We had a great tour with Jon. Saw more than expected and he is a book of details!!! Very good experience.
Alan John & Marilyn Johnson, Toronto, Ontario
Our WWI Battlefield tour exceeded all our expectations.
Ken was a thoughtful and knowledgeable guide. I would recommend this trip / guiding experience to anyone. It is a very personal way to connect with history, even some very sad history.
Laurie Lupton, Richard & Val Joy, Toronto, Ontario
In a word, our WWI tour was spectacular! Ken was not only knowledgeable, but extremely personable and a great person to knock around with for the day. He helped lead us to the field where George T. Scroggie, our relative, was injured in battle and what his role would have been, as well as helping to fill in social historical details (a particular interest of mine!). It was all pretty incredible, and the bits and pieces of the story we have already sent back to Canada have excited everyone there; ditto for our day with Jon.
Jon also created a very special day for us, also helping to fill in the blanks of George T. Scroggie’ movements – up to driving us down a narrow dirt road to get to as precise a point as possible to learn about George’s company’s involvement at the Somme. It was also a terrific tour and we learned so much.
This was a very special trip and we thank you, Ken and Jon for helping to make it happen.
I would highly recommend your Canadian Battlefield Tours. We were able to zero in on elements of the WW1 history in ways I’m sure a large tour bus tour could never do.
Thank you so much. We’re very glad to have found your outfit.
Stacey J, Richard & Elizabeth J, Toronto, Ontario
Very nice testimonial from our first tour of the year- group of 21 students from the University of Guelph. Well done John and Maggie!
I just wanted to thank YOU again for being so responsive to this group of young students and thoughtful in how you ensured that they were at least somewhat prepared for the information coming at them intensively throughout the day by supplying the notes ahead of time. They thoroughly enjoyed the trip and have learned a lot “to chew on”, not least because you were willing to address many of the grey and dark areas of this war. A big thank you to your wife as well: she, too, was very kind to prepare the lunches with care for allergies and religious preferences.
I shall certainly pass Canadian Battlefield Tours and your name on to whoever leads the group in 2019.
It is hard to imagine how the tour could have been improved.
Marion Joppe, PhD
School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management
Macdonald Stewart Hall, #306
University of Guelph | Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Judy and I are about two weeks post our tour, which included the WW2 fighting around the Scheldt Estuary, and The Liberation of Holland, with a visit to the Reichwald and Hochwald Battle sites in Germany.
The tour exceeded any expectations we might have had. My father Samuel Kates fought with the Algonquin Regiment (Part of the Canadian 4th Armoured Division) from July 1944 until after the end of the war, when he stayed on with the Army of Occupation. Unfortunately he survived the war, but succumbed later to Hodgkins Disease at the age of 37. This left huge gaps in my knowledge of his wartime story. Also, mementos were irretrievably lost, in the cleaning out my mother’s apartment. For years I had discussed with my wife Judy the possibility of retracing Sam’s wartime steps by visiting where his Regiment had fought, and finally she decided to book this tour.
We began, meeting Robert in the Roosendaal station, and then off to Bergen op Zoom, where we stayed in a comfortable hotel. Over the three days of touring we traced a number of the operations that the Algonquins and other Regiments of the 4th Canadian Division were involved in. At the beginning of each day Robert would orient us with maps of the Scheldt region, which gave an overview of the campaign to free up the Scheldt Estuary so allied shipping and supplies could make their way to the liberated port of Antwerp. Robert also showed film clips on his laptop, both Canadian and German, which gave further insight into the nature of the fighting. Driving with Robert, we would stop at strategic points, to review maps, and the evolution of a battle. Robert also carried with him tunics and caps from soldiers who had participated in each campaign. This added a human element to the stories about the fighting. Robert helped us to understand the nature of the fighting, the Allied vs German tactics, and above all the difficult conditions faced by the Canadians, as they fought through the landscape of polders and dikes. Conditions were miserable, and casualties and suffering were high.
A highpoint of the tour took place in Moerbrugge, where the Algonquins unsuccessfully attempted to cross the Leopold Canal, and to establish a beachhead so that an advance to cut off Germans retreating to Breskens could be achieved. One of the few stories I had from my father involved crossing the canal, and later being forced to retreat back across the water. The boats that had carried them across were gone and they were forced to swim. My father couldn’t swim, but he recalled that the radio pack on his back kept him afloat. In Moerbrugge, we met Wilfred Morre, a local, who was a child at the time of the failed canal crossing. We toured the battlefield with him and saw the crossroads, which marked the limit of the Algonquin’s advance. He also showed us a nearby farmer’s field, where the body of a long lost Algonquin was recently retrieved. Later we joined Wilfred for lunch, which he insisted on paying for. What a charming and gracious man. Later that day Robert showed us his personal collection of books, uniforms and artifacts that he had collected in a private museum in his home in Welburg. Robert also took us to several Canadian War Cemeteries including one near Welburg. As we walked past rows of Canadian graves, often grouped by dates, corresponding to the battles we had discussed, Robert would stop and recount stories about several of the soldiers buried there. Again he helped to provide immediacy and relevance to the the personal side of the fighting. Robert also provided helpful suggestions to retrieve more wartime information about my father.
