The story of the Schindler Factory Memorial Aircrew Plaque by David McCormack

Many visitors to the Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow stop for a moment to read the inscription on a plaque commemorating the crew of a B24 Liberator which crashed onto the barrack area in the factory compound (other parts of the aircraft landed on the far side of the River Vistula).

The aircraft from 178 Squadron (KG933) was involved in a large-scale operation to supply Polish Home Army forces involved in the Warsaw Uprising. Very few of the visitors who stop to look at the plaque are aware of the circumstances which led to the aircraft crashing, even less the fate of the surviving crew members.

Aircrew Memorial Plaque at the Schindler Factory Museum
Aircrew Memorial Plaque

At 17.00hrs on 1 August 1944, a bomb exploded in the headquarters of the Krakow Gestapo. This explosion signalled the beginning of the uprising. Within hours, an urgent appeal for supplies was sent out to London by the Poles.
Whilst this appeal received a sympathetic hearing, the practicalities of ferrying supplies by aircraft presented serious difficulties. Warsaw lay approximately 1,500 km from London, a long and perilous journey across flak-infested skies. An additional hazard was that the aircraft involved would have to expose themselves by flying in at low speed and low altitude over the designated drop zones.
There was no other alternative as it was imperative that the precious supplies didn’t fall into German hands. Whilst the problem of distance could be solved to some degree by flying from Italy, the remaining imponderable was the vulnerability of these slow lumbering aircraft as they made their approach to the drop zones.
At approximately 19.55 hrs on 17 August, KG933 took off from Foggia in southern Italy. The designated drop zone (Nida 504) was near the city of Piotrkow (120 km north of Krakow).
There were no incidents on the outbound leg and the drop went as planned. However, as the plane was heading homewards via Krakow it was picked up by a German night fighter (Bf 110 of 1/NJG-100) piloted by Oberfeldwebel Helmut Dahms. In his subsequent report, he claimed two Lancasters shot down (one over Ratibor, the other over Krakow).
It can be said with a high degree of certainty that the Lancaster which he claimed to have shot down over Krakow was in fact KG933.
The burning aircraft was picked up by searchlights in Krakow’s factory district. It was then hit by flak which caused it to disintegrate in mid-air.
The tail section landed over on the far side of the Vistula on the old abattoir, whilst the main fuselage crashed onto the abandoned barrack area of the Schindler Factory. Three crew members were killed outright (Squadron Leader Liversidge, Flight Lieutenant Wright and Flight Sergeant Clarke). Miraculously, three others survived. Sergeant Blunt and Sergeant Helme became prisoners of war in Stalag Luft VII, their war effectively over.
B24 Liberator
B24 Liberator

As for the other survivor, landing in a field approximately twenty-four km east of Krakow was the start of an incredible six-month odyssey. Despite being wounded in his arms and legs, Flight Lieutenant Hammett managed to evade capture for two days.
Then, by a stroke of luck, he was able to make contact with a local partisan group. By late September he had fully recovered from his wounds. He then took an active part in partisan operations from a base in the woods near Slaboszov.
The following month, his group shot down a German scout plane. The German authorities then sent out a force of 100 Ukrainian auxiliaries to hunt down and destroy the partisan group. A fierce firefight ensued with heavy casualties being inflicted by both sides. Hammett survived and later took part in an attack on a barn where several of the Ukrainians were hiding out.
In November, Hammett was moved to a safe-house near to the partisan’s base. Here, he was later joined by two former British POWs. The area was finally liberated by the Red Army in mid-January.
On 23 February, the Soviet authorities placed him in charge of a large group of POWs who were to be transported by train to the port city of Odessa. On arrival, Hammett and the group boarded the SS Moreton Bay for their repatriation to England.
The plaque commemorating the three crewmen killed can be seen on the Understanding the Holocaust and Story of Anne Frank and Oscar Schindler tours at the Schindler Factory Museum.

The Battlefields of Luxembourg by Paul Reed

The new Following General Patton: Battlefield Luxembourg tour was launched last autumn and recently myself, and a team of guides, went to Recce the area in preparation for this year’s tours.

Battlefield Recces are an important part of the guide’s process of getting ready for a tour, as it gives them a chance to work out how the tour will run, explore the sites we have chosen to include in the itinerary and examine ways to make the experience for those who travel with us, all that they expect.

This particular tour looks at WW2 in Luxembourg, perhaps a country that we do not always associate with this war.
Overrun by the Germans in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg, the country was occupied for four years until liberated by American troops in September 1944.
It was invaded and overrun again in December 1944, when the Germans launched Operation Wacht am Rhein – what the Allies called The Battle of the Bulge, something that we examine all of aspects of during the days we are on the battlefields.
Museums feature quite heavily on this tour, and we have been pleased to incorporate a number that we have previously never been able to do.
At the top of the list of these is the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch. This museum has an amazing array of WW2 weapons, uniforms and equipment, all displayed superbly via dioramas.

