Barnsley Pals: Following in the Footsteps of Local Heroes

Our Head Battlefield Guide, Paul Reed has lived in the South Yorkshire former mining village of Elsecar for the past couple of years. In this blog he documents his experience of guiding a dedicated group tour, taking patrons of his local to the battlefields to discover the stories of the Barnsley Pals.


Elsecar is situated on the edge of Barnsley, close to the countryside, and near the impressive Wentworth Woodhouse stately home, whose owners built the local colliery and many of the houses here.

The Milton Arms pub, in the heart of Elsecar, is my local and I was delighted when the landlord, Phil, approached me to organise a tour to the battlefields. Having travelled with a few friends on a battlefield tour on one of our Luxuria coaches, he wanted to return and do his own thing with a group from the pub.

Leger Battlefields Tour Group

One of the great advantages of bringing a group booking to Leger is that you don’t have to book a brochure tour. With our help and advice you can discuss what you’d like to do and we offer our expertise and make it possible. Phil wanted to remember some local heroes from both World Wars, so it was decided that we would travel direct from Elsecar to the Somme, have a night in Northern France, and then move on to Normandy to look at D-Day and the battles of 1944.

We started early from Elsecar with a good supply of pork pies and plenty of drinks stock on the Luxuria coach, with drivers, Adam and Paul looking after us. Getting across to France early, we made our way down to the Somme and made our first stop at the Thiepval Memorial where several members of the group had relatives commemorated on the panels dedicated to the Missing of the Somme. From here we went on to Serre and had a gentle stroll up onto the battlefield where the Northern Pals battalions were all but wiped out on 1st July 1916: the First Day of the Somme.

Leger Holidays Luxuria Coach

Our own village had many men from the Barnsley Pals who were here that day and the group assembled around the memorial to the Barnsley lads, which was rededicated on the centenary of the battle in 2016. Elsecar to Serre in a day – so simple now, but a centenary ago, the gulf between those at home and those at the front was immeasurable.

After an excellent night staying in Arras, with its amazing main square and great restaurants and bars, we headed down to Normandy to look at the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Over the course of the next few days we visited all five D-Day beaches, saw where American and British Airborne dropped in, and for many, the highlights were seeing ‘Bloody Omaha’ where so many GIs were killed on 6th June 1944, and walking across the original Pegasus Bridge. You can see these on the screen, but there is nothing like being there and seeing it for yourself.

Pegasus Bridge

As part of the D-Day tour we made a special visit to two Elsecar men killed in Normandy: one at Ranville, who was killed as a tank crewman and another at Ryes, who was an Assault Engineer. Again, it was great to have that local connection, and we were probably the first people from the village to ever stand at their graves and remember. The highlight of the week, for many, was at Hill 112 where Phil, and Chaplain Andy, led a Service of Remembrance. A veteran of the battle here had visited Phil in the pub and asked if we could remember his mates when we came, and it was a special pleasure and honour for us all to do this.

Group tours like this are unique: from planning to visiting the battlefields, those who organise are in total control over what they do and where they go, and have our years of knowledge to fall back on to make it a tour to remember.

Enquire today about taking your own group on a visit to the battlefields of WW1 or WW2 by visiting our website or by calling our team on 01709 787 403

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!

Leger Holidays' Top 10 Viewed Tours of 2015

A new start to a new year, and no, we can’t quite believe it’s 2016 either. 2015 was a brilliant year for Leger Holidays. Our new coach, Luxuria, hit the road, our website got a new look and, best of all, we got to take more fantastic customers to some great destinations and made memories to last a lifetime.

Whilst we’ve been busy preparing for the exciting year ahead, we can’t help but look back fondly on our experiences from last year. So, we’ve compiled a list of our most-viewed tours over the last 12 months. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just curious to see if your favourite tour makes the list, here’s what caught your eye over throughout 2015:

10.

In at number 10, giving us all that warm, fuzzy feeling is the Fairy Tale Castles of Bavaria, the Rhine Valley & Black Forest. And, who said romance was dead?
Bavaria, Germany

9.

Taking the number 9 spot was beautiful Italy with our Lake Garda, Venice & Verona tour. Now that’s amore!
Venice Grand Canal

8.

Speeding in at number eight, it’s fast cars and lavish surroundings with the Monaco Grand Prix by Coach.
Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix

7.

Lucky Seven, our Splendours of Paris caught your eye for a short trip just across the channel.
Eiffel Tower, Paris

6.