After our time spent with Robert we were driven to Lochem to begin our Liberation of Holland tour. We settled into the Shanda Lee B&B, a comfortable place, located in the central square of Lochem. The following morning we met with Berry and Yvonne to begin our tour of the fighting in Eastern Holland. Berry and Yvonne not only served as guides for battlefield tours, they also were the owners of a local restaurant, Mondani, which specialized in Canadian cuisine, and served as a branch of the Canadian Legion. As Thursday was their day off, (Berry is the restaurant’s chef, and Yvonne manages and serves) both accompanied us for our day of touring. We began with the fighting around Lochem, and then visited Wierden, where the Algonquins suffered heavy casualties attempting to advance from Almelo across another canal to occupy a factory site within the approach to Wierden. In Wierden we were joined by Kees Kroon, a member of the local historical society. Kees took us to the sites of several Algonquin advances, which failed to take the town from the German defenders. We also visited a cemetery containing the graves of several Canadian Airmen who had crashed locally, as well as members of the local Resistance, who had lost their lives trying to liberate their town. A powerfully emotional moment happened when Kees pointed out the brass ‘stumble stone’ in front of the house of a Jewish Family, whose members had been deported to the Nazi death camps. Later Kees took us back to his historical society’s location to show us plaques honoring the Algonquins, and a slide presentation, that he was preparing, documenting the liberation of his town. I learned that the Algonquins spent several months after the war, in Wierden, helping with the post war restoration. I also know that my father had stayed on after the war in Holland, probably it was here in Wierden. My father had mentioned that he had a Dutch girlfriend, who had died of typhus. Chillingly, Kees showed a slide, with a news clipping about a local outbreak of typhus. Kees has promised to send the completed presentation, once it’s done.
The following day Berry deviated from the scheduled tour to take us to Germany. I had previously asked him about the fighting for the Hochwald Gap. After visiting the windmill overlooking the Rhine, where Montgomery and Crerar planned the crossing into Germany, we visited a museum commemorating the liberation of Holland. We visited a Canadian War Cemetery, and encountered a school group from Oakville, Ontario, who were also touring Holland. Berry then drove us to the site of the Reichwald Battle, and later the Hochwald. Berry had prepared materials which included maps, and outlined the progression of the fighting. We also visited the site where Aubrey Cosens was killed, and posthumously awarded the VC for charging a German held farmhouse, and killing the Germans there, before himself being mortally wounded by sniper fire. The highlight of the day was the visit to the Hochwald. We saw the plaque commemorating the battle, then walked through the tunnel under the dike and former railway right of way that passed through the Gap. We then climbed onto the former right of way, that commanded a view of the approach to the Gap, where the fighting apparently had been more intense than Normandy. I thanked Berry for altering the tours schedule to include the Hochwald.
We made our way back to Lochem, and directly to Berry and Yvonne’s restaurant, Mondani, for dinner. The restaurant is a shrine to Canada, and a must see for anyone visiting Lochem, not to mention the fine quality of Berry’s cooking and Yvonne’s hospitality. After a wonderfull dinner there we were ushered into the basement of the restaurant, where Berry kept his collection of wartime memorabilia. Berry had numerous artifacts from both German and Canadian soldiers, including an extensive collection of tunics.
The next day we were driven by Berry to Deventer for the train ride back to Amsterdam. We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated our time with Berry and Yvonne, and grew to think of them as friends.
Overall our experience with Canadian Battlefield Tours was highly positive, and we would recommend touring with you without hesitation. The guides, Robert, Berry, and Yvonne were passionate about the Canadians in Holland, and that passion showed in their expertise and knowledge. They were also wonderful people to have met and spent time with. Throughout the tour a greater understanding of what my father faced and experienced was garnered, although many gaps remain.
Thank you again,
Judy and Martin Kates, Ontario, Canada
We recently returned from our three-day tour of the Scheldt battlefield area with Robert Catsburg as our guide. We were in Belgium to attend the burial service for a relative, Private Kenneth Duncanson, at the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. He was killed during an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Leopold Canal near Bruges on September 14, 1944. His remains were recovered and identified in April of this year. He was laid to rest with military honours by his unit, The Algonquin Regiment, 72 years to the day after his death.
Our personalized and customized tour began the day after the service. The tour followed the movements of the Algonquin Regiment, who were part of the 10th Infantry Brigade in the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, from Moerbrugge, Belgium to Welberg in the Netherlands. It was a truly memorable experience because of Robert’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Scheldt battlefield area and the role Canadian forces played in the liberation.
Robert traveled with a large map of movements of the Canadian army in the Scheldt. At each stop he pulled out the map that covered the hood of his car. It helped us visualize what it must have been like for both the Canadian and German troops at the specific battle site we were visiting. The daily changes in his travelling museum of artifacts in the trunk of his car added to our understanding of the life of the soldiers. Viewing Second World War news footage on his computer reminded us of the hardships and triumphs experienced by the soldiers. This personalized tour allowed us to get to out-of-the-way sites and see things that would have been impossible to visit in a large group tour. In spite of a very full schedule, we never felted rushed and had ample time to absorb the information. Robert was always ready to answer our questions and made sure we fully understood the significance of what we were viewing.
