The Battlefields of Europe

The world today has been shaped by the battles of yesterday. The two greatest conflicts of the 20th century brought with them death, destruction and new beginnings too. As a war enthusiast, nothing can be more authentic experience than physically visiting some of the most sombre and historically important battlefields on the planet.

The Great War – Of Trenches and Stalemates

Between 1914 and 1919, there was a shift of the old world order. The first Great War changed the maps of Europe as the great Ottoman Empire first stumbled and fell away to be consigned to the pages of history. The Gallipoli Campaign was one of the most important chapters of the First World War, the only major victory for the Ottomans as they thwarted the Allied advance on the great city of Istanbul. A Gallipoli tour would include trips to Suvla Bay and the historic city of Troy.

The Battlefields of Europe

The Western Front of the WW1 spread across the countries of Belgium and France, as Allied and German forces attempted to outdo each other. The Vimy Ridge was the site of a famous Canadian assault. The Wellington Quarry is an underground museum dedicated to this unique chapter of the war, where a network of tunnels was maintained for shelter and transport of British and Commonwealth troops.

The Battles of the Somme claimed more than 70 thousand British and South African lives and remain to this day, one of the bloodiest conflicts in modern warfare. This was one of the biggest mobilizations of troops in the entire war. The trench warfare slowly turned into an irrevocable tragedy as casualties mounted every day in the thousands. Visit the Thiepval Memorial, an impressive structure designed by Edwin Lutyens built in tribute to the fallen of the Somme.

Anyone familiar with war history would know about the Last Post Ceremony. Travel to Ypres for this heart moving ritual at the Menin Gate, as the sound of the trumpet pierces the quiet West Flanders evening. While in Ypres you also should visit Hill 60, a scene of many WW1 battles and now a memorial.

A list of popular tours of WW1 battlefields would have to include a visit to Cambrai, Messines, Mons and Le Cateau. The latter two were the venues to some of the earliest battles of the conflict after the British had declared war on the Germans in support of Belgium.

World War Two Tours – Experiences of a Lifetime

The Battle of the Bulge was the German army’s last throw of the dice, an offensive that filled the forests of Belgium with the sounds of shellfire and the rumble of armoured divisions. The build-up to the offensive was a secret to most and the Battle of the Bulge resulted in immense casualties on both sides. In fact, the Americans lost more men in the Ardennes than in any other WW2 operation. A tour that follows this brutal chapter of WW2 would include visits to Stavelot and Trois Points on the Salm, Kampfgruppe, and Bastogne. One can still find the old trenches and foxholes of the battle, preserved now amidst nature. The war memorial at Mardasson is another important stop for those who engage in a Bulge tour.

The Battlefields of Europe

The horrors of World War 2 remain today as a lesson to humanity. A visit to the camps of the Holocaust is a pilgrimage that every human should take. A tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau will take you into the heart of evil, a place where an entire community was subjugated and dehumanized, murdered in cold efficiency.  No one walks out of the Holocaust sites without being moved. Some of the other related stops on this tour include the Schindler Museum, a heroic tale that showed the triumph of human kindness in these darkest of times. Krakow today still has many remnants of the old pre-war Jewish communities, and you can learn more while visiting Kazmirez and the ghetto from the times of German occupation.

It would take a lifetime and more to cover the different battlefield of WW2, but some are more accessible than the others. Dunkirk and Normandy are locations immortalized as brave chapters and turning points of the war. A visit to Berlin is recommended as you follow the trail of 1945 as the Nazis were felled.

You can sign up for bespoke battlefield tours for groups and soak up the immense history that is deceptively hidden in Europe’s countryside today. Explore the sites with a battlefield guide who is thoroughly familiar with the granular details of the local history. Battlefield tours also allow you to experience history in the most visceral way, as you stand on the very ground where the future was fought for those many years ago.


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