Continental Tour/Freedom Flame
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The Freedom Flame was lit on 13th September 1948, at the D Day memorial stone, Southsea, by Field Marshall Bernard ‘Monty’ Montgomery.
At the time, World War Two had recently finished but the world had become a very unsettled place again.
The Iron Curtain was falling and Berlin was being blockaded. It was obvious that the end result of the War wasn’t really the lasting Peace that had been hoped for.
This ‘Torch of Unity’ was aimed to demonstrate a commitment to the Freedom that millions had fought and died for in the recent past. It crossed the channel to Bayeux, Normandy and then on to Eindhoven in Holland – these two towns being nominated as the first towns liberated in their respective countries. Eventually, the Flame came to reside in a small town called Wageningen, Holland, about 20 minutes from Arnhem.
Wageningen has a very special place in Dutch history. When the Nazi invasion of Holland by Blitzkrieg took place, the Dutch put in their immensely brave nut futile ‘last stand’ at the Grebbeberg, on the outskirts of Wageningen. Dutch Remembrance Day commemorations centre on Wageningen and The Grebbeberg.
The bitterly cold winter of 1944/45, combined with food supplies being blockaded by the occupying forces, had resulted in what became known as The Hunger Winter. 22,000 perished from starvation that winter. Eventually, in the final days of the war, in early May 1945, unarmed British and Canadian bomber aircraft flew at very low level to drop over 12,500 tons of food, while the German Army withheld their fire. Only one of over 3000 aircraft was lost, and that when it ditched in the North Sea killing all but two its crew. The small Dutch nation had lost 300,000 civilians during the occupation and had 75% of the Dutch Jewish population had been exterminated by the Nazis.
On May 5th 1945, the surrender of German forces in Holland was then agreed in the Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen, bringing the War to an end for the Dutch. Common sense and humanity had finally prevailed. Both sides in the conflict had been ferrying in food in that final week. The German army were also doing so by road convoy, despite the war still officially raging. Sadly, those 22,000 had already perished from starvation.
The Dutch commemorate their war dead in a very different way to us. We commemorate our military dead each November on Remembrance Day and with the Poppy Campaign. We don’t, however, commemorate our civilian dead. The German war machine was so effective across the flat landscape of The Netherlands, against a nation who were consciously demilitarised, that very few Dutch military were killed before the Dutch had no choice but to capitulate. Just as we do, Dutch commemorations hold their fallen in the highest possible regard but simultaneously commemorate civilian dead.
In May 2014, the men of Hull Normandy Veterans Association had the greatest of honours – that of being nominated to bring the Freedom Flame out of Holland to the UK for the first time since it was lit in 1948. They travelled out to the Netherlands on “pilgrimage” to receive the Flame. For veterans, pilgrimage is the act of travelling to the graves of the fallen to lay wreaths and pay respect.
Leaving behind the beaches of Normandy, these men had fought their way through France, Belgium and the Netherlands to liberate the Dutch, before continuing into Germany. Eindhoven had been liberated on 18th September 1944, but, it was to be early May 1945 before the liberation of the Netherlands was complete as Nazi Germany collapsed.
For the first time, the Hull Normandy Veterans had joined with the Dutch in Wageningen, for the commemoration of their civilian dead, by means of a silent march of thousands. This march, on the 4th of May, moves firstly to a Jewish memorial, and then to the Wageningen war memorial. The power of a silent march cannot be expressed adequately on the page.
The 1948 flame now burns permanently on a monument in the centre of Wageningen, a few metres from the Hotel de Wereld. It is the centerpiece of Dutch national liberation celebrations, which are centred in the space outside the hotel. In the past, the ceremony has been started by the lighting of a ceremonial fire bowl, lit from the eternally burning flame on the memorial.
However, since 2015 the ceremony has been started using the Freedom Flame based with us in Hull. The centerpiece fire bowl is then used to light torches that are carried to the far corners of The Netherlands, where they start further celebrations.
The 70th anniversary in 2015 saw 210 torches with teams totaling 5000 runners and cyclists.
The 5th of May is Dutch Liberation Day - “Bevrijdingsdag” is celebrated by a national holiday and by a parade and large musical festival in Wageningen, attended by up to 150,000 people.