We would also like to thank you for putting us in touch with Walter Cami. He is truly a remarkable gentleman. He took us to the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate and arranged for Judith to lay a bouquet of flowers in remembrance of Lewis Finch, a first cousin twice removed who died during the Battle of the Somme. He is buried in the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension. On the way to the Gate we stopped at Essex Farm and on the way back we visited the Brooding Soldier monument. Walter also insisted that he drive us from Bergen op Zoom to the Brussels airport when our tour with Robert concluded.
We have nothing but praise for the prompt and efficient way Gary organized this tour for us with very short notice and for the enthusiastic and passionate way Robert guided us for three days. We would recommend without hesitation, Canadian Battlefield Tours.
Gordon and Judith Thomas, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
We’re home now and remembering our tour with Ken Lees very fondly. His knowledge is impressive and the way he presented it, with maps and other materials, really helped us visualize the way things were for those poor soldiers. As for our stops in the Somme, words are inadequate. It was more meaningful than I could have ever imagined, being so close to the ground my great uncle Richard trod and died defending one hundred years ago.
Another example of Ken’s vast knowledge and the generosity with which he shares it was on the last day of our three day tour. We had stopped at the monument at Mouquet Farm where we happened to strike up conversations with two other couples visiting from Australia. As it turned out we had all lost great uncles on the same day, September 3, 1916, during the conflict at the Farm. Neither of their relatives had known graves, unfortunately, whereas we were able to go on to the Sunken Road Cemetery to visit mine. Ken pulled out his binder and showed them the approximate location of the Australians on that date. I could tell his information impressed them and will probably stay with them, as it will me, for a long time.
I hope Ken gets a chance to send me the poem he read at the Sunken Road Cemetery. It captured the moment perfectly!
Suffice to say our tour was one of the best experiences of our lives, thanks to you!
I will have no problem recommending Canadian Battlefield Tours and Ken Lees as a guide.
Jane Holland, Belleville, Ontario
Gary, while not much of a history buff I didn’t know what to expect. After taking this tour with Ken and staying with he and Karen I must say that Doreen and I were really impressed both with the tour and with the B&B. I don’t know how it could have been better, in fact, Doreen and I would be pleased to offer ourselves as references.
Mike & Doreen Weber, Ontario
I recently took in the “Battle of the Rhine” expedition with Berry and Jan (to refer to it as a tour seems a little bit of an understatement). It’s one thing to read history books – it’s quite another to visit the sites where that history occurred. The fact that the “normal” excursion was tailored to include items that had a personal family meaning was more than I could have imagined. It felt as though I was being hosted by friends that shared my interest and were able to provide a degree of insight that was truly remarkable.
I could go on but I realize that space is limited. I thought that Berry especially went above and beyond what one could expect and when you next speak with him, please let him know that I haven’t forgotten about the book I promised to send. I plan to relay my thoughts to my cousin as I’m sure his interest would be piqued- perhaps he will be a future client!
Once again Gary, thank you for the experience.
Jim Forbes,Vancouver, British Columbia
We recently returned from our three-day WWI Canadian Battlefields Tour. We were very fortunate to have Ken as our tour guide and equally as fortunate that we were able to stay at the B & B run by Ken and his wife, Karen. Ken met us at the train station in Arras and drove us to their B & B in Flers where Karen had a delicious dinner waiting for us, even though it was later in the evening.
Ken’s knowledge of our Canadian involvement in the battles of WWI is amazing! He was able to describe the events of the battles in such detail that we were able to feel as if it was right in front of us. We never felt rushed and Ken was able to answer any questions we might have. We were amazed by the number of Canadian memorials in the area and how well all the memorials and Commonwealth war cemeteries are maintained. It is a tribute to the sacrifice made by the soldiers of WWI.
At the end of each day, it was wonderful to be able to return to Ken and Karen’s lovely B & B. Karen always had a delicious dinner waiting for us and it was so nice to be able to relax and go over the details of our day. The breakfasts prepared by Karen were feasts in themselves. We were so warmly welcomed into their home that we now feel that we have made great new friends.
We would strongly recommend that every Canadian take this tour. It was very emotional and made us appreciate more than ever that the freedom we have today is largely due to the sacrifice of our Canadian soldiers.
We would certainly recommend Canadian Battlefield Tours, as well as Ken and Karen. If you wish to refer anyone to us for a recommendation, please feel free to do so.
Ed and Gail Walker, Walkerton, Ontario
On behalf of Jason and myself we advise that the four day tour of WWI battlefields on the Western Front conducted by Ken Lees was exceptional. His intimate knowledge of both the battles and the geography, particularly addressing the Canadian contribution, made for a most memorable trip. It was a most enjoyable and informative experience and we would be pleased to provide references to any parties that are considering the use of your Canadian Battlefield Tours.
I would also mention that we ran into a Canadian couple doing a similar tour on their own using a rental car and a GPS system. I can’t see how they could have seen as much as we did, certainly not in the stress-free, comfortable, relaxed manner we enjoyed.
Again many thanks for setting us up.