The stunning Dutch Bulbfields take the number 6 spot, or was it the excursion to Amsterdam that tempted you to this colourful tour? Both spectacular choices, of course.
A windmill in Holland

5.

Italy sure is popular, coming in at number 5 is the fantastic Wonders of Rome & Pompeii.
Trevi Fountain, Rome

4.

Our D-Day landings in Normandy comes in at an impressive number 4, proving once again, we will never forget.
Pegasus Bridge

3.

Into the top three for 2015, and first onto the winner’s podium, the tour taking the hypothetical bronze medal is Beautiful Bruges!
Bruges, Belgium

2.

And in second place, it’s another appearance for the Formula 1 fanatics, our ever popular Belgium Grand Prix Race Weekend spiked your interest for another year.
Ferarri Forumla 1 Car

1.

Taking the top spot, the most viewed tour of 2015 is… Nashville, New Orleans and Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Heading into America’s Deep South, you liked the sound of the live jazz of New Orleans, the blues and rock ‘n’ roll in Memphis and the country sounds of Nashville. And, a visit to Graceland? We can’t disagree with that.
Nashville, USA
With a host of new tours coming up, we wonder which tour will top our most viewed tours this year. One thing we do know is that we’ve got plenty of holidays and experiences we hope you enjoy in the meantime. Where will your plans take you in 2016?

Remembering Sgt Vic Bettle: A Story From the Battlefields

On a Battlefield tour, it’s not unusual to come across group members with personal connections to the tour they are on. Whether it be through a distant relative, great-grandparents or even a parent.

On one of our recent Battlefield tours, D-Day Landings in Normandy, a passenger of ours had set out on a truly personal trip. Ruth Bettle was on the tour following the footsteps of her late husband, Sergeant Vic Bettle.
Sgt Vic Bettleimg044
Sergeant Bettle was part of the 7th Parachute Battalion, would have jumped in or around the Pegasus Bridge area of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June, 1944, as part of Operation Tonga. The Parachute Battalion were tasked with giving support to the D Coy of 2nd (Airborne) Battalion Ox & Bucks Light Infantry led by Major John Howard.
What we know is that 7 Para Bn advanced to the area of Putot-en-Auge in August 1944.
Ruth had received correspondence from a French national several years ago who had been staying in a château in the town of Putot-en-Auge. The grounds of the château played host to a barn, it was in this barn that he had come across something special.
Ruth Bettle at the Barn
He had found an inscription signed ‘Sgt Vic Bettle, 7th parachute Batallion, 19 August 1944’. The inscription simply read ‘We chased them out this morning’.
The tour was led by our Battlefield Guide, Fred Greenhow, who after speaking to Ruth, arranged for our drivers, Chris and Brenda, to take a drive out to the château in the early evening of Sunday 5th April.
The owners were away at the time, however, with much persuasion and the use of Fred’s ‘Geordie Charm’, the young girl who lived in the ‘gate-keepers’ house allowed them access to the barn.
Ruth Bettle_The Inscription_5 Apr 2015The Inscription_19 Aug 1944
“It was an absolute ‘Condor Moment’” Said Fred. “When I was able to take the wife (Ruth Bettle) of a Veteran back to the place where her late husband wrote an inscription on the wall of a barn in the grounds of a Chateau / Manor House, and the inscription is still there and as clear as the day it was written over 70 years ago.”
“Ruth was absolutely overwhelmed when we found the Chateau in the village of Putot-en-Auge, approximately 30 km’s to the East of Caen. Her husband Sgt Vic Bettle who served with 7 Para Bn, wrote his message on the 19th August 1944, it was discovered by a Frenchman in 1998, who tracked down Vic by writing to Gen Napier Crockenden, 6 Airborne Division Association.”
On a Battlefield tour, you’re heading off on a journey of learning, understanding and appreciation, when we can reunite family and friends with a sense of their past, it’s something we are very proud of. Thanks to Fred, and to Ruth and her daughter Karen, we can share this story and keep the memory of Sgt Vic Bettle alive.
Sgt Vic Bettle on a previous trip to Pegasus Bridge after Operation Tongaimg047
 
Interesting Fact: ‘The Longest Day’, a war film from 1962 featuring John Wayne, Richard Burton and Sean Connery, covers Operation Tonga.  The actor Richard Todd OBE, who appeared in the film, served alongside Sgt Bettle in the 7 Para Bn and also played the role of Major John Howard. Another actor played Richard in the film.
 