Imagine Glastonbury dropped into a town – huge numbers of people but without mud. We have been invited to bring a choir to Wageningen to sing, both as part of the Remembrance Day commemorations (Dodenherdenking), and in the Liberation Day celebrations.
In particular, we have been invited to sing at the absolute epicenter of the national celebrations as the choir who will sing at the instant that the fire bowl is lit. This moment is broadcast live on Dutch national television.
Our Flame resides in lamps that are identical to lamps that have been used by the Olympic Games for over 30 years. They are maintained and kept burning permanently by a small team of volunteers. Each year our team, including veterans, undertakes a pilgrimage of our own to return to Wageningen. This year our pilgrimage with the Flame is returning to Wageningen to again start Dutch national liberation celebrations through Belgium and France.
So, what is our plan? This is our current itinerary. Undoubtedly some things may change, but should change in that additional items are added, rather than removed. The journey will take in some very historic places. Travel times are mostly short, as the Low Countries are surprisingly small.Our provisional itinerary is as follows:
30th April – leave Hull on the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry. Choir will perform on the ship.
1st May – land at Zeebrugge and travel immediately to Tyne Cot war cemetery, near Passchendaele. We will then double back into Ypres, where the choir will perform within the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world. We aim to arrive early to give time to appreciate the place before it may get busy.
We are also seeking permission from The Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the choir to sing/rehearse within the cemetery.
2nd May – Oppy, France. 2000 men from our city were killed on 3rd May 1917 in just eight hours while attacking a wood. The choir will sing to the people of Oppy and surrounding area on the evening on the 2nd.
This will be from the front of the memorial to fallen Hull men. We will present the Mairie and the people of the village with a plaque to commemorate their civilian war dead. We will also run this as a fund raiser for injured veterans in the form of a Big Brew – tea/coffee and biscuits for audience
We envisage plenty of time to visit Vimy Ridge, near to Oppy. The site is stunning.
After this evening event we will run through the night into the 3rd. This anniversary is a major event for our City. Members of the choir would be welcome to the night time commemorations, should they choose to, but hotel rooms will be booked.
3rd May – 0345 hrs – night vigil by the Freedom Flame committee, started by three blasts of a Great War trench whistle. 100 torches will be lit from the Freedom Flame, burning in No Man’s Land and the names of all 2000 men killed will be read. This will be around the spot where Hull Victoria Cross recipient Jack Harrison fell and was lost into the mud. This will conclude at 0615 hrs, which is sunrise. At sunrise, a newly written lament will be played on bagpipes. After a service we will move north to the Netherlands, arriving late morning or early afternoon. This will give time to catch up on sleep for those who have elected to stay up for the night commemorations. There will be a civic party from Hull taking part in commemorations later in the morning, but we will have moved on, as we are consciously non-political and will distance ourselves as we believe that the young men lost are the people who really matter.
Arrival on the 3rd in Wageningen will give time for rehearsals and for members of the choir to see Wageningen.
4th May – Dodenherdenking. The current plan proposed from the Dutch National Committee, is that the choir sing as a backdrop to an exhibition in the town Parish Church. This is traditionally the centre of their remembrance. At midnight, the main Liberation ceremony takes place and they would like the choir to sing Something Inside So Strong as the ceremony takes place.
5th May – Join in the Bevdijdingsdefile (Liberation Day parade celebrations) during the day, and then sing within the festival on the evening.
6th May – Tourism day. Then travel to the ferry, where the choir would again perform on the ferry.
7th May – Evening performance outdoor at Holy Trinity, with our own ceremonial fire bowl burning. This event will be a combination commemoration and celebration, singing to the public in Trinity Square who will be invited to bring a picnic, in the style of Classics in the Park type events
Our actions are to celebrate what is right and good in the world without involvement of politics. The aim of the project is to spread the ethic of Freedom in its many forms. Freedom can be expressed in so many ways, from the simple Freedom from war, to modern day slavery and so many variations on human rights. This tour isn’t just aimed to be a singing tour. It is aimed to blow the minds of those involved. There will be tears and there will be laughs. We will take you to places you would never be allowed and events that are historic. Presently, the BBC are looking to follow us for the journey to document our progress.
Come and be involved. How often do you get to start the liberation celebrations for a whole country?