Bryan & Jason Dudek, Winnipeg, Manitoba
The tour was great. Berry and Yvonne were great hosts and he really knew his stuff. As part of our tour, we went to the small town that my wife’s family came from (Wapenveld). There used to be a family run shoe store in the town but we had no idea where it was. Yvonne insisted on stopping in at a store and sure enough, she was able to find out where it was in a few minutes (as Berry said, in the small towns everyone knows about everyone’s family). So, my wife was able to get her picture taken in front of the building (which is now a warehouse for the business).
Above and beyond service!!
All in all, a truly enjoyable day!
John Currie & Family, Toronto, Ontario (Liberation of Holland Tour)
Hi Gary… I’m not normally one to write testimonials (as you can see by how long it took me to create time for this short one). I hope this is helpful
The single best word to describe the service that Canadian Battlefield Tours provided is “flexible”.
John did his homework before we arrived and understood with our limited time we had two key areas we wanted to see. Normandy where my dad was involved in D-Day with British forces and Juno to get a sense of what our fellow-Canadians faced in their battle.
We knew we were going to be in good hands when John offered to either drive or simply act as a co-pilot in our own vehicle. He also offered to have his wife provide a lunch so as to save precious time (it was delicious by the way, and so nice to be able to enjoy it at the very spot where Canadians stormed Juno).
John was very sensitive to the emotional time our family needed where my dad was part of the invasion at Normandy. Based on his online research he was able to direct us to within 100 yards of where Dad’s action took place. He allowed us to take as much time as needed even though he knew it would mean sacrificing much needed time to explore other areas.
After leaving Normandy John directed us through the sites en route to Juno.
The depth of his knowledge can’t be over-stated. It was hard to take it all in but his experience was obvious as he adjusted his message based on what we actually had previously learned.
I would recommend Canadian Battlefield Tours for a tour involving individuals, families and groups. Regardless if you have a few hours or a few days, they will make great use of your every moment. At the end of your time together, you can’t help but be much more knowledgeable in what took place during those critical days of WWII.
Bruce Garrod and family, Ontario, Canada
Just a note in reference to a tour our family took on Sunday, September 29 in Normandy. Our guide for the day, John, gave us a wonderful tour. He had information on my father’s (Debbie’s) regiment so was able to make the tour more personal. We started with John picking us up at our hotel and had a little ‘get acquainted’ chat before we began so it was nice to get to know him a little before we started out. A very nice man and very personable. He started our tour by taking us to Juno Beach where he knew my father had walked onto land. He explained the landings and what our soldiers faced. He then took us along the Maple Leaf route stopping at different points of particular interest. Unfortunately we only had the one day to tour so John made sure we saw as much as possible. His wife was good enough to make us a lunch for a small fee so we had a little picnic. All told John was an excellent host and we were appreciative of his knowledge and patience when we asked questions or wanted to linger at certain places. John, we just want to say thank you! A very memorable experience.
Wishing you guys all the best and WHEN we do any tours again we will be sure to look to Canadian Battlefield Tours!
Doug, Debbie & Shari Lemon & Tina Soetaert, Alberta, Canada
We could not have been more pleased with our tour and our expert guides for our days in Normandy and Dieppe. The wealth of knowledge, dates and details form John and Frederick gave us a complete and much broader understanding of the times and experiences of our troops in both of those areas.
With John the most moving site visit was the chateau where 27 Canadian soldiers were executed one by one and buried much later to be found in the owners gardens and then of course, the Juno Beach memorial.
Frederick guided us through the battle of Puys Beach where my partner’s father had arrived with 650 British and Canadian soldiers and where he was one of only 65 who survived – only to return to the Dieppe shore 2 years later. He survived that endurance as well to live a healthy and productive life.
Frederick also gave us an option which we were glad to have taken – a visit to a missile preparation and launch site. Also a wonderful meal and visit with his family was very special.
Highly recommend any Canadian to take advantage of your uniquely developed tours and exceptional guides – all made our time so valuable and memorable.
Thanks from myself, Bill and my father for your care of us during our time with John and Frederick – never to be forgotten.
Gayle Sadler, Bill Milne & Jack Hill, Ontario, Canada
My wife Karen and I were recently fortunate to be hosted and toured by Gary and Dianne McKay, owners of Canadian Battlefield Tours and ‘t Shanda Lee B&B. From the organization of our tours complete with flights, accommodations, personal and local guides and experts, and detailed, pinpoint history of our forces involvement, we could not have been more pleased and informed. Having had both fathers as veterans of WWII, our interests were varied and on arrival in Europe, we had no idea what was about to be presented to us.
Gary’s intimate knowledge of the area and the battle history made this a complete eye opener to both Karen and myself. The intimate detail that Canadian Battlefield Tours and their guides offered made this tour a life experience for us. We were treated to precise detail that could never be offered on a generic tour.
Gary and Dianne’s B&B in Lochem, Holland, was a highlight and a perfect central point for our day tours.
We came home with a deep appreciation for the sacrifice and heroism of the Canadian forces. We are more proud to be Canadians than ever before. We would highly recommend the varied, personally planned tours and services offered by Gary and Dianne, Canadian Battlefield Tours, and their local guides. Thank you! We know that we have only touched the surface of what is available.
