2014 NW Europe Battlefield Tour

From August 6th – 21st, 2014, the Red Deer Legion Pipe Band had the great privilege of going on a battlefield tour of NW Europe. We started off in Paris, where we soaked up the history, played a set at the base of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre and Sacré-Coeur, then drove out to Versailles to see the famous Palace. From there, we stopped in Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, before ending the day in Caen. Prior to the trip, we were asked to take part in a service at Juno Beach in honour of Canada’s Acadian soldiers. Of course, we happily accepted. After the ceremony, we walked the beach then toured the Juno Beach Centre and the bunkers. This same day, we paid our respects at Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. It is worth noting that all of the cemeteries we visited in Europe were so beautiful and well maintained. It was nice to see that Canada’s fallen have been so well taken care of in the years since WWI & WWII. While in Caen, we stopped in Bernières-Sur-Mer at Canada House, then Arromanches to see the landing beaches and what remains  of the Mulberry Harbour.

We also visited Ardenne Abbey, where Canadian soldiers were illegally executed;  Omaha Beach, where American troops landed on D-Day and many are laid to rest; and took a tour of the Caen Peace Memorial, a truly memorable museum dedicated to the sacrifices made by those who died in the wars.

Next, we travelled up the coast of France, stopping in Dieppe. Perhaps our warmest and most memorable reception was at the memorial to the Dieppe raid, where we were greeted by the mayor and volunteers who had taken the day off work to come meet us. We learned a great deal there about our soldiers’ sacrifice in August of 1942 before playing a set on the promenade along the beach and a park dedicated to Canadian soldiers at the base of the castle. From here, we travelled north to Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy where we visited the battlefields and the Grange Subway before our final stop, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Here, we held a service of remembrance and played at the foot of this truly remarkable WWI memorial. 

Following our tour of France, we drove to Ypres, Belgium. Months ago, we'd applied and were granted permission to take part in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, which has been held every single night since 1928, with the exception of the occupied years in WWII. There were roughly 2000 people in attendance as wreaths were laid, the last post sounded, and the pipe band played. While in Ypres, we visited Passchendaele, Tyne Cot Cemetery, the St. Juliaan Memorial and Vancouver Corner, Langemark German Cemetery, as well as John McCrae’s (author of the famous poem "In Flander's Fields") field station, holding remembrance services and playing at most of these venues. 

After Belgium, we headed to the Netherlands where we learned more about Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, then played and paid our respects at Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery. While in Arnhem, we popped across the border into Germany to visit the Reichswald Forest Cemetery (the largest WWII Commonwealth cemetery) and to play a brief set in Kleve, before returning to the Netherlands and visiting the John Frost Bridge (of A Bridge Too Far fame). We finished our trip in Amsterdam, where we took bus and canal tours of the city before saying our farewells to Europe.  

I think we can all agree that it was a tremendous privilege to take this tour of the battlefields and cemeteries of NW Europe and to pay our respects at so many places that are significant to us as Canadians. This is an experience we will remember as long as we live and will pass on to friends and family... 

Lest We Forget.

 

The Places We Played:

 

August 8th (Day 3)

  • Eiffel Tower - Paris, France

  
August 11th (Day 6)

  • Juno Beach Centre - Courseulles, France

  • Bény-sur-Mer Cemetery - France


August 12th (Day 7)

  • Ardenne Abbey - Ardenne, France (Ryan Mackay played the Lament)

  • Au Bureau Restaurant - Caen, France


August 14th (Day 9)

  • Promenade Memorial - Dieppe, France

  • Canada Square - Dieppe, France

  • Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery - France

  • Royal Regiment of Canada Memorial - Puys, France


August 15th (Day 10)

  • Beaumont-Hamel - France (Ryan Mackay played the Lament)

  • Canadian National Vimy Memorial - France


August 16th (Day 11)

  • John McCrae's Field Station & Essex Farm Cemetery - Belgium

  • Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery - Zonnebeke, Belgium (Ryan Mackay played the Lament)

  • St. Juliaan Memorial - Langemark, Belgium

  • Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony - Ypres, Belgium


August 17th, (Day 12)

  • Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery - the Netherlands (Dave Best played "Hector the Hero")


August 18th (Day 13)

  • Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery - the Netherlands

  • Reichswald Forest War Cemetery - Kleve, Germany (Ryan Mackay played the Lament)

  • Town square - Kleve, Germany

  • Irish Pub - Arnhem, the Netherlands

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