ANZAC by Scott Brand

On the 25th April 1915, Australian and New Zealand forces stepped ashore onto the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsular, Turkey. They were part of a large expeditionary force comprising of British, Indian, Newfoundland and French forces, with the aim of fighting their way into Turkey and capturing Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

An ambitious plan, and what could have been a bold strike that might well have changed the course of the war, very quickly deteriorated into stalemate of trench warfare only a short distance inland from the landing sites. A variety of reasons contributed to this impasse, but primarily the fighting ability of the Turks was severely underestimated, putting up a fierce and unrelenting defence.

Australians in WW1

 
The end result was eight months of horrific trench warfare, which claimed the lives of thousands of men from both sides as a result of combat and disease.  When it was acknowledged that the Gallipoli campaign was untenable, the decision was made to leave the peninsular and on the 20th December 1915, The Australians and New Zealanders under secrecy and the cover of darkness were evacuated from Gallipoli. In those eight months, 28,150 Australians became casualties, which includes 8,709 killed and 7,473 New Zealanders with 2,721 killed in action.
Rewinding sixteen months to the outbreak of war in August 1914, Australia had only been a federated nation for thirteen years and New Zealand seven, and though contingents of militia from both Australia and New Zealand had been sent to fight in South Africa during the Boer War, both countries had not fought in any major conflicts as nations. Keen to play their part, both Governments went about recruiting men, and thousands of men rallied to the call. Late 1914, the first wave of Australians and New Zealanders set off destined for the Western Front in Europe, but were diverted to Egypt and subsequently Gallipoli. This contingent of antipodeans were known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, but more commonly ANZAC’s, and it was the 25th April 1915 that the ANZAC’s wrote themselves into history and into the psyche of the Australian and New Zealand Nations.
 
Gallipoli Battlefields

The 25th April soon became a day of remembrance, with the first ANZAC day in 1916. There were commemoration ceremonies throughout the two countries and 2000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers marched through the streets of London. However, Gallipoli would be the last time the two nations would fight side by side for some time and it wouldn’t be until June 1917 at the Battle of Messines in Belgium, before they fought alongside each other again Throughout the remainder of the war ANZAC day continued to be a day of commemoration with marches in major cities, but it was used for recruitment rallies also.
At the end of hostilities in November 1918, over 60,000 Australian and over 18,000 New Zealanders had been killed, the majority on the Western Front. ANZAC day commemorations continued after the war, though there was no formal organisation, commemorations took on many different forms throughout Australia, with a morning vigil being popular amongst veterans as they most likely found peace in the quite solitude of the dawn. It was these vigils that formed the basis of the Dawn Service, which is a regular part of the ANZAC commemorations we know today.
Dawn ANZAC Day Service on the Somme

ANZAC day continued to be popular and following Word War 2, there became a new generation of ANZAC’s to commemorate. In the 1960’s with Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the popularity of ANZAC Day declined with many commemoration services marred by anti-war protests. It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that they regained the popularity and attendance they had seen post World War 2.
As a young soldier in the Australian Army in the 1980’s, I participated in many ANZAC day commemorations and I have strong memories of marching along George Street in Sydney and the pavements were lined with thousands of people. As far as the eye could see along George Street it was a sea of khaki, white and blue, with the men and woman of the Army, Navy and Airforce, marching alongside veterans of three wars. The day always started with the dawn service at a war memorial local to our barracks and then it was back to the RSL (Returned Service League) for a rum with the veterans, before heading into the city for the main march. ANZAC day always ended back at an RSL for the biggest game of two-up, with the calls of “come in spinner” ringing around the room. Incidentally the only time it’s legal to play.
Villers-Bretonneux