Greg and Karen Hayden, Stettler, Alberta
We had a great time, weather was great until the late afternoon of our last day (rain), we had two wonderful tour guides in John and Richard… Seeing the landing sites at Sword, Gold and Juno Beaches, the Juno Beach Center brought all of WW2 into perspective… We also visited the Cathedral in Bayeux and saw the Bayeux Tapestry…
With Richard, we saw the battlefields in the Somme Region, the site where the Red Baron crashed, the German Cemetery at Fricourt, Lochnagar Crater, Thiepval Memorial and Visitor Center, the Canadian Memorial Park on Vimy Ridge, the Notre Dame French Memorial Cemetery and the Ring of Remembrance there…Essex Farm where McRae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’, Menin Gate in Ypres, Commonwealth and German Cemeteries at Tyne Cot, Passchendaele and Langemark..
All in all it was a great trip and I would recommend that all Canadians see these sites and realize what a lot of young men died to give us the lives we have today… It is hard to believe that there are so many Cemeteries and Memorials in the region honouring Canadian and Commonwealth countries and how well they are maintained… n the rush to get us to the Train station in Lille in the rain on our last day, I forgot my glasses in Richard’s Car… I contacted him when we got home and he packaged and sent them to me, he is a special person and Travis and I really liked him…
Thanks Gary for your effort on our behalf…
Sincerely, Lawrie Schmidt; Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The Vimy Ridge & Ypres tour was great. The details the guide shared was excellent. My father was very happy with the duration and the details of each site shared. It was one of the highlights of his trip. I also enjoyed it very much.
Thank you for your assistance in arranging this for us. I would recommend this tour in the future.
Darlene Swabb; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Barry gave us a Normandy tour that went way beyond our expectations. He was superb. The lunch his wife provided lasted us 3 days. His explanations at the sites and anecdotes of what happened gave us a greater understanding of what occurred at the different areas. We had an extremely full day although starting out rainy and later very windy was by far the best we had on the whole cruise. Good luck on your season.
Bob & Marilyn Cowbrough; British Columbia
Canadian Battlefield Tours is an excellent way to follow the areas where a relative served during W. W. I or W. W. II. I would highly recommend this Canadian company.
John was very knowledgeable and zeroed in on the areas I wished to visit in Normandy.
Berry and Yvonne provided an excellent tour of the areas of the Netherlands I wished to visit, and included a prepared booklet on each tour day. They were very accommodating regarding time of day and length of tour each day.
Sandy Armstrong; Brandon, Manitoba
The Normandy tour with John was amazing. It was more than I expected. John went above and beyond my expectations. I would highly recommend Canadian Battlefield Tours for your tour.
Thank you for the spectacular tour.
Heather Roy, Ontario
**CBT- Heather had a particular interest in visiting her Uncles grave in Bretteville-sur-Laize. His name is Cecil Rogers, with the Algonquins- Grave reference XIII.A.2.
We had a wonderful day with Berry on May 13th. He took us to Veendam and Loppersum so we saw those places where Jim’s father had been. We took some photos with us and with Berry’s knowledge we located a church and the town hall in Veendam that look today just as the photo from the 1940s. Amazingly we also found a windmill that Jim’s father had taken a picture of in Loppersum.
Laurette Setterlund; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Gary, just writing with some feedback on the full day Canadian Normandy tour we did with John through CBT on July 22nd. In short, it was terrific. We started at Juno Beach and the Juno Beach Centre and then followed the “Maple Leaf Route” stopping at a number of significant spots along the way including the main Canadian cemetery and the Abbey d’Ardennes. John was very knowledgeable, informative and entertaining. He was also very patient with us and our 13 year old girls. We did not feel rushed at any point and John somehow managed to get us through the entire tour in the one day, which is a lot of ground to cover. A memorable and worthwhile experience. Glad we did it. Take care. DW
David Wiseman; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Hi Gary, we had a great experience and a lot of fun. Our guide, Richard, was attentive to our needs looking after us for three full-days. His knowledge of the battles and actions of the Great War was impressive and an unexpected bonus was his own experience in soldiering which added greatly to our understanding of the life of a soldier at that time. Also, we really appreciated the effort in researching and then explaining where my grandfather served in the Great War. That attention to my own family’s connection to the war was the icing on the cake. Finally, we could never have covered as much ground geographically or historically on our own in just three days.
Kevin Kitchen and family;Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
PS: I would be interested in returning in a few years for a WW2 tour.
A while ago you asked us to give you comments about the tour of the Canadian WW 1 battlefields that we had with Ken in late June. Since we have been away most of the summer, we are just now getting our heads back to our wonderful trip in North Eastern France. Many thanks for the role you played in getting us to Ken and Karen.
When we met our Canadian Battlefield tour guide Ken, we were greatly reassured that all our questions would be answered and that the tour would more than meet our expectations. Ken is an extremely knowledgeable guide and has the people skills to be able to read each member’s particular interests and to be able to respond appropriately. We grew to admire his passion, particularly when we saw the size of his library. Ken tailored an itinerary which provided for visits to the principal sites we wanted to see. The time allotted to each of our 4 days was appropriate and Ken was both good company and well informed. He was willing to undertake additional research when a person or site was of particular interest. The four days we spent with Ken were well planned, smoothly executed and thoroughly enjoyable.
