2014 was always going to be a special one for the Royal British Legion and Journeys of Remembrance, marking as it does the Centenary of the start of World War I as well as the 70th Anniversary of the D-day landings.
It was a year to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and to honour them.
Our main programme included:
Our journey to India was a very special one as amongst our pilgrims was a lady who served there throughout WWII. She provided a very special link to those dark days and everyone who travelled was enriched by her experiences.
“My mother and I (as her carer) have recently returned from the British Legion Remembrance Travel tour to India, which was the trip of a lifetime! We loved it!
The tour gave my mother a wonderful opportunity to return to Calcutta where she was stationed as a Wireless Operator with Force 136 (FANY) in 1945. The British Legion kindly gave us a spray of poppies, one of which my mother proudly put on a fellow FANY’s (Rita Elsie Nelson) beautifully kept grave in the Bhaowani Cemetery in Calcutta.
The tour to India was emotional, incredibly well organised and included the most amazing and interesting group of people. Kohima was a “special” place – full of tales of heroism and appalling loss of life. The people from Nagaland were gentle, courteous and proud.
Arena Travel also made our trip so enjoyable. They were efficient, always helpful on the phone and provided an incredibly well organised pilgrimage. The tour ran like clockwork – flights, hotels, transport in India, etc”
This journey commemorated the Anniversary of the Battle of Monte Casino and the Italian Campaign. One of the many highlights was the Service of Remembrance attended by HRH Prince Harry.
This Journey was made very special as we had many veterans of D-Day travelling with us, including Len Bloomfield who became known as D-Day Len and who had his own blog on the RBL website. We were privileged, at the service at Bayeux Cemetery, to meet Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Len and Prince Philip served on the same ship and no doubt shared many memories. Sadly, Len passed away on 10 November, aged 94.
Holland – Operation Market Garden
This journey marked the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden and many of our pilgrims were veterans. We also crossed the Rhine and visited other sites and cemeteries associated with this conflict.
Ypres is always a very special place and our journey took us there over the Armistice Day weekend. Many attended the Armistice Day Service at St George’s Church and then joined the procession to the Menin Gate for the 11am Last Post Ceremony. We also visited may of the sites and cemeteries in the Ypres/Salient area.
Our Journey of Remembrance to Burma was very successful. We were welcomed by the Defence Attaché at the airport and they are keen that we continue to visit. An undoubted highlight, amongst many, was the train journey which was enjoyed enormously.We would like to thank Mike Bradley, our RBL guide, and our local guide who was so helpful.
“It was a very successful tour in all respects, and I am grateful to everyone for their support for what can be a difficult tour in a very remote area. This time there were very few incidents, and it all worked. The Defence Attaché even met us at the Airport to welcome us into the country.”
In addition to the main programme we also arranged a number of bespoke tours for individual groups and organisations. For these journeys the group told us where and when they wanted to go – and we tailor-made the tour for them.
These groups included:
RMP Hohne Garrison, Ypres and the Salient
This group originated at Hohne Baratcks in Germany and we organised their accommodation and visits for their tour of Ypres. The group was led by an official RBL Guide who organised their itinerary.
“Just a quick message to say thank you for all your help and let you know that the battlefield study to Ypres was absolutely excellent. It has been the best tour I have done in Europe by a mile which was clearly achieved by Colin’s superb knowledge, choice of sites to fit our training objectives and manner with my troops. The Menin Gate Ceremony, in uniform, was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had and is something my troops and I will remember forever. It was the stand out part for all of us during the stay.”
The Worshipful Company of Actuaries – Ypres
We were asked by the Master of the Worshipful Company to organise their weekend tour to Ypres. They travelled by Eurostar to Lille, accompanied by an RBL Guide and spent the weekend in Ypres, visiting various sites and laying a wreath at the Menin Gate. This was a very special weekend for the Master as we also arranged, in strict secrecy, for his children to join them in Ypres for the final formal dinner.
2nd Signals Regiment, York – Ex Chimera Tour to Ypres
The Green Howard’s Association made a very special visit to Normandy following an itinerary devised in cooperation with our RBL Guide. They told us where they wanted to go and we did the rest.
“This as a very successful tour in all respects and there is little to report as it went very well, and the customers were very happy.
They now wish to book another tour in 2016 to Ypres and Somme, but they do not wish to go in July over the centenary events.
Once again many thanks to Arena for a very efficient service and successful tour.”
Military Intelligence – Ypres
A group of serving officers and men, accompanied by an RBL Guide visited Ypres and the Salient and laid a wreath at the Menin Gate.
‘I just wanted to get in contact to thank you very much on behalf of all those who went on the 2MI Battlefield Study to Normandy 2 weeks ago. The trip was excellent and both the guide and the driver were very good at providing their respective vital elements to the trip. I will certainly recommend to colleagues organising similar trips within the Army that the high quality provided was well worth the money spent.’