this first Anzac Day Service at Villers – Bretonneux and to have paid honour and our respects to Jack & Frank Thompson, as well as the 11,000 AIF soldiers with no known grave whose names are listed on the Australian War Memorial. We will never forget these men and what they endured and suffered, giving the ultimate sacrifice - but still question why such carnage was allowed to happen by the British Generals.
Thank you and everyone at MHT for all your support and expertise in making this trip a wonderful and memorable experience for us - it is a dream-fulfilled.
Well, here we are back from a great experience.
We were very happy with our tour, especially having our boys with us. That was a privilege.
The highlights were the Dawn Service and the Ball, but of course our main reason was to visit our Uncle’s grave at Villers-Bretonneux. We were asked by many of our friends to locate and photograph the graves of their relatives or names of missing soldiers on memorials and of the 18 we located 12. Not a bad effort considering the number of cemeteries and the short time we had available.
We were fortunate to have such a good tour leader in John Brennan and happy group of people with us on Bus 3. Our 12 year old grandson, Kye was pleased to be with two other young boys, and we had the two oldest men with us 85 and 92, so all in all it was a good mixture of ages.
Attached is a photo of us at Uncle Tom’s grave.
Thanks for all you did to make our visit so memorable.
Our Family's Story
When we made that short three day visit to the Somme in 2001, Ron and I thought how special it would be for our sons to visit this place to see the sacrifice that had been made by so many young Australians in World War One. Having a relative who was killed at such a young age and who is buried so far from his homeland, made us feel more aware of the impact his death must have had on his family.
Uncle Tom was just 23 years old when he was killed on 8th August 1918, just three months before the end of the War. Thomas Albert Dures was the son of Phyliss and William Dures. He had 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He joined the 18th Battalion and left Australia on 13th April 1916 aboard the HMAT “Ceramic”.
He is buried at the Australian War Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux and until the 1990’s none of his family had visited his grave. Ron’s brother Noel was the first to do so. We knew it was an emotional experience for Noel and when, in June 2001, we saw his grave among so many other young Australian men, it was indeed a sad awakening.
So this year being the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, 24th and 25th April, as well as the end of WW1, it seemed an appropriate time to make this pilgrimage with Martin and Rod. It was also decided to take Martin’s son Kye with us, who at 12 years old had developed an interest in that war and the fact that he had a relative who had fought and lost his life.
The first part of our 19 day trip was spent in Paris where we spent 5 days enjoying the sights of that lovely city, and generally having a happy time.
On Wednesday, 23rd April we set off for the Western Front, about 2 hours drive from Paris. Our first stop by chance was the Australian War Cemetery, where we visited Uncle Tom’s grave. It was the place where the first ever Dawn Service on Anzac Day would be held. The French have always held a service here on the Saturday closest to Anzac Day, but this year being the 90th anniversary, the authorities decided to hold a special Service on the day, Friday 25th April.
It was a busy place as the organisers had cordoned off an area for television crews, seating was being put in place and marquees were being erected.
From there, we drove to the town of Peronne for a welcome by the Mayor (a lady) and civic reception. The town pipe band played and we had time to visit the Peronne War Museum in the old castle which had been badly damaged during the war.
For the next 5 nights we stayed at the Novotel Glissy, on the outskirts of Amiens. With about 750 Australians and 15 buses on our tour, we were housed all over the Somme area, so felt lucky that our accommodation was modern and comfortable. Each coach had on board a guide/historian, retired army men or army reservists, who gave detailed descriptions of the battles which took place at the various points of interest.
On Thursday 24th, we were taken to the 2nd Division Memorial at Mont St Quentin and visited other war cemeteries of the Western Front. One that we will always remember is the High Tree Cemetery which only has 44 graves, 4 of which are Australian. High Tree is situated in the centre of a large farm that at the time had been ploughed. The walk to the cemetery was down a dirt track and a narrow path through the farmer’s field. He stood at the gate of his farm house and seemed pleased that these 40 Australians found the time to visit such a small cemetery.