At the end of the day the B&B operated by Ken and his wife Karen was a welcome respite, well located and well suited to our needs. It was very comfortable and the ambience, warm and welcoming. We were happy to beat a retreat at the end of the day to their lush garden to sit and recap the day with a drink in hand. Certainly, the meals that Karen prepares are a highlight of the stay. The three-course dinners were all prepared with fresh ingredients, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. Breakfasts were more than ample
Overall, we enjoyed our tour with Canadian Battlefield Tours and Ken immensely and would recommend him as a guide.
D’Arcy & Leslie McGee; Bill & Nancy Dickson; Vancouver, British Columbia
Robert, I’ve no idea how to thank you properly. Today you connected me to a part of my father’s life story that had been, until now, a closed book.
It was overwhelming on an emotional level and I am profoundly grateful to you for your kindness, your sensitivity and, above all, your impeccable research. You also made my “pilgrimage” so much fun. I only wish I’d properly understood the need for a longer visit to the Scheldt.
I so much wish that I’d been in touch with you and Gary when my father was still alive. Right up until about a decade ago, he would have been able to join us. He would have loved your sense of humour and your incredible attention to detail. I count it as a privilege that you agreed to take me around the key areas of the Scheldt battleground.
I am – and will be for some time – absorbing everything I have seen and heard today. It was an experience I will never forget.
Thank you so much for ordering 554 Field Company’s War Diary. It’s very exciting to think of the secrets it might reveal.
Tim Barr, Scotland
My expectations were exceeded on all counts. Rosemary and Lt Colonel Chilcott were charming hosts, and our accommodations at the Le Manoir des Doyens in Bayeux were quite enjoyable. It was great that Rosemary was able to provide us with transportation both from and to the train station, shared afternoon tea the first day, showed us around their excellent map room, made sure we were able to find our way around Bayeux, and had a lunch ready for us to take on our tour. Time flew by too quickly, as lots of engaging conversation took place the first afternoon, and each morning around the breakfast table.
The battlefield tour conducted by John was very impressive, and left me with memories for a lifetime of the history and landscape where D-day and its aftermath occurred. John is an excellent historian and guide; the drive he took us on around the Normandy beaches and inland, was priceless – the best and only way to go as far as I’m concerned – would do it again in a heartbeat. Lots of time was allowed to take in Sword, Juno, and Gold; the great memorials, museums, and battlefield sites between Bayeux, Caen, and Falaise. It was very moving to see Ardenne Abbey where 20 Canadian soldiers were executed by the SS, the Canadian cemeteries such as Beny-sur-Mer, and on our second day – meeting a couple of French gentlemen who approached us at a Canadian memorial, and asked me, “Vous etes Canadien?” One of the men was from the local area and was orphaned at age 10 when an Allied bomb fell on his parents farmhouse; and an acquaintance visiting from Quebec City, whose cousin, Gerard Dore, volunteered for the Canadian Army regiment Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal when he was 15 years old. Private Gerard Dore was killed on the 23rd July 1944, when he was only 16 years old, and now rests in BRETTEVILLE-SUR-LAIZE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY. John, David, and myself were all invited back to the French man’s house for coffee and to hear more about their WWII experiences. John expertly conducted the French translation. We then went out and found Gerard’s memorial site, and then we proceeded to find his grave at the Canadian cemetery. So many highlights, but this was my personal highlight – amazing!
Best wishes to all, thanks for great memories, and hope to see you again in the future.
Earl Walter & David Anholt, Alberta, Canada
Thanks Gary, for the marvellous tour. We very much appreciated your knowledge and insight into D-day and the contribution made by Canadians (often overshadowed) but also to the co-ordination required by all allies. The scope cannot be fully appreciated until one sees the vastness of the site. Both Doug and I thought that your tour was the highlight of our time in France. It will bring new meaning to Remembrance Day.
As you have probably heard on your news, a Canadian soldier was murdered while standing guard at our national war memorial in Ottawa and went on to attack the parliament buildings. Seeing first hand the sacrifice that was made during both wars makes the cowardly act more unfathomable. It has certainly strengthened our resolve that there are certain things that are worth fighting for.
We would love to return and spend more time in Normandy. It truly was a life changing experience.
Many thanks again for a tour that should not be missed.
Donna and Doug Banks, Bethany, Ontario
I was picked up in Bayeux, as arranged, although I was 15 mins late. We spoke of what I wanted out of my visit and I explained that I would like to follow the same route my grandfather took until his death on the 11 August 1944. We visited and stopped at every village, where my guide had a story to tell every step of the way. We got to the last village at about 12 noon. I decided to go no further and told my guide to have an early day. He asked what I was planning to do on the next day. I was planning to do the beach tour and he insisted on taking me that afternoon, up through the beaches. This saved me half a day on my tight schedule and was very much appreciated. I visited my grandfathers grave and felt very humble to follow in his footsteps and his fellow soldiers. My tour guide was awesome; his knowledge of that area and operations was exceptional. Because of him, I later found out my grandfather was evacuated to Normandy general hospital in Bayeux, where he succumbed to his wounds. I have also a deeper respect for all the troops who took part in the landings, heroes to a man.
I would, and have, recommended Canadian Battlefield Tours to everyone.