Diekirch Museum

We were staggered to go upstairs to find a massive vehicle hall which has everything from Jeeps to half-tracks, even a German Hetzer. This was way beyond what we were expecting – and then the museum seemed to go on and on, with floor after floor!
We were also fascinated by the Patton Museum in Ettelbruck. It is much smaller than Diekirch but it explains a lot about the early war in Luxembourg, and the German occupation, before looking at Patton’s role in the area in both 1944 and 1945.
Patton visited Ettelbruck during the Liberation where there is now a memorial to him on the outskirts of town; an impressive statue of ‘Old Blood and Guts’, looking over the area where his men fought, and we see this on the tour, too.
Exploring the battlefields of Luxembourg, we all remarked how it was classic ‘Battle of the Bulge’ country, even more so than some of the areas around Bastogne; big open fields (full of snow like in 1944, when we were there), and then valleys and wooded areas.
Paul Errington, one of our guides who will lead this tour in 2018, took us to Schumann’s Eck, an area that changed hands several times, where we found foxholes and positions in the wood; close enough to the road for us to see when we are on tour.
WW2 Foxholes

For those interested in WW2 hardware, the amount of equipment still on the battlefield is amazing. On the tour Sherman tanks of various types will be seen at Clervaux, Ettelbruck, Vielsam, and Wiltz, and examples of their nemesis – the 88mm anti-tank gun – also seen at locations like Troisvierges, where a battle-damaged Pak 43 version will be visited.
We cross into neighbouring Germany at one point, going over the Sour River which Patton’s men assaulted over in 1945.
Our objective is to look at part of the Westwall, or Siegfried Line, at Irrell. This is now owned and run by a group of volunteers, many of whom are local firemen. They have cleaned out the substantial bunker complex and made it easily accessible.
The site is one of the few in Germany where you can explore the Westwall like this, and as you make your way down the different levels, it is soon apparent how strong this was in 1939, equipped as it was with machine-guns and flame-throwers.
We pay our respects to the dead from the fighting in Luxembourg at the American Cemetery, close to Luxembourg City. Not only is General George S. Patton buried here, but the 5,000 plus graves are men who largely died in the fighting during the Battle of the Bulge in this region, or during the final push into Germany in early 1945.
Luxembourg American Cemetery

The rows and rows of white crosses are impressive, especially when you think that over 60% of the dead were repatriated after WW2. Close by, we contrast the US Cemetery with the German one at Sandweiler. This cemetery also reflects the German losses in Luxembourg, from the Blitzkrieg in 1940 through to the Bulge offensives in 1944.
This promises to be a fascinating tour, in a picturesque country with good food and drink, and a lovely hotel to return to each day to relax, unwind and pause to think about the impressive locations you’ve seen which are connected to some of the most important history of the Second World War. The perfect battlefield tour combination.

Formula 1 Season 2018: What to look out for!

Formula 1 2018 Season

The 2017 Formula 1 Championship gave us everything we could have wanted – controversy, quick cars and an array of winners – so it’s no surprise that we’re on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the 2018 season getting underway next month!

Although, in the end, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes emerged as Formula 1 World Champions once again, up until the Singapore Grand Prix it looked pretty close in the standings between the Brit and his rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
So, with new rules, tracks and drivers to be introduced this year, is there a chance for an even closer championship battle in 2018? We can only hope!
So, as we gear up for new season, here are a few things to look out for this year…

Formula 1 Rules & Regs


Once again, we’ll see some new rules and regulations introduced throughout the season. Although they’re nowhere near as drastic as the ones introduced last year, we’re sure that they’re still bound to get people talking… dare we mention the dreaded halo?
The first regulation change for 2018 is that each driver now has a limit of just three engines (rather than four) to use throughout a season. This is in a bid for new owners, Liberty Media, to reduce costs and make power units more reliable. Although this may benefit the smaller teams, this will more than likely just cause problems, as it poses the risk of drivers facing hefty grid penalties.
Speaking of grid penalties, the rules concerning these have also been given a well-needed tweak for the 2018 season, making it easier for stewards – and us fans – to get our heads around! In 2018, if a driver should have to change a power unit component, they will still receive a five to ten-place grid penalty. However, if they’re then to replace a second component, they will automatically be moved straight to the back of the grid, so, there’ll be no more drivers starting in 60th place when there are only 22 cars on the track.
Still with me? Ok, good!
Finally, we must say ‘hello’ to the already, much-hated halo. Designed to improve driver safety, the protection device will be located over the cockpit, with the intention of deflecting debris and ultimately, preventing drivers from being hit in the head!
Although a well-needed feature (which, in the long run, will do more good than harm), as the 2018 cars are revealed, we can see why they have received a lot of backlash from drivers, teams and fans alike, due to their ugly appearance.

