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THE NORMANDY & WESTERN FRONT SERIES, DAY 11&12

ARRAS – DUNKIRK – YPRES

The escape of Dunkirk. The number of cemeteries along this stretch of France is incalculable! The Arras memorial which remembers the dead from the battle of Arras during WW1 has over 2,500 graves and 35,000 names.

WALKING THROUGH THESE SPOTLESS TRENCHES ARE GREAT BUT IT JUST DOESN’T DO IT JUSTICE

Each of the 35,000 soldiers are deemed missing and have no final resting place, how a family can properly grieve is beyond me.

WHERE IS DUNKIRK?

Dunkirk

CARRIÈRE WELLINGTON

Carrière Wellington are tunnels that form part of the underground quarry in Arras. It was used by the soldiers of WW1 and was opened as a museum to commemorate those who fought and died. If you wanted something different then maybe but don’t expect to be blown away.

The escape of Dunkirk

DAY 11 DAILY INFO….

  • HOTEL – Aux Waterzooi, 7/10 but shocking smell in mum and dads room
  • RESTAURANT – Le Sweet 7/10
  • FOOD – Prawn Spring Rolls, Seabass, Chocolate Sphere
  • ATTRACTIONS –

Arras memorial 7/10
Carrière Wellington – 6.5/10
Vimy Ridge – 8/10
Blockhausd’Eperlecques – 8/10

DAY 12 DAILY INFO….

  • HOTEL – B&B Sabbajon
  • RESTAURANT – Den Anker
  • ATTRACTIONS –

Museum Dunkerque 1940, Operation Dynamo – 7/10
Allies memorial and beach
Fort des Dunes – 5/10
Likssenthoek Military Cemetery
Menin Gate – 8/10

VIMY RIDGE

In April 1917 the Canadians were tasked with taking the ridge that was held by the German 6th Army. By the first day most of the ridge was under Canadian control and then all of it fell by day 3. In total over 3,500 men died and over 7,000 wounded. Crazy to think of this place as anything else that the beautiful spot it is.

The museum was shut for lunch (becoming a habit)) and we had little time to hang about, but it offered so much more. We were actually going to leave until I decided to have a walk around the back. With a self guided tour (pick up a leaflet at the back below the flag) you can take a walk through some old and new trenches and see the battlefield still preserved to this day. Keep an eye out for the mines!

If you do have the time, arrange to be here when the museum is open of course and book a tour of the tunnels which connect some of the trenches, access only possible with a guide so I’m sure it’s well worth it!

The escape of Dunkirk

DAILY TRAVEL STATS….

  • Steps – 13,000  & 16,600
  • Miles covered – 103.8 miles

BLOCKHAUS D’EPERLECQUES

An old WW2 bunker built to launch the infamous V2 bombers, this was a fascinating find. On research I thought it was worth visiting but had to make a decision on visiting France’s biggest cemetery or the bunker. However, arriving at the front, it didn’t look like much so expectations were pushed to the bottom.

After a short experience in a carriage set for Auschwitz we arrived at the bunker and my god, it was like something from James Bond! The size of this all-concrete structure was incredible but I suppose when it was built to accommodate the launching of 36 V2s everyday it would need to be.

The escape of Dunkirk

INSIDE

Walking around you can see the damage the allied bombardment did to the structure and all but put it out of operation. However the blockhouse was still used to make liquid gas and launching any rockets was postponed for the foreseeable.

Inside was like nothing I have ever seen before, it was insane to think I was walking inside the place where Hitler planned to launch his relentless scheme of devastation around the UK.

DUNKIRK

We arrived in Dunkirk in good time and had a unique check in experience courtesy of an external ATM machine at our hotel, Aux Waterzooi. After a quick smell of mum and dad’s hotel room the night ended with a 7/10 meal at Le Sweet.

For whatever reason Dunkirk never appealed to me, I had never been, never done any research but the gut was it would be an average town and it turned out to be exactly that. Certainly more English than French!