Charles Ireland, Northern Ireland
Both Richard and John were amazing in their amount of knowledge and we really enjoyed 2 days with each of them. They customized the tour to suit our needs and brought along their own pictures and books. We learned a lot with the highlights being: the tour of an actual battlefield with Richard at Newfoundland plus his teaching of the the underground warfare to us. John took us to some remote areas such as the Pegasus Bridge, Gondre Cafe and Falise Gap. Both were able to answer all our questions and we are glad we did a private tour as we learned so much in the two days each with them. We would highly recommend both to interested parties.
Bruce and Lori, Vancouver, BC
Our family thoroughly enjoyed our Canadian Battlefield Tour experience. John went out of his way to make our tour in Normandy specific and personal as we retraced our Dad’s and Grandfather’s WW2 footsteps.
Berry enthusiastically did the same for us in the Netherlands where our father and grandfather were involved in the Liberation of Holland.
We would certainly recommend Canadian Battlefield Tours to anyone who wishes to do a very personal tour.
Marie Armitage, R. Gary Carey and Sherry McLeod
We had a wonderful time with John. He was a pleasure to be with for 3 days I’m just trying to deal with the photographs I hope to send a couple to John this weekend along with a thank you note.
Allan & Nancy Walkinshaw, Ontario, Canada
When I was searching for tours of Normandy, your company was the first one that made me really stop and research your site. What better way to see the sites our troops were in than with a Canadian company. I recommend tours with you and your guide, John, before any other company available.
Thank you again for an experience I will never forget. We MUST keep these memories alive, our soldiers died for our FREEDOM.
LEST WE FORGET
I want to thank you so much for such a wonderful day. Thank you Gary for setting me up with John. He is a true historian, I learned so much on this tour. Some of it happy and a lot of it sad, but everything seemed so real. I thought I had done enough research to know what I would be seeing, but didn’t know even half of it. John, thank you for making it real for me, I could stand and look at places and actually picture what you were talking about.
It is hard to believe these places that are now so quiet and beautiful were filled with death and destruction. Now that the 70th anniversary is almost here, it makes it all the more important that I actually had been there. Thank you for being so patient and answering my many questions. I will never forget this great trip, all that I learned and all that I saw. It was remarkable and made me very thankful for all the allies who fought for our freedom.
Thank you both for keeping this important piece of Canadian history alive.
PS. Sorry I had to quit the tour a bit early. my knees couldn’t go anymore, thank you John for getting me back safely to the station
Deb Connell, Canada
The tour was fantastic and John was excellent. We all really got a great appreciation for what happened on D Day and it was very powerful to be at the actual locations where Canadian troops fought.
John’s knowledge and insights were great and he told us many things that we didn’t know before. He also expanded our understanding of what happened on D Day with respect to the American and particularly the British aspects of D Day (Pegasus Bridge etc.)
Overall a fantastic and very moving day for all of us.
Ian Ray, Ontario
Many thanks to Gary McKay and Canadian Battlefield Tours for a once in a lifetime tour of Canadian World War I and II battlefield sites. To sum up my incredible experience I offer a “top 5 reasons to book your tour with Canadian Battlefield Tours”.
5. Accommodation – Gary did a superb job of locating excellent hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations.
4. Tour Detail – Through the “private tour by car” format I got to see and learn much more about these events than would be allowed in a larger, group tour format.
3. Balance – Gary and the other tour guides I met combined both expert guiding and the opportunity to strike out on my own and learn about places of great personal importance.
2. Personalized Service – Gary McKay’s Canadian Battlefield Tours offered friendly, comfortable and informative service. Most importantly Gary listened and responded in building an itinerary that catered to my areas of interest.
1. Convenience – Amazing ease and convenience in planning the tour. From airline bookings to great accommodation to the tour itself, Canadian Battlefield Tours took care of all the details.
Thanks to Gary McKay and all the people at Canadian Battlefield Tours
Gord Wyatt, Alberta
We very much enjoyed our day with Berry and Yvonne and were well taken care of. Our goal to visit the various towns and villages that the British Columbia Dragoons had helped to liberate. was definitely fulfilled. In addition, we appreciated the opportunity to meet an elderly gentlemen who shared his story of being saved by the Dragoons in one of the villages. Since coming home we have discovered other places in that area that we would have liked to visit so we are hopeful that we will be able to do a second trip of much longer duration in the not too distant future.
James and Laurette Setterlund, Alberta
My husband and I greatly enjoyed our tour with Canadian Battlefield Tours. For a very long time I have wanted to visit the grave site of my grandfather who died in WWII on Juno Beach. Canadian Battlefield Tours helped me make it a reality. Our tour guide John picked us up from our hotel and showed us many of the major sites along the beaches, educating us about the taking of the beaches by the allies. He did prior research into my grandfathers regiment and took us to the exact landing site they arrived on. It was not a generic tour at all but a customized tour to my grandfather’s and the Canadian experience. Being able to see my grandfather’s grave site was very moving and a moment I will never forget. Thank you John and Canadian battlefield tours for an unforgettable day.
Kyla Maki – Alberta
A uniquely close-textured experience, quite impossible to have arranged and executed independently, which has given us a treasure of impressions and thoughts.