Formula 1 Races

Formula 1 car on track
What we really can’t wait for this year, is the return of some legendary circuits to the Formula 1 calendar.
As we’re sure you’ll agree, it takes away some of the pain of saying goodbye to Malaysia, after the great races we’ve witnessed there over the years… I mean, who can forget Multi 21 Gate?
But, let’s not get hung up on that! Let’s rejoice in the fact that the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim will be back on our screens this year after a two-year hiatus, along with the French Grand Prix, after ten years away from the sport!
Not only that but the Paul Ricard Circuit, which will host the French Grand Prix, has not hosted a championship race since 1990! The re-admission of this epic track also means that Formula 1 will see its first-ever tripleheader this year, as the French, Austrian and British Grand Prix fall on consecutive weekends. So, make sure you have full control of the TV remote for those three Sundays.

Team Line-Ups

Finally, we’re on to the team and driver line-ups, and thankfully, the Silly Season was nowhere near as extended as the one we had last year, with all teams having now confirmed their drivers for the season ahead.
This year, we will see more new-comers entering the sport, with a total revamp of Torro Rosso, seeing the introduction of two-time Le Mans Champion, Brendan Hartley, and former Japanese Super Formula driver, Pierre Gasly.
Another new face which will be seen around the paddock is Sergey Sirotkin, former GP2 series driver, who has been confirmed as the now truly-retired Felipe Massa’s replacement for the season ahead.
Charles Leclerc will also join Sauber this year, making him the last of the rookies to join the grid in 2018.
Aside from that, there hasn’t been much of a shakeup within the teams, with the only other change being Carlos Sainz Jr moving to Renault to partner Nico Hulkenberg.
So, with car launches firmly underway and pre-season testing starting on Monday, we can only hope for a positively action-packed season!
For a truly unique experience and to witness the season unfolding first hand, why not join us on one of our European Formula 1 tours?

Will you be my Valentine? From hearts to hogs, Valentine's Day around the world

Ah… being in love, there’s nothing quite like it, so it’s no surprise that countries from all over the world have a special day dedicated to celebrating ‘that special someone’… Valentine’s Day.

So, wouldn’t you like to know a little more about the different Valentine’s Day traditions, past and present from countries near and far?
Whilst some are what you might expect – traditional chocolate hearts and bright cards scrawled with adoring messages – there are others that are a little unorthodox!
So, if you’re looking for a truly unique way to surprise your loved one this Valentine’s Day, we might just be able to help!

Germany

Let’s start with one that’s a little out of the ordinary, shall we?
Although the celebration of Valentine’s Day in Germany is not as commercial as it is in places such as the UK and America, it’s a popular tradition with the locals there.
And, whilst lovers will exchange gifts of chocolates, flowers, and gingerbread cookies displaying romantic messages, they also like to exchange… pigs!
Yes, that’s right, pigs! Pictures of pigs, chocolate pigs, statues of pigs… even a real pig for those who want to really go for it!
In the country, the pig symbolises lust and luck.
It’s also pink, and so we can see why this little animal could be synonymous with the festival of love.

Italy

Going back to a more traditional way of celebrating one’s love for another, in Italy, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by way of a classic spring festival.
Couples shower each other with romantic poems, enjoy sweet ballads and scrumptious meals together, and often exchange boxes of ‘baci perugina’ – chocolate hazelnut ‘kisses’.
However, Italy also has a strange legacy surrounding its Valentine’s traditions, which states that the first man a girls sees when she wakes on February the 14th, she will marry within the next year…
To all those singles out there, keep an eye out this Wednesday morning!

South Africa

If you’re a hopeless romantic who likes to wear their heart on their sleeve, then the South African Valentine’s tradition might just be the one for you.
As well as the traditional celebrations, women in South Africa can often be seen to, quite literally, wear their hearts on their sleeves, by pinning the names of their significant others (or crushes!) to the sleeves of their tops.
A perfect way to let that special someone know you’re interested, perhaps?

China

In China, they don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day exactly, but they do celebrate Qixi.
During Qixi, young women gather, prepare and offer fruits to Zhinu, in the hope that the goddess will send them a good husband.
Qixi falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year and pays homage to an old Chinese legend.
It is said that Zhinu, a heavenly king’s daughter, and Niulang, a poor cow herder, fell in love (against Zhinu’s father’s wishes), married and had twins.
Once her father learned of their marriage, he sent for her to be brought back to the heavens.
However, upon hearing the cries of Niulang and her children, the king allowed Zhinu to meet Niulang back on Earth, once a year, hence the start of Qixi.

