We at Prestige Holidays cater for a variety of tastes: from luxury sun-drenched breaks to the finest in food and cultural hotspots around the world. With our newest idea, though, we want to bring some history. Join our escorted group tour to discover D-Day.
We’ve put together an itinerary across five countries to give a flavour of one of recent history’s most pivotal moments, 6th June 1944, when Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches intent on thwarting Nazi ambitions in “Fortress Europe”. We start in the south of England from where the expeditionary force set out, then to Normandy where they landed. Then to Bastogne for a tour of one of the key locations in the Battle of the Bulge, and finally to the site of Operation Market Garden, the drive to free the Netherlands.
England: Southwick House
It was at Southwick House in Hampshire, around five miles north of Portsmouth, that General Eisenhower finalised his plans for the invasion of mainland Europe that would settle World War II in favour of the Allies. Today, the site is home to a fascinating museum, including the map on which the whole gargantuan undertaking was planned.
Also onsite is the Royal Military Police Museum, commemorating a unit that has been serving since the Napoleonic Wars, ensuring discipline in the most chaotic of surroundings. The Museum gives an insight into a vital function in the armed forces, still playing a key role, including recently training the Afghan Police and Army.
Normandy: Longues-sur-Mer Coastal Bunkers
Facing Eisenhower and the three million men under his command was the Atlantic Wall: a long line of concrete and steel trailing for many miles meant to block any attempted landing from the British Isles. At Longues-sur-Mer stands a gun battery which has been designated a historic monument. It stands entirely intact and is a tangible reminder of the scale of both attack and defence.
Sited 10km north of Bayeux, the German battery is in a prime position amid a range of historically-important locations, not least the famous tapestry depicting another Norman invasion, now housed in an eighteenth-century seminary.
Top Tip: Catch the tapestry at this historic site in Bayeux before it goes on tour to the UK in 2020.
Western Europe did not escape the worst excesses of Nazi rule, as Breendonk’s concentration camp testifies. Between September 1940 and September 1944, almost 3,500 prisoners passed through the camp. Now, around 40,000 schoolchildren visit the camp each year, learning not only about the atrocities committed, but also about the resistance against them. This is a deeply moving memorial, not to be missed.
Netherlands: Operation Market Garden
Next on the Allies’ itinerary – and ours – is the Netherlands, the last Nazi stronghold before Germany itself. Troops were sent to secure crossing points across the Rhine, including Arnhem, Nijmegen and Oosterbeek for an attack on Northern Germany. Our tour follows the route of an operation now called a costly failure, but which liberated a large area of Holland which was nearing starvation.
Seeing these things first-hand brings home the impact these events have had on today’s world. Plus, although it may not be the first place in mind when you think of holiday destinations, Normandy and the Low Countries have a beauty and charm all their own.