David Montgomery, 2nd Viscount of El Alamein and Mr John Millin, son of D Day piper, Bill Millin
Netherlands Trip Full accommodation details.
30TH April Ferry from Hull to Zeebruge, departing at 1840
Please note, we will be singing on the ferry.
1st May - 1 night in one of the following hotels, near Ypres
Parkhotel Kortrijk ( near Ypres )
This luxurious and trendy hotel is located a stone's throw away from the Shopping centre K and within walking distance of the Market Square in Kortrijk, opposite to the Central Station. Free WIFI is available throughout the hotel.
All rooms are decorated in a contemporary design with warm tones to create a relaxed atmosphere. Stay in one of the standard rooms, or opt for a prestige room for extra space and comfort.
The new wellness area located in the south wing offers a place to retreat. It includes an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam bath and a fitness centre. At a surcharge the Wellness avenue includes a rain shower, steam footbath, infrared sauna, salt crystal sauna, snooze room, ice cold shower, herbal sauna, eucalyptus steam room and therapy baths. Also available are pampering massages, soothing facial cares, body cares, manicures and pedicures.
In the trendy restaurant guests can enjoy the classic French cuisine. The new Bar Jules serves local drinks, cocktails, wines and different world cuisine dishes. Every morning a royal breakfast buffet is served for all guests.
Or - Ibis Style Kotrijk Expo ( Near Ypres )
Located only a 5-minute walk from the Kortrijk Xpo Halls, the hotel offers modern rooms and suites with a flat-screen TV and free WiFi. It features a 24-hour reception and free public on-site parking.
The Pop-Up 23 restaurant at ibis Styles Kortrijk Expo serves International cuisine in the elegant dining room. Guests can also enjoy cocktails and drinks in the bar
2nd May – 1 night at one of the following near Oppy
CAMPANILE Arras – St Nicolas
(details to follow) or Inter- Hotel – Le Gayant – Douai - ( near Oppy )
This fully renovated hotel boasts modern, full-equipped rooms with cable television and a full bathroom. Enjoy a friendly welcome in a cosy atmosphere. The hotel's bar is the ideal place for a relaxing drink among friends after a hectic day..
Located on the river Scarpe, some 40 kilometres from Lille and 25 kilometres from Arras, Douai is home to one of the region's most impressive belfries
3rd May – Wageningse Berg
Offering a restaurant, Fletcher Hotel-Restaurant De Wageningsche Berg is located in Wageningen at river Nederrijn, on the edge of National Park Hoge Veluwe. Free Wi-Fi access is available.
Each room comes with a seating area, TV, electric kettle and coffee machine. The bathroom is fitted with a bath or shower and free toiletries are provided.
At Fletcher Hotel De Wageningsche Berg you will find a 24-hour front desk and a garden. Other facilities offered include luggage storage and a laundry. An array of activities can be enjoyed on site or in the surroundings, including cycling.
This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Wageningen!
6th May Depart Rotterdam for Hull, depart at 2030 Again we will be singing on the ferry.
Total cost for this trip is £655.00 due at the point of booking. Your booking is not confirmed until full monies have been received. This cost is based on two people sharing. Single room price available on application.
Your cost includes,
Fully guided tour as per itinerary, B&B in all hotels for duration of holiday
Travel to all venues as per itinerary
Cabin on 2 berth occupancy outward and return inside cabin.
Access to a designated members area for home learning of repertoire.
All rehearsals needed dates to be confrimed. (Some of these will take place in the Hull region, but plenty of notice given)
Non singers, partners welcome.
Please fully read intin for full details of what included. This is a package tour offered by Music and Travel Ltd in conjunction with Travel Counsellors we are unable to breakdown individual items This is a bespoke trip and you will not find this package tour anywhere else offering above and beyond may other battlefield tours.
You must be able to do a bank transfer in order to confirm your holiday.
THIS frist TRIP IS NOW FULLY BOOKED however if we have enough interest for a second coach we may be able to run this too. Please add your name to our waiting list, even if you do not have a partner we can pair you up with another choir members so please fill in our form.
CLICK HERE TO BE ADDDED TO OUR WAITING LIST
Please note this is a fully guided tour and we are extremeley competative on other like for like tours
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