We also visited the 4th Division Memorial at Bellenglise, the Cavelaire British Cemetery and the German Cemetery at Maissemy, where 30,478 young Germans are buried, 4 to a grave, including a trench with the bodies of 7,000 unknown German Soldiers. What a waste that war was – on both sides!
We stopped at the signpost at the village of Lamotte-Warfusee where Tom Dures had been killed. He had been hit by shrapnel or a bullet in the back of the head and buried beside the road. Later he was reburied at Villers-Bretonneux, 5 kilometres away.
It was an early start on Anzac Day as we left for Villers-Bretonneux at 2am to ensure good seating at the Dawn Service. It was very cold, around 3 degrees. The chairs were wet with dew and the ground very damp. However, armed with a blanket from the hotel and rugged up we managed to keep relatively warm and felt the excitement of this special day. We had over 3 hours to wait for dawn, but if the old diggers who were passengers on our coach, Eric 92 and Tracey 85 could do it, so could we. We managed to sight Noel and Jann in the crowd, so it was good to be able to sit together as a family.
It was a privilege to be part of this Dawn Service and to feel the atmosphere. The Master of Ceremonies was Major General Paul Stevens AO, Director Office of Australian War Graves. The Prayer of Remembrance, was read by Chaplain Geoffrey Webb Australian Defence Force and Prayer for Peace, was read by the Very Reverend Dr John Shepherd, Dean of Perth. The Commemorative Address by The Honourable Alan Griffin MP, Minister for Veteran’s Affairs was excellent , the singing of “O Valient Hearts“ and “Amazing Grace” by the choir from the St George’s Cathedral, Western Australia brought a tear to the eye. Lieutenant General David Hurley AO DSC, Chief of Joint Operations, Australian Defence Force read the Ode. The Last Post and Reveille was played from high up in the tower of the Memorial which lists the names of 10,982 missing Australian soldiers of the Western Front. Corporal Simone Dew sang La Marseillaise and Advance Australia Fair. Wreaths were laid as the sun brought some warmth with it.
It was difficult to witness all the proceedings and we saw more on our return home on the video our friends had taped for us. However to be part of this ceremony was a great experience.
We then went to Uncle Tom’s grave where in true Aussie style we burnt some gum leaves, hoping their fragrance would waft over the headstones. This caused much interest among the media, both French and Australian, television and radio.
The Victoria School at Villers-Bretonneux, known for the banner which reads’ “Do not Forget Australia” played host to over the 750 Australians who were part of our tour by supplying a hearty breakfast. Many of the guests had brought gifts such as books and Ron presented a pennant from the Wauchope RSL Sub-Branch reading “Lest We Forget” to be hung in their museum.
Following the school visit we marched to the town centre with old Eric leading, helped along by his walking frame, and we were cheered along by the town folk, to be welcomed by the Mayor of Villers Bretonneux. Festooning was draped across the streets, shop windows were decorated in the Aussie theme and all in all, it could not have been a better welcome; no doubt similar to the welcome our troops received in 1918 when they liberated this tiny village.
That afternoon Ron and I went with the rest of our group to the Anzac ceremony at the Bullecourt Memorial, leaving Martin, Kye and Rod back at the school where it had been arranged, prior to leaving home, that Kye would spend the afternoon with a class of children about his own age. This turned out to be a great experience. The kids exchanged questions and answers about their respective countries and lifestyles, but the most outstanding memory would have to be the visit to the Adelaide Cemetery about 2 kilometres out of town. The teacher Chantelle, had written on the petals of silk poppies the names of Australian soldiers buried in the cemetery and each child had to find that man’s grave and leave the poppy there. The whole class, together with the teacher, and our boys walked to the cemetery and back to the school. The Adelaide Cemetery is where the body of the unknown Australian soldier now laying in the War Memorial in Canberra was exhumed in November 1993 for the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War 1. There are so many unknown soldiers, of every nation, in every cemetery, all with the inscription on their headstone, “Known only to God”, words written by Rudyard Kipling.