 

Heroes Return – Ray Wilton

Heroes Return

There are a few National Lottery syndicates here at Leger HQ, as I’m sure there are at workplaces across the country. There’s many a happy conversation about what we’d do if we won, the trips we’d take and who would and who wouldn’t give up work.

Even though week after week we never hit the jackpot (£10 doesn’t go far between eight of you), one of the best things about the lottery is all the worthwhile causes it helps to support. A staggering £29bn has been raised since it launched almost 20 years ago.
One of the activities it helps to fund is particularly close to our heart the Heroes Return Grant, taking veterans back to the places where they fought during the Second World War.
On one of our February D-Day Landings battlefield tours we were joined by a film crew from the BBC’s National Lottery Saturday night TV programme. They were following a lovely veteran called Ray Wilton, along with his daughter Debbie Cox and grandson Alex. Ray was a member of the Royal Navy in WWII, joining as a telegraphist in 1943. He took part in the D-Day landings at Gold Beach on 6th June 1944, where he served on a motor launch, leading the 50th Northumbrian Division on initial landing. This visit was the first time Ray had returned in almost 70 years. As well as Gold Beach he also visited Pegasus Bridge and other key sites in Normandy linked to the landings.
Ray explains what it was like returning. “It was very emotional,” he said. “Although it looked very different – it was a crisp, sunny February day as opposed to the fierce storm of June 1944 – the memories soon came flooding back. I could remember vividly those brave young men who died on that memorable day.
“The highlight of the tour for me was visiting the Arromanches Museum and signing their visitor book, being presented with a veteran’s medal and having a wonderful welcome from the French curator there. She was in tears as she gave me the medal and thanked me for ‘liberating her country’.”
Debbie Cox, Ray’s daughter, added: “It was an emotional but uplifting experience. With my son there too, it was wonderful to have the three generations sharing the experience together. It was a privilege to pay our respects to the fallen. The film crew were very sensitive and extremely professional and we thoroughly enjoyed their company, along with that of the coach drivers, tour guide and fellow passengers, who were a varied group of all ages. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and planned an excellent and varied tour which appealed to dad as a veteran, as well as people with an interest in the war.”
Tony Lea was the specialist battlefield guide on the tour. He commented: “It was obviously very emotional for Ray and his family, but something they felt it was extremely important to do. What people often don’t realise is that for those who fought, this visit back so many decades later can be like finding the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. My experience is that veterans often don’t know how the roles they played fit into the bigger picture of the war or the battle. They can be left with questions on why they were there and as part of a visit I will explain to them the wider story which can bring about a new understanding for them.
“Whenever we have a veteran on a tour, we will try and work around their personal experience, helping them to visit places which were important to them and weaving it into everything else that was happening at the same time. It’s fascinating to have the opportunity to speak to someone who was actually there and other visitors on the tour often find it invaluable and extremely moving to share their experience with someone who has that personal perspective.”
Ray’s story as shown on the ‘National Lottery: In it to win it’ programme can be seen on Youtube  Part 1 and Part 2 .

Time for a short break?

If you’re craving your next holiday but short of time, on a budget or you just fancy a change of scene for a few days, a short break is the answer.

Not only will you come back feeling better, you’ll feel as if you’ve been away longer than you have. When we’re away from our daily lives, we become much more aware of our surroundings, and, as a result, come home with many more memories than the same period spent at home. Research has also shown that holidays are great for our mood, reducing our stress levels, increasing our energy levels and generally making us feel better. And these benefits can continue after we return. So holidays are good news all round!

Seizing the day (or four)

Seizing the opportunity to travel whenever I can (and since I’m ‘otherwise engaged’ from 9-5 each day), I decided to make the most of the four-day Easter weekend. People travel for all different reasons, and for me, this short break would mean doing something different than if I was at home. I wanted to visit somewhere I’d never been before… so where would I go?
Just a couple of hours’ drive from Calais is the charming town of Honfleur. I didn’t really know to much about the place, but it always looked really pretty in the photos I’d seen, so I decided to go and see it for myself.