Denmark

And finally, we have Denmark, located in Scandinavia which adds its own little Danish twist to this celebration of love.
Whilst friends and lovers in the country do exchange flowers, it’s not the traditional red rose, as the Danes instead swap pressed snowdrops to show their love.
It’s also common for men to give their secret admirers a ‘gaekkebrev’, which is a form of funny love poem presented on intricately cut paper.
For even more fun, the poems are signed off as anonymous and the receiver then has three guesses to work out who their poem is from.
If guessed correctly, the receiver will also be given an Easter egg by their admirer, later in the year.
If not, they must be the ones to buy the admirer an Easter egg – a great way to keep the gift-giving going, and get even more chocolate!
If this blog has given you some inspiration for a unique gift, or maybe even a unique trip, visit our website and discover a world of romance!

Tempting Wine Regions: Europe’s Top 5

Have you been true to your word and not touched a drop of wine, beer or your favourite spirit throughout the whole month of January? Well, there’s some good news in store… the end of dry January is nigh!

And, to all those who’ve soldiered on through the month, abstaining from alcohol, this one is dedicated to you.
We all know that a holiday just isn’t a holiday without a little – or a lot – of overindulgence, and for all you wine connoisseurs out there, there’s no better place to sample the local delicacies than within the wine regions of Europe!
So, if you’re more than ready for that first tipple of your favourite beverage, but you’re still trying to power through those last remaining days, turn those cravings into wanderlust and find out about the fascinating places behind your favourite glass.

The Loire Valley – France’s Picturesque Wine Region

The Loire Valley - France
Deep within central France, marking the border between the north and south, and just a short distance away from the capital city of Paris, lies the lovely Loire Valley.
Or, should we say the ‘Garden of France’? A name awarded to the region due to the abundance of vineyards lining the banks of the river. And, that’s a great start, right?
The Loire Valley produces grapes such as the popular white Chenin Blanc and the red Grolleau and amongst the stunning natural scenery, you’ll find châteaux, castles and palaces dotted along the river… but it’s the 4000 wineries that we’re most interested in.
Producing an array of world-renowned quality wines, from light rosés to deep reds and sparkling whites, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whatever your tipple of choice.

La Rioja – The Famous Wine from Spain

La Rioja, Spain's famous Wine Producing Region
If you’re a glass of red sort-of-person, then Spain could be the one for you… Situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, La Rioja is close to the ‘Way of St. James’ pilgrimage route and is centred on the Ebro River Valley.
With beautiful views of medieval villages, endless vineyards and olive groves – not to mention the unbroken blue skies – the La Rioja region produces an abundance of full-bodied red wines.
And, the wines from Rioja are as age-worthy as those from the Chianti and Bordeaux regions – they’ve even been produced since Roman times!
Rioja’s main grape is the Tempranillo, however, most wines are blended with smaller amounts of others, such as the Garnacha and the Mazuelo grapes, but, one thing is certain, they always taste divine!

The Douro Valley – Portugal

The Douro Valley - Portugal
Often overlooked as a wine region within Europe, we say the Douro Valley in Portugal is amongst one of the best!
It’s home of the world-famous Port and, as a matter of fact, was the first wine region in the world to have a formal demarcation. Yes, just like Champagne, the Douro Valley is the world’s only producer of Port.
History played a huge part in the production of the sweet tipple. When England was at war with France in 1756, it was decided that they would import wine from Portugal instead.
However, due to the long journey, the wines would often become spoiled by the time it reached England. So, in order to preserve them, they were fortified… and in the city of Porto, Port was born!
And, due to its deliciousness, the sweet, red dessert wine is still extremely popular to this day.

Tuscany – Italy’s Iconic Region

Tuscany, Italy's famous wine producing region.
It’s true what they say, it really is hard to find a bad glass of wine in Tuscany! And, not only does Tuscany produce one of the most beautiful wines in the world, the Chianti, it is also one of the most beautiful places on earth!
Unique landscapes of lush green, sloping hills full of olive groves and vineyards, are scatted with tiny traditional villages, seen for miles and miles.
Chianti, typically and traditionally presented in a bottle known as a ‘fiasco’, wrapped in a straw basket, is a dry red wine, which goes very well with the delicious cuisine that you can enjoy in Italy!