In my younger years, I always associated ANZAC day with the remembrance of the dead and missing in the mud of France and Flanders, the beaches of Gallipoli and the sands of Mesopotamia, however as I become more involved in military history it became more than that for me.  ANZAC day for me now is not only commemorating the ultimate sacrifice so many of those men made, but it is also remembering the ones that came back. So many returned from war changed men, whether physically or mentally and the war would have a profound impact on them for the rest of their lives. It’s also reflecting on the impact war has on those left behind, whether grieving for the loss of a loved one or caring for the injured. Seeing the veterans turned out in their best bib and tucker, proudly wearing their medals, smiling and joking amongst their mates, it was easy for me to forget the painful memories so many would have had.
ANZAC day is for commemorating the fallen and celebrating the achievements of the Australian forces in all the wars it has been involved in, but also reflecting on and remembering as it has been so eloquently said to me so many times “Just ordinary men doing extraordinary things”
Join us for our Centenary of ANZAC at Villers-Bretonneaux on this 5-day tour from £399pp.

10 interesting facts about Germany

Germany is proudly the seventh most visited country in the world and it sure is packed with so many things to see and do, so there’s no wonder people flock there in their droves.

Whatever you are looking for, whether it’s a city break, Christmas market trip, a cross country tour or even a historical pilgrimage, there’s something for everyone in Deutschland.
So, if you’re still in the research phase of your holiday planning, or just wanting to brush up on you knowledge before heading off on your German adventure, we’ve compiled our top 10 interesting facts about Germany just for you.

Here are our facts about Germany…

1. Germany is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe

The country has a staggering population size of 80,636,124 people, which means even though Germany is a rather large country, there are actually 231 people per square kilometre!

2. One third of Germany is still covered in Forest and Woodland

Despite the population density, a good proportion of Germany is actually still covered in foliage, and boy is it spectacular. If you’re a fan of the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales, you might just want to pay a visit to the beautiful Black Forest… the setting of many of their stories.

3. Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris and has more bridges than Venice

Did you realise how big Berlin actually is? Dating back to the 13th century, the city spans a whopping 891.8 km², which gives plenty of room for the 1650 bridges it houses.

4. During JFK’s famous declaration of “Ich bin ein Berliner” he actually likened himself to a jam doughnut.

Yes, you read that right… What JFK should have said is “Ich bin Berliner” meaning “I am a citizen of Berlin”, as a Berliner is actually a type of jelly donut made in Berlin, so “Ich bin ein Berliner” can actually be translated to “I am a jam doughnut”.

5. Germany’s Capital City has shifted 7 times!

Now here’s one to remember for the pub quiz! Germany’s capital has shifted from Aachen during the Carolingian Empire to Regensburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Nuremberg, Berlin, Weimar (unofficially, during unrest in Berlin), Bonn and East Berlin, and, since 1990, Berlin again!

6. Germany is sometimes known as the land of poets and thinkers

German writers and have won 13 Nobel Prizes and Germany was home to world-renowned writers such as Friedrich Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Günter Grass and Maria Stona.

7. Germany is Europe’s second largest beer consumer

Just behind the Czech Republic, the German’s are known to consume a fair amount of ‘liquid gold’. However, given the Bavarian’s consider beer to be a basic food and drink an average of 150 litres per person per year, so we think they’re giving the Czech’s a good run for their money.

8. The longest word published in the German language is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft

This loosely translates to Danube steamboat shipping electricity main engine facility building sub clerk association. It is a law delegating beef label monitoring, was removed from the German language in 2014.

9. The German football team is the second most successful football team in the world

The beautiful game is a British sport and a hard fought rivalry in the football world. We have to hand it to Germany on this one, falling just behind Brazil, winning four world cups and three European championships, so they certainly can play us at our own game.

10. The first book to ever be printed was the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s in Germany

The first mass produced printed book was the Latin Bible and was originally published in February 23, 1455 in Mainz.

Are you tempted by Germany? Then join one of our many escorted tours for a great value holiday to some of the best destinations. Click here to see what’s on offer.