Strolling along the pretty streets of Honfleur
Strolling along the pretty streets of Honfleur

A place in history

Walking along the narrow, cobbled streets, I made my way to Honfleur’s port, known locally as Vieux Bassin in the heart of the town. The port is bordered on three sides by large, stone houses around one side (Quai Sainte Etienne) and tall, narrow buildings on the other (Quai Sainte Catherine). It had been ‘the coldest March for 50 years’ in England and France wasn’t much warmer, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining, so the temperature didn’t seem to matter.
At the port’s entrance is the Lieutenancy building (la Lieutenance). This old, stone building was used as residence by the king’s lieutenant, the governor of Honfleur, until the French Revolution and it’s also what remains of a little fortified castle which formed part of the town’s original, 11th-century ramparts.

The Lieutenancy building sits at the entrance to Honfleur's old port.
The Lieutenancy building – to the right of the photograph – sits at the entrance to Honfleur’s old port.

This town is famous for inspiring the work of many artists, including Monet, Courbet, Boudin and Sisley on account of its ever-changing light, and walking around the streets there are galleries and artists’ studios everywhere.
Many years ago, Honfleur’s shipyards were among some of the best in France, and you can see the skills of the local shipbuilders inside the town’s most famous building – the Church of Sainte Catherine – the ceiling of which resembles the hull of an overturned ship. Today, this building is the oldest and largest wooden church in France. The square in which the church stands (just a short walk from La Lieutenance) was bustling on the day that I was there, with a large, lively market selling local produce: a huge range of really strong-smelling cheese, meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables, plus ciders and Calvados – the apple brandy native to this area.
Church of Sainte Catherine, the the oldest and largest wooden church in France.
Church of Sainte Catherine, the the oldest and largest wooden church in France.

The smell of the cheese on the market stalls wafted around the streets.
The smell of the cheese on the market stalls wafted around the streets.

Calvados – the apple brandy native to this area.
Calvados – the apple brandy native to this area.

In one of the little shops, the old man in there handed me a couple of samples of Calvados to try – one which said 10 ans on the bottle – ten years old – and another one which was ’12 ans’. He showed me how I should swirl the drink around to coat the glass before sipping it (although before he got to that part I’d already gulped it all down, to his cry of “sacrilèdge!”). It was very nice, and very warming on such a cold day!
Continuing my stroll around the historic old port, along Quai Sainte Etienne was a small church – Church of Sainte Etienne – Honfleur’s oldest church and today, the Maritime Museum. The small building houses an important collection of engravings, carvings, various maritime memorabilia and model ships, all providing an insight into Honfleur’s sea-faring past.
The Church of Sainte Etienne (in the centre of the picture) is Honfleur’s oldest church and today, the Maritime Museum.
The Church of Sainte Etienne (in the centre of the photograph) is Honfleur’s oldest church and today, the Maritime Museum.

A sample of Calvados, a ‘crispy mister’ and a French lesson, all in one visit

Later, sitting enjoying the spring sunshine, I noticed how narrow and tall the buildings opposite, along  Quai Sainte Catherine, really are. Some of them can’t be more than 8 or 9 feet wide, and, not only do they appear squeezed together, they’re also different heights and widths, some standing further out than others, and with the window levels changing from building to building. Apparently, not only are they different in size and shape, they also have two ground floors: one that opens out onto the quay and another, half-way up, which opens onto the street behind. And, even more peculiarly, because of the structure of the houses, each house is apparently privately-owned by two different householders.

The narrow and tall buildings along Quai Sainte Catherine.
The narrow and tall buildings along Quai Sainte Catherine.

Down on street level, the buildings’ colourful canopies – orange, red, yellow, pink – were flapping in the breeze and below them, the cane chairs and small tables were full of people enjoying the views as others strolled along the quayside.
Le Petit D̩jeuner Рbreakfast was cr̻pes with Nutella!
Le Petit D̩jeuner Рbreakfast was cr̻pes with Nutella!

As I sat in a little café along Quai Sainte Etienne, all around me people were enjoying an aperitif or tucking into crêpes or gaufres (waffles), drizzled with Nutella or strawberries and piled high with whipped cream.
For me also, it was time, to sample some more French cuisine. I ordered the very-French Croque Monsieur (which translated simply means ‘crispy mister’). It may just be a cheese and ham toasted sandwich, but it was délicieux! I even got a brief French lesson thrown in – the waiter telling me “Non, non – it’s not boNjour… you say ‘bo(n)’… without pronouncing the ’n’… you have to get the accent right!”
Have you been to Honfleur? Share you stories with us.
Or you could visit Honfleur on Leger’s Rouen and the Seaside Towns of Normandy short break.
There are lots more short breaks to choose from… click here to find out more.