The Moselle – Germany’s Top Wine Region

The Moselle Wine Region - Germany
Germany is home to thirteen different wine regions which make the country one of the top producers in Europe. But, out of all thirteen, the Moselle is arguably the most famous… and for good reason.
Vineyards cover the steep hillsides that border the Moselle River, and it’s here where the celebrated Riesling grapes are produced, along with the Elbling, Pinot Blanc and Kerner, to name a few.
These grapes create some of the most delightful light and crisp wines you’ll ever taste. And, they’ve been made here since the 15th century, when the Romans planted their crops along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in order to supply their garrisons with wine.
Add to that the fact that the Moselle Valley looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, you’ve got the perfect destination for wine lovers and old romantics alike.
Visit these impressive wine regions and much more on a Leger Holidays escorted tour – we even offer wine tasting excursions, if this blog has whet your appetite.

2018: Our 5 Top Travel Trends

New Year, new you, you’ve probably heard that a lot. Yes, It’s that time of year again where everyone seems to be kick-starting those New Years’ resolutions for 2018…

Joining the gym, eating healthily, maybe even giving up your usual tipple for a dry January… but is there a truer tonic for pressing that reset button, introducing yourself to new experiences and enlightening yourself, than heading off on a new adventure?
Travel is said to be the only thing you can buy that makes your richer, but with so many places to visit and so much to see and do, choosing where to book for your next holiday is quite the decision.
But, in the spirit of trying new things, and enjoying new experiences, we’ve put together our top destinations to travel to in 2018. Perfect if you’re looking for a little travel inspiration.

Vietnam

Vietnam
If you’re looking for somewhere exotic, packed with plenty of memorable experiences and that once-in-a-lifetime feel, Vietnam has it all. From the serene views over Ha Long Bay, dotted with junk boats to the buzz of the capital city Hanoi.
With waves of moped cyclists weaving through the traffic, some with pigs strapped to the back (yes, really), pyjama fashion and cà phê Chồn, a rather curious coffee, partly digested by the weasel-like civet. You will feel a world away from normality in this fascinating country.
But, beyond the outstanding natural beauty and unique cultural experiences, Vietnam also has a complex and diverse history. The impact of the infamous 19-year-long Vietnam War can still be felt this day, from the War Remnants Museum to the Dien Bien Phu War Cemetery.
A fascinating destination and one that will leave you awe-struck, gratified and completely enchanted by what it has to offer.

Berlin

Berlin, a top city break for 2018
Another hub of culture and history, the German capital is a must when it comes to places to visit in 2018. Whether it is part of a longer holiday or even a short break (especially for the Christmas Markets), Berlin’s combination of charisma and character is certain to appeal to almost anyone.
The iconic buildings, such as the Reichstag and the Fernsehturm TV tower are high on many visitors to-do list whilst in the city. But, digging a little deeper, there’s much more on offer than the popular postcard places.
The Treptower Park is host to an impressive Soviet War Memorial, set amongst a huge cemetery for 5000 Soviet soldiers. You can visit Checkpoint Charlie, the former crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin and the nearby Mauerpark, a former part of the Berlin Wall and its death strip.
And, of course, you can visit the East Side Gallery, a 1316m long section Berlin Wall itself, or see the impressive Brandenburg Gate. There’s so much to fit into your time in Berlin, it will more than likely leave you wanting to visit again.

Sicily

Sicily
Are you talkin’ to me? Yes, we are! If you’re a fan of The Godfather, that is. Or, just anyone who is looking for a taste of the less trodden parts of Italy, really, Sicily could just be your cup of tea in 2018.
Yes, the small Italian island is the famous ancestral home of the notorious Corleone family, who you’ll know from being at the centre of the classic cinematic saga.
Perfect for any film buff, you can head to the foothills of the Peloritani Mountains where you’ll find some rather recognisable surroundings in the town of Savoca. You can even watch the world go by on the shady terrace of Bar Vitelli itself. And, best of all? The bar hasn’t changed since the film’s release in 1972!
But, it’s not all movies and the Mafia in Sicily, in fact, it’s one of Italy’s most beautiful islands.  Taormina offers beautiful views of the east coast and a perfect perspective of Mount Etna. It’s easy to see why this has become the summer playground of the rich and famous
Many big names have been spotted seeking the dolce vita in the Taormina, from Oscar Wilde to Elisabeth Taylor, and a whole host of big-screen stars jetting in for the Taormina Film Festival, you’ll certainly be in great company wandering the streets of this glitzy hill-top retreat.

The Azores

The Azores
When you think of Portugal, you’ll be forgiven for thinking the sun, sand and the Algarve. But we’re thinking somewhere a little more exotic. The Azores islands are an autonomous region of Portugal, sitting deep within the North Atlantic, and offer a truly unique and really quite breath-taking experience.
It’s been called Europe’s answer to Hawaii and one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, a cavern of volcanic enchantment, you will bear witness to some pretty spectacular scenery, and who could say no to that?
Furnas City is host to botanical gardens, hot and cold springs and a lush, green, mountainous setting. The mystical lake, Santiago, is almost other-worldly, with its green waters sitting 334 metres above sea level, surrounded by the borders of a small crater, it’s a must-see whilst in the area.
You can even head over to Pico Island, the largest of the Azores. Dominated by Pico Mountain, it became a nature reserve in 1982 and has been producing delicious wine since the 15th century.
You won’t be disappointed by these beautiful islands, in fact, they could just prove to be the exotic adventure you’re looking for, all without leaving Europe in 2018.

