Group tours battlefields in northern Europe

Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery in Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

McLennan Legion Branch 153, “Guided Canadian Battlefields Tour” of northern Europe took place from April 26 to May 11.

The 16-day trip, organized by Francis Lessard, involved a 14-day tour, taking participants to European cities including London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Munich.

The World War II sites and other points of interest on the itinerary included Vimy Ridge, Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian Military Cemetery and In Flanders Fields Museum.

Beginning in London, the tour visited the Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace, The British Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Having travelled by train from London to Amsterdam, the tour visited the Royal Palace, National Monument, and the Anne Frank House.

Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery, Wuustwezel Churchyard and Breendonk Concentration Camp were among the sites visited in Belgium.

In Paris, the group went to see École Militair, a military training centre founded in 1750 and they visited Ivalides, which is also the site of the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The group’s time in Paris also took into account recreational and cultural activities, visiting such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs- Élysées, Tuileries, Place Vendôme, Champ de Mars and the Opera House.

The trip wrapped up in Munich with a guided sightseeing tour that included Residenz/ Nymphenburg Palace Gardens, Deutsches Museum, and the 1972 Olympic Site.

While in Munich, they also went to Marienplatz Glockenspiel, and dined at the renowned Hofbräuhaus beer hall, established in 1589.

Betty Zahara and her husband John went on the tour and as evidence to how much it offered, she said she didn’t have the energy to go to everything.

“It was extremely informative and very busy,” says Zahara.

“For someone with a little bit more stamina it would have been incredible, it was incredible for everyone but I found it quiet tiring.”

Zahara also says that the sites they visited and the information provided was very enlightening.

“They put together an incredible package for sure,” she said.

Henry Wawrzonek, also traveled to Europe with the Tour and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It was really a great holiday with lots of information,” he says.

Wawrzonek also took the opportunity to visit the gravesite of a close friend’s relative.

“I have a friend, his uncle died in the war, blown apart by a landmine he was working on,” says Wawrzonek. “When I was there I found his gravesite, which was kind of touching because I know the family very well.”

Both Betty Zahara and Henry Wawrzonek expressed their surprise and gratitude at how scrupulously well-maintained Canadian Cemeteries are in northern Europe.

“They are just immaculate, and well organized,” says Wawrzonek. “If you know the cemetery a soldier is buried in, you can go and find the names in a registry book, it will tell you what row and what number so it is quiet easy.”

Wawrzonek says that other aspects of the tour such as visiting the actual sites where historic events took place were really impressive also.

“Visiting such places as Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach, that was all wonderful stuff,” he says, “Francis did a hell of a job.”

NOTE: Photographs by Francis Lessard

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