Saturday, 8 June 2019


That's it. All done. We are at a hotel near the airport ready for tomorrow morning's flight and the hire car has been returned.

We left Dunkirk this morning in very unpleasant windy and rainy weather but fortunately, it fined up enough for us to spend some time in central Brugge, a most interesting old town, which deserved more time.

The rest of the day was spent in very unpleasant weather on the motorway getting back to Amsterdam.

We fly out on Sunday morning and get to Brisbane on Monday evening. Back to the real world after a fantastic experience.

Friday, 7 June 2019


We spent this morning driving from Amiens to Dunkirk, or Dunkerque as it appears to be locally known now heading back towards Amsterdam and the flight home.
Once here, we spent some time exploring the local beaches and the centre of town. There is very little trace of what happened here in 1940.

We have had a fabulous adventure but, as always, we are now very much looking forward to getting home.

Thursday, 6 June 2019


Today was our final day in the Amiens area. Tomorrow we head for Dunkirk.

We only visited the one military memorial this morning, the Beaufort Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. It is a memorial to soldiers from Newfoundland, now part of Canada. Part of the battlefield has been preserved substantially as it was after the battle, complete with remnants of the trench system. The memorial is staffed by Canadian students who act as guides. They spend four months on the site.

From there we went to Cite Souterraine at Naours. An underground city that started out as a chalk quarry in the third century but has been substantially expanded so that it became a hiding place for the local townspeople in times of strife.

It has numerous rooms but one of those featured in the self guided underground tour is the chapel. At one stage in its development, the local parish priest played a prominent role.

This afternoon, we went for a walk in the canal district of Amiens - not impressive compared with the canal systems we have seen in recent weeks but we had to check it out..

Wednesday, 5 June 2019


It is difficult to comprehend how many war graves are spread around this area. Our focus was on Australian war cemeteries but there are cemeteries everywhere, large and small, spread throughout the farming areas.

Our particular focus today was the Australian War Memorial at Villers Brettoneux and the John Monash Centre attached thereto. My great uncle Brian Higgins, my mother's father's brother, has his name on the wall as somebody who was killed in action on the western front with no known grave.

He is known to have been killed on 29th July 1916 but his body was never recovered. My grandfather had another brother, Tom, who was killed at Gallipoli.

Bernie also found the name of his great uncle on the wall.

We spent this afternoon finding and visiting many more memorials as shown below. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2019


We are now in France at Amiens having made an emotional journey via Fromelles

and Bullecourt where we stopped for a coffee only to find the sign below on a shed in the little village

and Bernafay where one of Bernie's great uncles is buried. It is known that his remains are buried in the cemetery but it is not known where in the cemetery he is.

After arriving at our accommodation in suburban Amiens, we headed for the old town and the Notre Dam Cathedral, much bigger than its namesake in Paris and relatively undamaged during World War One.

Like so many places in this part of the world, it also commemorates the contribution of the Australian soldiers during the war.

 Tomorrow we head for the famous Villiers Bretonneau.

Monday, 3 June 2019



A very sober day today in that we spent the day exploring the local area so badly affected by the First World War and the spectacular memorials which exist to those who perished in the war. Unfortunately the warm weather hasn't lasted. Back to 20 degrees today but still a lot warmer than Norway.

We visited the Flanders War Museum in Ypres, a very educational but challenging experience. The town and the villages surrounding it were completely destroyed in the war. It is an absolute credit to all concerned that the town and villages have been restored in what appears to be original condition.

The buildings destroyed included the cathedral.

A gate to the city is a memorial to the thousands who died.

It is difficult to believe that an area as tranquil as it now appears could have been so catastrophically destroyed.


The highlight of the day was a guided tour we had of the Tyne Cot Cemetery where thousands are buried but thousands more whose bodies were never found are memorialised. A truly moving experience. Brian Higgins is mentioned on a digital record of Australian soldiers killed. His brother is no doubt also mentioned but I couldn't identify him. I know that they are memorialised at Villiers Brettoneux.

On a much lighter note, when we collected the hire car yesterday, the lady at Europcar was at pains to make sure that we knew that the car was a manual car. She also asked us whether we wanted a GPS. That would have cost extra. We declined because I had brought mine from home. When we got into the car, it turned out it was an automatic with a GPS. Unfortunately the cruise control is not adaptive.

France tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 June 2019


Transition day today in that we disembarked from the ship in a very orderly manner, got let down by the company which was supposed to transport us to the airport where we were to collect the hire car but solved that with a taxi, collected the hire car and drove to Belguim where we are now comfortably settled. Note the tee shirts. 31 degrees today. very different to the last two weeks.

Tomorrow we start the serious task of visiting the world war one battle and war grave locations of which there are many in this area.

Our hotel is located just outside the village of Kemmel with a spectacular view of the surrounding country. Because it is a hill, it is the location of a series of battles in which 5,000 French soldiers died. There is memorial on the other side of the hill which tells the story.

Our hire car is a Renault Talisman station wagon into which we and our luggage comfortably fit. So far no problems sitting on the wrong side of the car driving on the wrong side of the road.