Santorini

Santorini, Greece, a must-see for 2018.
A bucket list destination by the very definition, the remarkable island of Santorini is stealing hearts and keeping travellers flocking in for the 2018 season.
The world-famous view over the iconic caldera, whilst perched in the popular cliff-side towns of Fira and Oia, is one that you won’t get over for a while, especially at sunset. It’s a scene you’d see on postcards picked up throughout Greece, and that’s how you know you’re in an incredible location.
With the beautiful blue church domes scattered around the whitewash towns, seemingly clinging to the cliff edge, met by black, volcanic beaches at the foot, you’ll certainly get the best of Greece in Santorini.
Not to mention the old saying that there is more wine than rain on the island, and you have the delicious Greek cuisine to pair it with, from mezze to a moussaka, it’s a holiday for your taste buds as well as your sense of adventure.
If these incredible destinations have whet your appetite for a holiday to remember in 2018, why not see more on an escorted tour? At Leger Holidays, we have tours that encompass all of the above and lots, lots more. So what are you waiting for? Head over to www.leger.co.uk, today.

Top Viewed Tours of 2017

As we near the end of 2017, we’re taking time to reflect on another fantastic year and what an honour it has been to take so many of you on wonderful holidays.

And we’re thrilled that, with all the hard work of our teams at Leger HQ and, of course, our coach crews and guides out on the road, we’ve helped create incredible memories and a lasting impressions, as you voted us the Best Medium Coach Holiday Company for the second year running at the British Travel Awards.
But, we couldn’t round off the year without giving you the rundown of our most viewed tours on of 2017. So, without further ado, if you’re on the lookout for holiday inspiration or just wanting to know if your favourite tour made it onto our list, here’s what really caught your eye this year…

10. The Beauty of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore

The third largest lake in Italy, and the first of four Italian tours to make it onto our list. But it’s not just our customers who love Lake Como, it’s also a hit with George Clooney, Madonna and Richard Branson.
Lake Como

9. Picturebook Norway – Fjordland Spectacular

Our dream tour seems to be your dream tour, too. With our first departure sold out and our 2019 dates now on sale, the Norway effect is still in full swing.
Norwegian Fjords

8. Splendours of Paris

Paris is always a good idea, and it seems that’s something we can all agree on! The romantic capital city of France comes in at a respectable 8th on our list.
Paris 2017

7. All Quiet on the Western Front

A perfect WW1 Battlefields experience for first-timers and experienced travellers, 2017 has certainly captured your interest of visiting the Western Front.
Tyne Cot Cemetery

6. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona

The mighty Lake Garda, incredible Venice and the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, this is three world-class destinations in one impressive tour, we’re not surprised to see this tour make it into our top 10.
Venice 2017

5. Picturebook Italy

A Leger Holidays favourite, Picturebook Italy, of course, makes its way into our top 5. Well, a holiday visiting the best that Italy has to offer, it’s bound to happen.
Florence

4. The Wonders of Rome & Pompeii

Italy still seems to be a big hitter in 2017, but the Wonders of Rome & Pompeii comes out top of the Italian pickings. And it’s no wonder when Rome alone attracts around 7 – 10 million tourists each year.
Trevi Fountain, Rome 2017

3. Dutch Bulbfields & the Delights of Amsterdam

Tulip mania lives on! In 2017, the beautiful Dutch Bulbfields really caught your attention, or is it the visit to Amsterdam? Either way, a trip to Holland doesn’t get much better than this.
Dutch Bulbfields

2. D-Day Landings in Normandy

Taking the hypothetical silver medal in 2017, our D-Day Landings in Normandy tour narrowly missed out on the top spot. But, with the recent launch of our D-Day 75th Anniversary tour, could it snag the top spot next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
Pegasus Bridge

1. Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis

And with over 300 tours to choose from, for the third year running, our most viewed tour is our Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis tour. Whether you’re an Elvis fan, a music buff in general or just fancy a visit to America’s Deep South, we seem to have got it right with this one.
New Orleans 2017
From everyone at Leger Holidays, we wish you a very happy New Year!