John & Gillian Drinkwater – UK
Stalag V111B tour; 9th to 12th September 2013.
My sister and I took part in this tour as our father had been a prisoner of war between May 1940 and April 1945.
We were part of a group of eleven who took part and we shared information and learnt from each other. The programme was well planned and we certainly fitted a lot into the time we had. Because of Gary’s contacts we also were invited to meet with some Polish people who were very interested in our trip and our Father’s stories. This included being invited to a school and to two Civic receptions. We all learnt a lot from the trip and the people we met. At times the experience was moving, emotional and sad, but we also had fun together as a group and got on well, supported by Gary McKay and by Philip Baker.
Memories of this trip will stay with me for ever.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make the journey to Poland to honour the memory of our father, and to gain more understanding of his experience of being in Stalag V111B at Lamsdorf.
June Johnson & Kath Downton – UK
Our Normandy tour day with John was wonderful he is very knowledgeable. John definitely met our expectations and we were completely satisfied. John assisted us with some important details prior to our arrival in Bayeax from Paris. He picked us up at our hotel and we spent the day visiting various Historical sites on our list. He dropped us off at the train station for our trip back to Paris. We have only been back for a week and can’t wait to reviewing the pictures and the books we brought back with us.
Lloyd and Sue Service – Ontario
I learned so much about the opening up and eventual liberation of Holland and the Rhineland campaign from Gary McKay in two days of travel with him through this very beautiful part of Europe. He’s a great tour planner and guide, and just as importantly he’s excellent company on the road. My mother and I have memories from our experiences together on this tour that are now shared treasures for us. A private tour is the only way we would have seen and learned as much as we did. From our trip with Gary we have brought home stories that we will re-tell to our family about the places where our fallen relative spent the last weeks of his life; strands of history that will help us perpetuate his memory in our family, hopefully for generations to come.. I must have told the story about you taking us to Haus Seelen three dozen times since I got back home and I still get shivers every time I think about it. Being at a place where my relative almost certainly was present, only 68 years ago, was profound.Thanks to the tour with you I have lots of new information that will be a springboard for me to learn more about those weeks during Operation Blockbuster. I have already requested a copy of a transcript of an account given by Brig. Gen. Megill (5th Infantry Brigade) that is in the National Archives. I am also going to see if I can get copies of the submissions that the Calgary Highlanders made in the 1950s for their various WWII Battle Honours. Interestingly, Haus Seelen and Birten were on the Highlanders’ list, but were not accepted for Battle Honours recognition. Nevertheless it would be interesting to see what the Regiment’s written descriptions were of those engagements.
Doug Wright, Newfoundland
Please accept our thanks for all of your considerable efforts and good advice which made our trip to the Netherlands such a wonderful experience.The layout and location of your Bed and Breakfast is exceptional. The rooms are a serene mix of Dutch heritage and spotlessly clean modern convenience. We certainly enjoyed the variety of food offered each morning in the dining area. The balcony was a splendid place to begin and end the day, absorbing the peace and beauty of your garden. The convenient access to the square in Lochem with all of its shops and restaurants was a real treat.
We found the battlefield tours to be both informative and relaxing as we followed actual routes that the Canadian First Army used, getting to places only a small vehicle could access. Gary, your enthusiasm and knowledge of the events of the Liberation helped us realize what a struggle it was for the Canadian soldiers in 1944-45. We appreciated your flexibility in your tour planning, accommodating our particular “must sees” and the weather. Your good humor made each day a delight as we traveled through the back roads and small villages.
We would heartily recommend Canadian Battlefield Tours to anyone who has the desire to know more about the Canadian involvement in the Liberation of Holland and are also interested in experiencing life in a small village in the Netherlands.
Joyce and David Thompson Guelph, Ontario
Our recent Canadian Battlefields tour in Germany with you was exceptional! It could not have been better and all the work you put in and attention to detail was very evident over our two days together. My son and I were very interested in my father’s service with the Calgary Highlanders in Germany close to the end of WWII; where he saw action and where he fell. Thank you for taking the time to research our particular, personal objective and to make sure we had an accurate understanding of what we were seeing.
Joan Wright, BC
Canadian Battlefield Tours provided me with exactly the type of in depth tour I had hoped for. My personal interest in Belgium was looked after. I was representing my community to pay respect to a fallen airman from Norwood. Canadian Battlefield Tours, on their own, arranged a lovely reception and ceremony with local dignitaries of Waasmunster for me.
My interest in seeing where an uncle had fought in Holland were highlights of the tour. The guides I worked with were very knowledgeable and extremely enthusiastic and at every stop I was allowed to decide how much time I wanted to spend at that location. Overall I am delighted that I chose Canadian Batttlefield Tours for my first trip to look at WW11 history. I am thinking of another trip in the future and will use this company again for sure.
Doug Pearcy; Mayor, Norwood, Ontario
Ken and I Just wanted to let you know that we really enjoyed Lochem, the restaurants and your B & B. What a lovely town! We appreciate all the driving you did and the sites we visited. Following my Dad’s Division of the Canadian Army was very moving for me as well. We loved your ‘door to door’ service from Amsterdam to Lochem and back. Thanks so much.
Ken and Sharon Weitzel, Ontario