100TH ANNIVERSARY OF WWI AND 70TH OF D-DAY
by Jeff Rowsam
2014 marks important anniversaries for both WWI and WWII, with special commemoration and historic military battlefield events in many locations in Europe and worldwide. It will be a great year to plan a special trip to Europe.
Before the 1980s, travel to the battlefields of the World Wars was left to family members visiting cemeteries and to a few of the most serious students of military history. Someone once said, time is a therapist. Those words sum the sentiment toward remembering wars as years pass and the old warriors depart. In the 1990’s a few battlefield tour companies emerged. The success of their specialized tours was followed by the rapid growth of the “Battlefield” tourism businesses. Many travel companies now offer short or long itineraries for all interest levels, calendars and budgets.
Tours can be guided group tours, day trips or self-guided and self-paced driving tours by rental car. Specific tours to visit WWI or WWII sites or combinations can be arranged by many tour operators. Depending on group size and interest, travelers can combine a family vacation in Paris or Amsterdam or the UK with a military history excursion for part of the trip. The many battles that raged across Europe have left a very long list of sites that deserve the remembrance of those who fought in battle there.
Any time is worthwhile to consider a historic battlefield tour. Your visit need not be on the anniversary date of the battle. But it can be very worthwhile to travel during special anniversary events. The 100th anniversary of the WWI battles of 1914 will be commemorated at remembrance events on the Somme and Ypres Salient this coming summer. The WWII battles of 1944 will be commemorated by special anniversary events at Normandy, in Holland and other sites along the allies’ routes of European liberation.
At the same time that remembrance ceremonies honoring veterans take place, the same events have grown to include very large numbers of active historians who drive their preserved military vehicles to participate in events. The numbers of historic military vehicle owners and the variety of vehicles they bring to historic events is near startling to American visitors not expecting them. When American tourists first see a convoy of WWII Jeeps and trucks with drivers in combat uniforms wheeling up a road in Normandy or Arnhem or Mons, it is an exciting sight.
Longtime readers of Military Vehicles Magazine, who have grown with the hobby of owning and restoring historic military vehicles, have commented, “I sure would like to go to Europe for one of those big shows.” For military vehicle owners it’s exciting to see so many trucks and Jeeps in reenactment camp sites. These events are also about more than just the trucks. Plan your tour so you get to see the battlefields and museums. Look for opportunities to meet local people along the way. The Jeeps and trucks are exciting but they are an added bonus when you visit on a special military history anniversary.
There are lots of ways to enjoy your MV collecting hobby and experience a military history event. An internet search will quickly yield a list of tour companies. You will find companies that specialize in battlefield tours. They offer group tours for special military history anniversaries or they can build an independent tour package tailored to your interests, budget and schedule. You can also work with your travel agent to book an independent trip.
Wherever you decide to go, and however you decide to plan the trip, it’s sure to be an experience you’ll remember for years to come.