Ten Facts About The Christmas Truce

1. It was instigated by the Germans

In the lead up to Christmas, German soldiers on various parts of the British sector of the front were seen to be placing lanterns on their Trenches, in some cases Christmas Trees, and reports of carol singing were also received. Then on Christmas Day wooden signs could be seen on the German parapet saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and then German soldiers emerged into No Man’s Land, calling for a Truce. Many British soldiers were initially suspicious of this, but gradually the Truce spread. In some cases it lasted a few hours, in others it lasted several days. Thousands and thousands of men on both sides took part.

2. It was largely on the British sector

Despite some recent films, the Truce really only took place on the British sector of the front. Whether this was because British soldiers felt some natural affinity with the Germans due to shared history and culture is difficult to say. On the French front there was little desire for fraternisation, and while there were some isolated examples of a Truce, most were related to burying the dead after recent fighting.

3. No Football was played

Again, despite cinema and a recent supermarket advert, evidence shows that there were no football matches in No Man’s Land on Christmas Day 1914, between British and German troops. The nature of the battlefield, with shell holes and barbed wire, made such a match difficult anyway, but footballs were used for physical training when out of the trenches, and it is unlikely if any were available. Letters from the time show a desire to play matches, but the only example that comes anywhere near is on the front of 1/6th Cheshires where what was described as a ‘kick about’, featuring more than 100 soldiers of both sides, took place. So no organised match, and Germany did not win!

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE, 1914 (Q 11745) British and German soldiers fraternising at Ploegsteert, Belgium
THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE, 1914 (Q 11745) British and German soldiers fraternising at Ploegsteert, Belgium, on Christmas Day 1914, front of 11th Brigade, 4th Division. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205247304

4. Peace on Earth? It was about burying the dead

For many soldiers in the front line area there was a practical reason for a Truce: to bury the dead. On the British front in Flanders there had been some local attacks on 19th December 1914, and the unburied bodies of the dead were lying out in No Man’s Land. The smell was terrible, and soldiers wanted to bury their comrades, so one of the most common activities that day was not to share your rations with Fritz, but to find and bury your dead.

5. Did they swap gifts with each other?

In many cases soldiers did give each other gifts once the Truce was active. Opposing soldiers swapped cap badges and buttons, food and drink, and some took photographs of each other, as at this stage of the war personal cameras were not banned. The 1/6th Cheshires cooked a pig in No Man’s Land and offered to share it with their German counterparts. German soldiers brought a barrel of beer to the men of 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, for which they gave plum puddings in return. But the beer was of poor quality to the hardened Welsh regulars so it was not a popular present!

6. The Truce was not universal

Not every German unit wanted a Truce, and not every British unit agreed to participate. British soldiers had witnessed many examples of the Germans implementing ‘ruse de guerre’ (tricks of war) during the campaign from Mons to Ypres, and as such they did not trust the motives for the Truce. Some units were proud of their martial reputation and did not want to be seen to fraternise, and even in sectors where there was a Truce, some soldiers did not take part: having lost mates or family members in the war, as well as the diet of anti-German propaganda that had started on the outbreak of war, they perhaps had little inclination for it.

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE ON THE WESTERN FRONT
THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914 (Q 50721) British and German officers meeting in No-Man’s Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205026891

7. Men Died on Christmas Day 1914

Along the British front on 25th December 1914 more than seventy British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed or died of wounds. Of these 32 are commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Ploegsteert Memorial or Menin Gate, and have no known grave. With shelling, random sniper and machine-gun fire, for many soldiers Christmas Day 1914 was a typical period of trench warfare with the usual losses.

8. There were many remarkable coincidences

Men of the London Rifle Brigade who took part in the Christmas Truce were Territorial soldiers from the City of London. Before the war many waiters in London hotels were German, and a large proportion of men’s barbers were German too. One veteran recalled meeting a German soldier who used to cut his hair, in No Man’s Land that day; a few months before he had been the man’s client, now they were enemies.

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914 (Q 50720) British and German troops meeting in No-Man’s Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). Burying those killed in the attack of 18 December. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205025418

9. Famous people who witnessed the Christmas Truce

Among those who took part in the Christmas Truce was wartime cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather, who drew the famous ‘Old Bill’ cartoons of the period. He was photographed by one of his men in No Man’s Land that day, and wrote about it in his best-selling book ‘Bullets and Billets’ published in 1916. Nature writer Henry Williamson, most famous for his 1928 classic ‘Tarka The Otter’ was in the Truce at Ploegsteert. Having German ancestors, he felt some kinship to the enemy he met that day, and it was a life changing moment for him: one German soldier told Williamson that he was fighting for King, Country and Freedom, something he could not square that with the fact that supposedly he was fighting with the British Army for the same thing. Later in life Williamson used to get very morose on Christmas Day, thinking back to the Truce and the terrible loss of life in the war.