The escape of Dunkirk

  DUNKIRK EVACUATION FACTS:
  • Hitler sanctioned a 48-hour order to halt German troops advancing to Dunkirk. This gave the allies the time they needed to evacuate.
  • The German planes dropped leaflets and bombs on the area below. These pieces of propaganda showed the allies position on a map and the surrounding area covered by Germans. It read; “you are surrounded, put down your arms and stop fighting.”
  • The locals of the UK came together to produce one of the biggest privately owned fleets to sail to France and rescue over 300,000 men.

MUSEUM DUNKERQUE 1940, OPERATION DYNAMO

Our first visit was to the Dunkirk Museum 1940, where mum lost the bap at a group of school kids. Showcasing the incredible escape of 330,000 troops from mainland Europe, the Dunkirk Museum sets out the timeline of Operation Dynamo and how it evolved. The best museum to visit about the operation.

DUNKIRK PROMENADE

Dunkirk the movie is one of the most disappointing shows I’ve watched, mostly down to my high expectations. It had every potential to be a top film but just lacked a real storyline from both sides and some much needed action. However it did a good job in giving me an idea of the vast numbers of troops trapped on the beach trying to escape.

IT WAS HERE THE GERMANS HAD A CHANCE TO END THE WAR BEFORE IT BARELY BEGUN.

I wanted to visit this beach and see for myself, to try and envisage being there along with 330,000 other soldiers. It’s actually an incredible beach and Dunkirk’s nicest area, you can see it has received plenty of investment.

BATTERIE DE LEFFRINCKOUCKE

From there we headed down the beach to another area of the Atlantic Wall, Batterie de Leffrinckoucke. What an incredible spot, and now a protected nature reserve, bizarre to have such a contrast. It was here what I thought was a young local boy came up and started hanging around us. That was until I seen the dirt of his hands and his family using one of the pillboxes as a home.

“Kurdish,” he said.

Imagine travelling from Kurdistan to France, probably hitch hiking or in the back of a lorry, only to arrive and sleep in an old Nazi bunker. It would be a hard enough flight!

I sometimes wonder how long before they found this ‘suitable’ place. How many roadsides did they sleep on, how many days without eating, how bad must life be at home? It’s a long enough flight.

LIKSSENTHOEK MILITARY CEMETERY

After a wasted trip to Fort des Dunes (entirely the wrong era for me to get excited about), we headed off towards Ypres via the Likssenthoek cemetery (try pronouncing that!). Sometimes it’s hard to know which cemeteries to visit as there are so many. Here there are over 10,000 graves and a small visitor centre, which makes this visit unique.

MENIN GATE

After knocking on the wrong door for 10 minutes we eventually found our hotel, dropped our cases and made our way to Menin Gate. The Menin Gate ceremony is probably the most ‘must do’ in Ypres. It’s a short remembrance ceremony that started back in 1928, a year after the memorial was inaugurated. Since then, the event has been repeated with a sounding from the Buglers and words and wreaths from special visitors. Arrive early and pay respect to the 72,000 names on the arch who do not have a final resting place. This cannot be missed.

SUMMED UP….

  • HIGHLIGHT – Menin Gate
  • LOWLIGHT – The Restaurant experience
  • MVP – The little Kurdish kid

FINAL THOUGHTS

People wonder why I am spending almost 3 weeks visiting the western front (even I did before I left) but as you can see there is an incredible amount of things worth seeing!

NEXT UP

The long days continue as we check out Ypres and head to Malmedy and visit the rudest waitress!! Click to read.

SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
152/229

This post is part of The Normandy & Western Front Series, for the entire series click here or for episode 1, click here.
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.

Question Time

  • Did you know over 50,000 names are engraved onto Menin Gate?
  • Did you know that none of these soldiers have been found?
  • Which battle interests you the most?

Let me know in the comments below . . .

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