The next day 26th April was a day of visiting other cemeteries in the Somme. There would be no way all could be visited in just a few days as sadly there are over 530 in this part of France. We had been asked by friends to try to locate the graves or names of missing relatives and were pleased at the end of our tour to find twelve of the eighteen soldiers who had died in France or Belgium. Unfortunately, time and distance prevented us completing our ‘mission’. The afternoon was ‘free’ and the coach took us into Amiens where we again met up with Noel and Jann and had a rather disappointing dinner beside the pretty river which wends its way through this lovely city. Disappointing only as the service was so slow and after 2 hours it was time to move back to the coaches. So some haggling took place, with a waitress who fully understood our complaint, stuck by us and convinced the owner of the establishment to accept our offer of a reduced cost!
The last day of the boy’s six day tour came too soon and the morning of Sunday 27th April was spent back in Amiens searching for a Laundromat so that clean clothes could be packed for their journey back to Paris and onto London the next day. They persuaded Ron and me to come with them as there was to be a huge antique sale in the city and we could walk the streets and take in the sights while their washing was being done. A taxi for five passengers was called and off we went. Every street in Amiens was closed off for this mammoth event. We finally found a Laundromat and strolled along amazed at the extent of the goods on sale, at the same time keeping an eye on our watch, as we had to return at 11 o’clock for the tour of more battlefield sites, among them the Lochnager Crater, the South African War Museum and Cemetery and Newfoundland Memorial. I won’t go into details except to say we did arrive back at our hotel just as the coach was pulling out. So we did ‘make it’ and the cost of a trip to Amiens to do the washing ended up costing 80 euros (about $200).
That night was the 90th Anniversary “Le Grande Bal Militaire d’Amiens” and what a night that was. A lovely 3 course dinner and music supplied by the Orchestra, Big Band and Choir of St Peter’s College and Wilderness School, two of Adelaide’s oldest schools. These students were fantastic, playing music from the First and Second World Wars. The singers were dressed in the uniforms of the soldiers and nurses of the period, we sang along and joined in the dancing. We even had Edith Piaff and the Andrew Sisters entertaining us. This night must go down as one of the highlights and a fitting end to the six day tour when Martin, Rod and Kye would leave us next morning.
So it was that on Monday 28th we left our boys and went onto Belgium for 3 days in Ieper. On the way we called into Vimy Ridge, the Canadian War Museum with its great display, VC Corner, the only cemetery without headstones as the 410 Australian soldiers are buried in a mass grave, so their names appear on the memorial wall. VC Corner is at Fromelles and just a stones throw from the Cobbers Memorial
Ieper is a beautiful old walled city, with narrow streets and cobble stone roads and paths which had been destroyed by the Germans and now rebuilt. It has the Field of Flanders Museum in the Cloth Hall, not to be missed and of course the Menin Gate with the Last Post Ceremony each night at 8 o’clock. This is performed by the local fire brigade buglers. The Ode is read and wreathes are laid. On the walls are the names of the ‘missing, believed dead’, lost in the Ieper salient area, a total of 54,896, who died up until 15th August 1917. This does not include the names of those killed between 16th August 1917 and the end of the war. These 34,984 additional names are recorded on carved panels at Tyne Cot Cemetery.
It was good to hear from the boys that they were safely in London after their journey from Paris on the Eurostar. So we settled down to our first night in Belgium, ready for the next day when we visited the nearby city of Brugge. What a cold place this is and it was spring! The colourful flowers make up for the dull skies and overcast weather. Brugge was a pleasant experience where we strolled along the narrow cobbled stones streets and looked in the shops with the famous Belgium lace and chocolates on display.
That afternoon, Ron went to some of the Belgium cemeteries to locate graves, while I walked to the Menin Gate and found two names on the wall, Bert Dyson and Edward Bryant for friends. Fortunately these soldier’s names were low down on the wall as the lists of the missing reach some 10 meters high.