10. It was a remarkable day

While aspects of the Christmas Truce have been exaggerated, and there may have been no football, it was a truly remarkable day. Soldiers who were enemies stopped fighting and met each other on the battlefield. They obeyed a basic human instinct, rather than just follow orders. As the majority involved were professional soldiers they may have seen it as a rare opportunity to have a day off. Others would have been curious to actually meet a German, as it was likely few ever had. Whatever the reason, it was an event unique to 1914. While the odd battlefield truce, and a small scale one at Cambrai in the winter of 1917/18 took place, there was nothing on this scale ever again: whatever innocence remained in 1914 was lost in the great battles of the war on the Somme and at Passchendaele.

A Spring Fling: The Best of the Dutch Bulbfields

When Christmas is out of the way and the New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, we all need something to look forward to. And, if spring is your thing, you’re probably already counting down the days until those first buds start to appear

We know many people will have their hearts set on that summer holiday, but we think why wait? When spring comes knocking, it’s time to get packing because the Dutch Bulbfields offer the perfect post-winter getaway.
It’s the time that Holland transforms into a sea of colour, from the brightest of yellows, to the deepest of pinks, it’s not just an anthophile’s dream.
First comes the crocus season, followed by daffodils and hyacinths, then the grand finale, the tulips! From mid-March to mid-May, Holland’s green spaces get a whole lot more impressive and the Dutch Bulbfields are a worthy inclusion on any persons bucket list.

The Dutch fascination with tulips certainly isn’t new. First introduced to Dutch Merchants from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, unlike any other flower at the time, the intense petal colour fascinated Europe and the flower grew rapidly in popularity – and so did the price.
In fact, at there was a time that the flower was so valuable, it was even used as currency. That’s why they called it ‘Tulip Mania’.

Amsterdam


Although the value of a tulip will no longer buy you a house by the canal, throughout April, the Dutch capital still honours the humble tulip with its very own festival, showcasing an impressive 500,000 of them throughout the city!
From the EYE Filmmuseum, Hermitage Amsterdam and Hortus Botanicus to the Museum Van Loon, Rijksmuseum and many more public spaces throughout the city, you can be sure to spot some spectacular displays whilst in Amsterdam.
And, of course, as the hours of sunlight grow steadily longer, there really is more time in the day to enjoy the best of Amsterdam. Maybe having a leisurely break, sipping on a Dutch beer by the canal? Albeit, with the help of a patio heater every now and then.

Keukenhof Park


Just a short hop away from Amsterdam, you can reach the real holy grail of the tulip itself, the stunning Keukenhof Park. 79 acres of flowers and fragrance, the park is considered the ‘Garden of Europe’, a well-deserved title, we must say.
Unlike anywhere else, the park has attracted a whopping 50 million people since it first opened, with almost 75% of those visiting from other countries.
It’s one of the world’s largest flower gardens, with more than 7 million Tulips, Hyacinths and Daffodils on display over 8 weeks of spring.
Surprisingly enough, the bulbs are provided for free by over 1000 Dutch growers, and at the end of the show season at Keukenhof, the team of gardeners have orders to dig out the millions of bulbs and destroy them, ready to start fresh for the next year.
Although, the bulbs don’t go entirely to waste, maybe in stark contrast to the Tulip Mania era, most will be used as food for farm animals.
The gardeners will then hand plant next year’s bulbs in Autumn, taking 3 months to create a brand new design. So, if you’re wondering is it worth going back and visiting Keukenhof again, it sure is!

The Bulbfields


But, it’s not just Keukenhof where you can enjoy mass amounts of tulips all in one place, the bulbfields themselves are just as impressive.
Fields of vibrant colours line canals and road sides, with windmills rising up from the sky line, the growing fields of this fabulous flower are certainly a sight for sore eyes. Even Vincent Van Gogh thought them worthy of a masterpiece, as the fields feature in many of his paintings.
Every spring draws huge crowds, with cameras to capture the spectacular sight in their own snap shot. Even if you’re not particularly into flowers, this one makes a great photo.
Even though these fields are beautiful, and attract tourists in their droves, they are also economically valuable to the Netherlands. A high proportion of the country’s exports are freshly cut flowers.
In fact, Holland holds the title of the biggest player in the flower game, making up two thirds of the world’s flora sales! You can even buy tulips in New York that were cut in Holland that very morning! Now, that’s impressive.
So, if people in New York are enjoying a little piece of Holland, why not try some for yourself? Our popular Dutch Bulbfield tours will be departing through March and April so why not book your getaway today?

FESTIVE PHOTO COMPETITION – TERMS AND CONDITIONS

FESTIVE PHOTO COMPETITION – TERMS AND CONDITIONS
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