Oxfordshire the (Rifles) Battalion ACF Tour of France & Belgium 2012


Guest of the Robin Hood Rifles Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF

Day One Thursday 28th June 2012

We made our way to South Mimms service station to meet up with the Robin Hood Rifles, Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF, we all had a short break and boarded the coaches and made our way to the Euro Tunnel. At 12.30hrs, we left the UK for Calais arriving in Calais at 13.05hrs; we then departed for the final leg of our journey to the Royal Astor Hotel Ostend Belgium, our home for the next five days. We viewed our rooms and unpacked. After our evening meal, we had a briefing for the next day then spent the evening visiting the local town and of course, the beach, this was a stone’s throw away from the Hotel.

Day Two Friday 29th June 2012

This morning we went onto the promenade to rehearse our marching displays, this was well received by the locals and tourist alike. At 11.30hrs, we boarded the coaches and departed for the Town of. Dikesmuide to visit the Dikesmuide Tower Museum. This posed a great opportunity for the Buglers to play the last post and reveille on the top of the tower, it was a very proud moment for the Buglers, especially seeing the public stopping in the streets, and getting out of their cars.

Buglers from The Robin Hood Rifles Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF,& the Corunna Band & Bugles of Oxfordshire the (Rifles) Battalion ACF, on top of the Dikesmuide Tower.

We then went to Fromelles Cemetery, which is the newest commonwealth war grave, which was opened officially in January 2010. Most of the Soldiers laid to rest here were from the Australian Army. We laid a wreath on the monument whilst the Buglers played last post & reveille. We then departed for the hotel and returned just in time for dinner.

Day Three Saturday 30th June

This morning we had rehearsals on the promenade, again to the delights of the locals & tourist. We departed the hotel at 11.30hrs and were en-route to visit the Town of Ypres, seeing the Menin Gate was a first for many of our Cadets & Adults, we had a chance to look around the shops, to try the local cuisine, to visit the Cloth Hall Museum, Flanders Fields’ Museum, and St Georges Memorial Church. We departed Ypres and took a short journey to Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is the largest British Cemetery on the Western Front with 11,500 war graves a memorial wall at the back of the cemetery that has 34,888 names of soldiers from many different regiments that were killed between 16th August 1917 and the end of the war. We laid a wreath, whilst the Buglers played last post and reveille, while the buglers played everyone in the cemetery came to a standstill to pay their respects.

The Robin Hood Rifles Corp of Drums, Nottinghamshire ACF & The Corunna Band & Bugles of Oxfordshire the (Rifles) Battalion ACF, At Tyne Cot Cemetery.

We then departed for Langemarck the German Cemetery, within the cemetery, it contains the remains of 44,000 German soldiers, and 25,000 of these lie near the entrance in a single mass grave. At 16.45 we departed for the hotel, after dinner at 19.45hrs we did a full dress rehearsal on the promenade for our big day tomorrow.

Day Four Sunday 1st July 2012.

Sunday was our big day. It was an early start, as we had to depart the hotel at 08.00hrs for the two and half hour journey to the French Village of Foncquevillers. When we arrived at Foncquevillers, we had to change into our uniforms ready for our first parade to the British War Graves a great sense of pride was felt by all, as we marched off to the  cemetery, a short service was delivered in English and French and wreaths laid to honour the fallen. We then had a short march to the French Resistance Memorial and the Monument of a Canadian Plane that was shot down over the Village during the Second World War. After we had finished our parades, the locals put on a delicious three-course meal, which we all enjoyed very much.

Parade and Service at the British War Graves Cemetery in the Village of Foncquevillers.

We departed Foncquevillers at 16.00hrs and headed for our final parade at the Menin Gate Ypres Belgium, We had time for a short walk and refreshments in Ypres before we began our final parade. At 19.30hrs, we needed to be ready and formed up at the Menin Gate by 20.00hrs. The amount of people from so many different countries was amazing to see, and the atmosphere of the Menin Gate was quite over whelming. As we marched off to the whole crowd clapping and cheering, I do not think any of us had ever been as proud as we were then. At 21.00hrs we departed Ypres for the hotel for our last night in Belgium and too McDonalds.

Marching through the Menin Gate

Day Five Monday 2nd July 2012.

After breakfast, we loaded the coaches ready to set off at 09.00hrs for our return journey to the UK. We arrived at the Euro Tunnel and departed Calais at 13.00, having arrived in the UK, we headed off to South Mimms service station to pick up our transport to take us back to Oxfordshire and say our final good byes to the Robin Hood Rifles, Corp of Drums.

 Summarise

The tour gave all us an experience of a lifetime, and opened our eyes to the day-to-day challenges endured by the Service Man during the Great Wars. This tour was an opportunity not to have missed; the parades we undertook left us all with a great sense of pride to be able to honour the fallen and our Service Men still serving in the Armed Forces today.

For more information contact Peter Broome on broome234@btinternet.com

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