The next day, Wednesday 30th April would be our last day in Belgium and we were taken to Polygon Wood, Hill 60, Passchendaele, Perth Cemetery, the Hooge Crater and Tyne Cot. Tyne Cot is the largest British Commonwealth cemetery (that means all British dominions) in the world with 11,956 graves including 1,368 Australians. Of those 8,366 are unknown.
We were back in time to spend a couple of hours at the Cloth Hall and attend the Last Post at Menin Gate. Members of our tour who wished to march were asked to do so that night and the Ode was read by 10 year old Philip Durston from Melbourne who with his 8 year old brother, James were passengers on our bus with their father. Philip certainly looked the part in his Drisabone and Akubra. He performed his duty like a true little soldier.
It was an early start on Friday 1st May as we set out for Calais and the ferry ride across the English Channel to Dover and the end of “Our Other Anzac Day Tour”. Those white cliffs of Dover must have been a welcome sight to our troops returning home at last.
I was so pleased that my cousin Peter had sent me his father’s edited war record as I was able to retrace the many battles in which Uncle Sid had fought. On reading his involvement it made us understand why those soldiers who did return from the “Great War” did not want speak of the horrors they saw and the trauma they went through. It made us wonder how they ever ‘made it through’.
We have been asked - Was it an emotional experience? Yes it was, but not as emotional as we expected. This was probably because of the large contingent of Aussies and the feeling of celebration.
Perhaps the most emotional time is reading the words on some of the headstones supplied by the families of the soldier. Uncle Tom’s reads “We are only parted, Dear One, for just a little while.” Another “It is sweetness to breathe your name” and “I must go, I cannot be seen not to wear a soldier’s uniform” and in the case of one of the 5 soldiers who have been recently buried at Pozieres after their bodies were found by a French farmer, “Beloved son of Harry and Emily Hunter, Nanango Queensland, at rest after being lost for 90 years” However, looking at row upon row of white headstones covering acres of land, brings great sadness mixed with anger at the loss of so many lives, most of them mere boys. Even at the German cemetery the people were genuinely shocked and saddened.
Also having been asked by our friends to try to locate their relative’s grave or name, we found that of the 18 soldiers, 6 were brothers and another had a brother killed at Gallipoli. How tragic to lose 2 sons and in some cases more.
Another question was – Does the Western Front generate the feelings that Gallipoli seems to?
The answer to that is that over 50,000 were killed in France and Belgium and 8,700 at Gallipoli. This war claimed over 60,000 Australian lives in a population of 4.8 million. The deaths and injuries were horrendous in both places. It seems only now do the Australian people recognize the full extent of what took place after the Gallipoli campaign. So yes, more visits are now being made to France and Belgium. Witnessing how the Australians are respected, generates a feeling of pride in what our young men accomplished and such sadness at the sacrifice they made.
When we were in Paris before our tour, we spoke to an elderly lady walking her dog along the banks of the Seine. She asked why we were in Paris. We told her we were on our way to the Western Front where we had lost so many Australians in WW1. She replied “Thank you so much for what you did”. So our soldiers will never be forgotten, not by us, or the French or the Belgians.
On behalf of my sister and I, I am writing this card to thank you for organising this trip “Our Other ANZAC Day”. Our grandfather was killed in 1918 on the battlefield in France 90 years ago, and thanks to MHT we were able to visit his grave and to see where this cemetery is located for the first time in 90 years. We would not have been able to find his grave but for the wonderful military historians, with all their knowledge and experience and determination to endeavour to find all the gravesites of everyones’ family.
This trip was a wonderful experience, ANZAC Day, the Victoria School, The Ball, the Battlefields, and the accommodation was first class.
We now have a clearer understanding of what it was like 90 years ago, being there, walking where they walked, (of course without Germans and mud)
I am sorry I haven't been in touch since coming back, I have been thrown back into work, sorting out what hadn't been done, what needs to be done and general catching up etc. What a let down, having to come back to work!
