In Honour of Remembrance Day - A note from Sam at the Battlefield Tours


See Above: Scroll through the slideshow to see some of our most memorable moments on tour this year - hover over the image for a detailed note

 

Today marks the 99th year of Remembrance.

That's a lot to think about.

For those living through the First World War, almost a century ago - I can't help but think - we’re almost through this thing. And yet, it's going to get worse. The First World War becomes tragically repetitive as the days progress, and the effects and the reactions that come in the final year ahead, irrevocably created the world we live in today.

To me, Remembrance day is not simply a day to take 2 minutes to stop and remember the fallen. It's a day to reflect on it too. I think about the impact that was created when those loved ones fell - and on that scale, how I think how about how that affects the surviving generation - emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially.

This year on tour, we've been exploring the many open scars of the World Wars, both on and off the battlefields. We traversed the cratered landscape - and we tried to imagine the pain. But it's not just on the pock-marked buildings we see these open wounds still healing, we also see it on the faces of the people we connect with every day.

Over this past year especially - with the overwhelmingly large commemorative events: Vimy 100, Dieppe 75, Hill 70 100 and the Passchendaele 100 tour - this was a year for meeting and connecting with some incredible people willing to share their incredible connections to this battlefield story.

To me, the people I've travelled with this year have reminded me of 2 things; a fact that fascinates me, and another that terrifies me.

(1) Is that after 99 years, we are still putting the puzzle pieces together on the battlefields we explore, and to me that's exciting! For our team, it makes every time we visit a site a unique, and different experience.

(2) The archives I’ve explored, the diaries I've read, and the research I've done - on paper, the casualty numbers can all feel somewhat benumbing after awhile - but when our travellers and community share their story, it reminds me - although the casualty rates rise higher and higher, we're still talking about individual stories of pain and suffering. It's all real, this isn't fictional - and that's kind of terrifying.


Watson, Remembrance Day, Battlefield Tours, Services Ceremony

You've probably heard the metaphor before, but only because it's so poignant: All the pain from each war, the heartbreak, the devastation - they're like pebbles dropping in a still pond, and the ripples reach outwards, touching all of society.

Collectively, we wind up with millions of people impacted like this - the ripple effect projects outwards - and it goes on, and on, affecting tens or even hundreds of millions people and its subsequent generations.

And for just a moment, we take a day, two minutes, to stop, to take a breath, to be silent, and we think about that. Wow.

 

Bud Weeks, former radio operator, conquers a Sherman at the Hartenstein Hotel in May 2015

Have we fully gained the perspective needed to understand what happened a century ago? Do we get how it impacts our world today? Have we fully uncovered the many facets of this story? The motives? Do we understand how it could ever get that bad after such a wonderful, century-long peace, like the turn of the nineteenth century enjoyed? Today, do we recognize the effect those changes had, not only in communities throughout the world, but in our own society? Do we appreciate the devastation and ruin that the World Wars left modern citizens and countries to deal with in areas such as the red zones of Russia, France and Belgium?


WW2 Veterans Bud Weeks & H Rowden discussing events at our group dinner in Normandy, 2014

When Im on tour, I’m not thinking of the emotional impact, really. On tour, I like to talk about human endurance - what a human body is capable of handling is fascinating to me - or perhaps the sheer amount of resources and logistics it takes to co-ordinate a certain tactic, for example. Im thinking facts, figures, whilst juggling coach schedules, check-in times, and allergy lists.


Back of the coach on the 2014 Normandy Tour - Courtesy of Mary Pilon