Coach Holidays: Breaking the Stereotype

You could probably stereotype any type of holiday, from an 18-30s or a couples’ retreat, and if we don’t usually associate ourselves with those we assume we would be travelling with, it could well be a make or break factor.

But, what about coach holidays? Who exactly would you be travelling with? What sort of people would go on a coach holiday? Well… everyone!
We asked a collection of passengers, who have previously travelled on a coach holiday, a series of questions to shine some light on the mysterious passengers on board your coach and what it is you can really take away from a coach holiday.

Let’s take a look at your fellow passengers…

A common question we get asked from people who are thinking about travelling on a coach holiday is about the age of fellow passengers. Will they feel that they are too young or too old?

71% of people we asked thought, prior to their coach holiday, that their fellow passengers would be over 50 years old with 9% thinking all of their fellow passengers would be 70+. Once on board their coach, 47% of these people actually travelled with passengers that were under 40.
But, if you’re thinking about going on a coach holiday for the first time and your age is playing on your mind, you may be glad to know that only 2% of those surveyed said that the age of their fellow passengers was an important factor in their holidays with 59% saying they would recommend a coach holiday to any age group. So no matter how old you are, you’ll always be made to feel welcome on board.

A comfortable setting for a solo traveller…

When the itchy feet set in, you just want to go. It’s not always easy to have your travel companion free to travel at the same time, or circumstances might make it difficult. Solo travel is a coach holiday speciality.
You get the benefit of being able to head off where and when you want and with the sociability of being in a group. And, you have the option to travel on our Single Traveller holidays, alongside a group of like-minded individuals, or join our main tours and feel welcomed into the Leger family with a wider variety of passengers.

And, don’t worry too much, everyone is different and enjoys different things, and a coach holiday doesn’t have to be restrictive. Whilst 29% enjoyed their holiday with their group as whole, 70% enjoyed the best of both worlds, having a great time with their group, also enjoying time to themselves, doing exactly what they wanted to do. What more could you ask for?

Social and relationship benefits of a coach holiday…

Following their coach holidays, our passengers weren’t thrown back in the real world with memories alone. In fact, 21% of our customers flouted the post-holiday blues, and came back feeling happier than before they left.

But, for the people travelling with a friend or partner, 83% have taken away lasting memories with each other, 9% feel it has brought them closer together and 3% have said it’s even made them want to spend more time together!

The benefits of being an experienced traveller…

Stories, experiences and the ultimate travel envy, there are many ways in which others can influence your holiday choices.
When travelling on a coach holiday, you visit many destinations within your holiday, ticking off those bucket list destinations or visiting places you’ve never even heard of, you’ll certainly come back at least a little more knowledgeable in travel. And, it makes you far more interesting too…

The coach holiday also broadens horizons with a whopping 76% of people feeling they are more likely to visit new places. But, it can also create a new love story with the destinations you’ve visited, 23% of people said after a coach holiday, they were more likely to go back to the places they found themselves to love.
The benefits of a coach holiday means you can really make the most of escorted touring. In fact, 70% of people feel they return feeling more enlightened and 80% feel they are more knowledgeable, and how incredible is that?

Travelling for long periods, how would I pass the time?

Luckily, with our Luxuria coach, with your own touch-screen TV at your seat, you’ve got plenty to keep you entertained. But, even without that, our previous passengers have found passing the time a breeze.

And, then you’re hooked…

An incredible 62% of people surveyed have enjoyed 5 or more coach holidays and 88% of passengers would consider them to be their main holiday! And, with so much on offer, from short breaks to our impressive Grand Explorer holidays, the choice is almost endless.
Has this got you thinking a coach holiday might just be for you? Well, take a look at our incredible collection of exciting itineraries available to book, now: leger.co.uk
Survey conducted with 144 previous Leger travellers who are members of the Leger Holidays – Very Important Passengers Facebook group.

The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Site – Part Two

The abandonment of Soviet prisoners by Stalin and the subsequent re-establishment of the camp as a special Gulag.