I just wanted to say thank you very much for the wonderful time in Turkey. It was the best. I enjoyed every minute, the food, the shopping, the company, the laughs and of course the sights.
Brian and I found the Western Front Tour 2006 most interesting (even me – a spouse going along because of her husband’s interest). As the tour progressed my interest grew.
Revisiting Paris after 20+ years was lovely. We liked the hotel with the beautiful hanging baskets, in the little street, where we could observe the children going to school in the mornings. It had a feel of Paris that the big tourist hotels lack. We thoroughly enjoyed the recital at Notre Dame, Montmartre and our cruise on the Seine. Our ‘potluck’ evening meals at the local cafes were most enjoyable – three days was not enough. As we feel we mastered the intricacies of the Metro we will return again soon – we hope.
When Eve and our luxurious coach arrived we were off. (What a lovely man! A great ambassador for his country.)
Peronne was a beautiful town - more beautiful hanging baskets. The museum (fortress) was excellent – well laid out with not too much detail. What pride the townsfolk have in their home. It was very moving to be shown the ‘graffiti’ the Australian soldiers had carved into the church walls as they sheltered there.
We have so many memories of the battlefields:
Heath Cemetery made all the more poignant by the ceremony for Nerida’s relation;
As I’m typing this so many other memories flood into my mind.
The other special memory for us was going to The Tower for the Ceremony of the Keys and enjoying the hospitality at the Mess later.
Our Jersey stay was wonderful. Graham if you ever get the chance to go to Jersey go to see the German underground Hospital Tunnels – an amazing place. We were very fortunate as our friend Ron had been a teenager during the war so we were given a real insight to the Occupation on Jersey. Their Occupation tapestry was beautiful.
All our arrangements went smoothly, thanks to your staff. Just a tip for people travelling between Gatwick and Heathrow by coach, seniors, if you ask gets you half cost.
Graham, thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion for your subject with us all. This with the lovely group of people we had the pleasure of sharing the tour with made this an unforgettable experience.
Best wishes for your future trips.
Thank you very much for organising and leading such a wonderful tour of the battlefields of Gallipoli and the ANZAC Day service. Of course we enjoyed all the extra sights we saw in Turkey when you were assisted by Emin.
The Cappadocia extension trip was fantastic and we're glad that we were able to stay for that.
Thanks again for a great trip, lots of laughs and the good company.
Chris and Lindy Richardson
Dear Graham and Paul,
I would like to express my thanks to you both for organising my trip to Turkey and then on to Greece.
The Turkey itinerary was fantastic, and Bill and I had a great time in Antalya, Pamukkale, Bodrum and Kusadassi.
Our trip to Aspendos,was a definite highlight, sitting in a 200 year old Roman Theatre listening to the Turkish Symphony Orchestra play Hungarian Rapsody, The Blue Danube Carmen and Bolero while eating cheese and biscuits and drinking Red wine was just an incredible experience.
Visiting Pamulkkale at Hierapolis was another experience not to be forgotten. The ruins and museum are exceptional, and the heated springs were an added bonus to our tied backs, arms and legs.
Bodrum was another highlight with its ancient Fortress and Underwater Archeological Museum. We even managed to get two Scuba Dives in on the one day.
The Kismet Hotel in Kusadassi was a breathtaking location. High on the edge of a peninsular, and overlooking the ocean to our front, the Harbour to the South and long stretches of beach to the North, was another added highlight to the trip.
The Greek expedition as I like to think of it, was something else. The people on the trip were a great bunch. To visit locations which are off the beaten track and rarely seen by Tourists was something I wasn't expecting to occur and the way the Greek people treated us was something I will be able to brag about for many years to come.
Crete was another island which I thought was an astounding place. The people, scenery and locations we visited were far more than I had expected or anticipated. Our accommodation in Crete was also another bonus, to stay at the only location in the Mediterranean where Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs and to actually be there when they were coming ashore was something that I never expected to see.
Once again, many thanks for a great trip and I look forward to our next trip.