There are many of us who have lost loved ones in these wars and have the desire to visit some of the locations synonymous with the most tragic battles – this wish has been made possible by our Travel Partner, Leger Holidays, who have a programme of Battlefield Tours which will take you on inspirational journeys of Remembrance and Discovery.
These tours will show how ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances served their country, experiencing the best and worst of life as carnage broke out around them, changing their lives forever. Each tour is unique and provides a personal experience to all who join them – from family members paying respects to lost loved ones to historians furthering their knowledge with the help of specialist guides who provide a wealth of experience and knowledge.
Leger Holidays are committed to keeping the memories alive as these battlefields offer an incredible insight to the history of conflict teaching us about the stories of the bravery and sacrifice of those who gave their tomorrows for our todays.
Their programme includes new battlefield tours from the Spanish Civil War to the decline and fall of Napoleon so whether you are looking for a beginner’s overview to the battlefields of World War 1 or 2 or for something more in-depth there is something to suit everyone.
The recent Remembrance Commemorations have shown the strength of feeling and national pride which exists in the United Kingdom for the Armed Forces and whilst all who have died are remembered it is the Two World Wars which focus our minds on the horrors of war so near to home.
The First World War was triggered by the death of Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary, who was assassinated in late June, 1914 by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Following his death an escalation of threats emerged and with the promise of German support, Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914 and with Serbia backed by Russia, Russia then declared war on Austria. It was not long before their allies became involved resulting in the two great alliances of Germany and Austria on one side and France and Russia on the other at war and the Great European War, as it was then known, had begun.
Germany feared that the consequences with Russia mobilising in the east and France to the west that Germany would be crushed in the middle. To counter this Count Alfred Von Schlieffen drew up the now famous Schlieffen Plan which was essentially a Blitzkrieg, or Lightening War, against France, the weaker partner in the Franco-Russian Alliance.
This would then destroy France, and Germany could concentrate on the greater enemy, Russia. In August 1914 the plan was put into effect taking German troops into eastern France and also Belgium.
This was where Britain became involved as the movement of German troops into Belgium contravened their neutrality which had been guaranteed by Britain under the Treaty of London in 1839. When the Germans would not withdraw, Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914, just 37 days since Sarajevo the whole of Europe was at war as was half the globe as France and Britain controlled the world’s two largest colonial empires and were quick to draw upon their resources – and their people.
More than four million non-European, non-white soldiers and auxiliaries would serve in World War 1, with over a quarter often ill-equipped and inadequately trained, ending up in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium. These men proved vital in holding the front lines but the fascinating story played out behind the trenches is rarely told as the tented cities of the Western Front was the setting for a world in miniature with soldiers navigating cultural backgrounds and the no-man’s land of race relations at the dawn of the 20th Century
This hell continued for nearly four years until the final year of the war which saw the end of trench warfare with a whole series of German Offensives along the Western Front. America joined the war in April 1917 joining Britain and France Germany knew that it was only a matter of time before the US combat troops reached the battlefield and that this would tip the balance in favour of the Allies.
In October 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm 11 of Germany abdicated and the new government concluded that only defeat lay ahead so sent representatives across to the Allies lines to discuss the terms of a surrender and when they met Marshal Foch, who commanded the Allied forces on the Western Front, he insisted on unconditional surrender.
This came into effect with an Armistice at 11am on 11th November 1918, but the fighting continued right up until the last moment. For the British their war ended at Mons, where it had started in 1914 and it was here that the last British soldier, George Edwin Ellison of the 5th Lancers, fell about an hour and a half before the Armistice: But he wasn’t the last of all: the final British and Commonwealth casualty was a Canadian: George Lawrence Price, who died in the streets of Mons just two minutes before the end of the war.
The human cost of the war was enormous with more than a million British and Commonwealth lives lost and millions of others wounded, sick and taken prisoner. whilst the lives of the survivors would be changed forever as the experience of this unique war would haunt them all their remaining years.
It is, therefore, inconceivable to most of us that just over 20 years later, on Friday the 1st September 1939, the Second World War broke out when Adolf Hitler planned to seize land from other countries and carried out an unprovoked attack on Poland. However, history shows us that the outcome of the First World War was the Versailles Treaty signed in Paris on 28th June 1919 which blames Germany for the war, reduced her borders, disarmed her army and created the belief amongst many Germans that they had not lost the war but been betrayed.
By the 1920s this allowed those involved in the extreme politics of the right to place the blame on “traitors and Jews” as they proclaimed. For much of the next decade within Germany a battle between Left and Right ended with the political Right in ascendance and in 1933 Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party came to power.
The Nazi Regime changed Germany forever in the 1930s and paved the way for war. Many thought it would come in September 1938 with the annexation of the Sudetenland, but it would be another year with the invasion of Poland that would tip the world once more into war when Britain and France declared war on Germany when Hitler refused to abort his invasion
The Second World War lasted for almost six years until 1945 involving 61 countries, 1.7 billion people, 50 million of whom lost their lives and is considered as history’s most savage and devastating wars
If you would like to step on to a Leger Holiday and step off into a Battlefield Tour with Specialist Battlefield Guides then Tailor Made Travel can fulfil your dreams and aspirations so contact us for help in planning your Tour with our Travel Partner, Leger Holidays.
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