The first Soviet prisoners arrived at Sachsenhausen in August 1941. By the end of the year, more than 11,000 of these living skeletons were being held in the camp in appalling conditions. Impossible work conditions, meagre rations and mass executions steadily reduced their numbers.

The most common method of execution was by shooting in the so-called ‘neck shot facility’ located close to the camp crematoria. Here, an estimated 10,000 Soviet prisoners were executed over a ten week period during late 1941. Total estimates of Soviet prisoners murdered in the camp between 1941-45 vary between 11,000 – 18,000.
None of this mattered to Stalin, whose attitude towards captured troops was underlined in his statement that, ‘There are no Soviet prisoners of war. The Soviet soldier fights on until death. If he chooses to become a prisoner, he is automatically excluded from the Russian community’. This attitude even extended to his own son, Lieutenant Yakov Dzhugshvili, following his capture during the Battle of Smolensk on 16 July 1941. Soon after, Stalin ensured that the wife of this ‘Traitor to the Motherland’ was not spared the state’s wrath. Yakov’s wife Julia was subsequently arrested, separated from her three year old daughter and imprisoned in the Gulag for two years.

Stalin and the Son he Abandoned to his Fate

Following the German disaster at Stalingrad in February 1943, Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus was taken prisoner. Soon after, the Germans suggested a prisoner swap, their senior officer for Stalin’s son. Inevitably, Stalin turned the offer down, saying that, ‘I will not trade a Marshal for a Lieutenant’. On 14 April 1943, Yakov was shot and killed. Contemporary reports indicated that he was shot whilst approaching the camp’s prohibited ‘Neutral Zone’ which bordered the electric fence. More recent investigations point to him being killed for refusing to obey an order to return to his barracks. In March 1945, Stalin talked with Marshal Zhukov about his son, whom he believed was still alive and being kept as a hostage. His hard heart began to soften a little towards a son who had once been dismissed by him as ‘a mere cobbler’. When the death of Yakov was later confirmed, Stalin rehabilitated him posthumously in the knowledge that he had died honourably.
Brick Built Baracks in Soviet Special Camp

The liberation of Sachsenhausen on 22 April 1945 came too late for Stalin’s son. Neither did liberation bring comfort to thousands of Soviet prisoners who had effectively been abandoned by the state. For them, there was no hope of rehabilitation, just interrogation by Smersh (Soviet Military Counter Intelligence). Stalin’s assertion that there were no Soviet prisoners of war, just so-called ‘Traitors to the Motherland’ condemned them to imprisonment and hard labour in the Siberian Gulags. Some Russian  prisoners  were held in Sachsenhausen (renamed by the Soviet authorities in August 1945 as Special Camp No.7).
Soviet Prisoner at Sachsenhausen

The arbitrary enmity of the Soviet organs of repression resulted in the convictions (after interrogation and torture) of alleged Nazi collaborators and soldiers who had contracted venereal disease in Germany. By 1946, the camp held approximately 16,000 German and ex-Soviet citizens (including 2000 women prisoners). In 1948, the camp was redesignated as Special Camp no.1. That year, some 5000 German prisoners were granted an amnesty and freed. Another 5,500 German prisoners were freed in early 1950.  More German prisoners were freed shortly before the camp was shut down in the Spring of that year. The few remaining Russian prisoners were transferred to the Gulags on Soviet soil.
For those so-called ‘Traitors to the Motherland’ who somehow survived their harsh treatment and subsequent cold-shouldering by the state, their ordeal was not over. Their rehabilitation did not finally come until after the fall of Communism in 1989. We still tend to associate cruelty and barbarity almost exclusively with Nazism, yet Stalin’s state was also brutal and unforgiving. Learn more about Soviet Special Camp No.1/No.7 on Leger’s ‘The Holocaust Remembered‘ tour.
 
Read part one of David’s Sachsenhausen blog, here.