WWII Educational Tour: Final Days

Inconsistent Internet access slowed Mr. Nelson’s posts for a few days in the middle of the WWII Educational Tour, but we’re re-posting his last two posts from the trip.  It sounds like it was an unforgettable experience for all 28 participants! A big THANK YOU to Ridgewater History instructor Sam Nelson for taking time to post and allowing us to share it with all of you!
March 11, 2012
An Amazing Day


Owing to a hiccup in scheduling, we are in Caen one more night rather than taking the night ferry to Portsmouth.  That means we will take the ferry tomorrow morning but it also means I have Internet access tonight to provide a review of the day’s highlights.

We began the day at the Caen Memorial Museum, a fantastic interpretive overview of the war with special attention paid to its human cost.  Although the History Channel may seem to have covered every known World War II film, the museum had some astounding footage from German archives, French resistance film, and Russian material.  The combination of film, photographs, artifacts, and human stories was mounted in a compelling presentation.

The memorial’s closing film on the D-Day landing captured the artistry of the museum experience. It was a split screen film from both the German and Allied perspectives.  On one side of the screen were American and British forces preparing for the invasion (along with French resistance film) while on the other side were scenes from the German defense preparations.  The mounting intensity of the dual footage culminated with the landing after which the movie switched to a single film of the Germans strafing the landing beaches, thus combining the two sides into one.  Then, suddenly, the film switched to a present day overflying of the same beaches today…in peace.  Everyone was quite taken by the film technique.

We picked up our Normandy guide, Patricia, who let us through Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery, and the port city of Arromanches.  Situated between the American landing beaches, Omaha and Utah, Pointe du Hoc

March 12, 2012
The Last Post

Owing to lack of Internet access, the last post was written a couple days ago though only posted yesterday.  Ah, the joys of the Internet. After a pleasant journey across the English Channel Saturday morning, our two days in London were packed with excitement.  Saturday night in London is an overload for the senses.  Picadilly Circus is indeed a circus–of people, smells, hustle and bustle.  We wandered the streets of London, feasted on fish and chips, and enjoyed the atmosphere of the world’s most international city (300 languages spoken here!).

Sunday began with an outstanding tour of the city.  Our tour guide, Nikki, was another excellent source of information and entertaining tidbits.  We saw the changing of the guard, a ceremonial ritual carried out with precision and reverence.  Our next stop was the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum.  The latter transported us back to the war years as we strolled through the actual bunker location where Churchill, et al. conducted the war.  The Churchill Museum provides a highly interactive biography, including artifacts (his cigar and satin sleepwear), high tech displays, vintage photos and recordings, and video of Churchill’s life.

Next stop, the Imperial War Museum, another great World War II experience.  Actual tanks, planes, rockets, artillery, and every other munition of war were on display.  The Holocaust exhibit provided an emotional coda to the trip.  Some of the travelers peeled off to visit the Tower of London, where they viewed the Crown Jewels, torture instruments, medieval weaponry and armour, and other pleasant reminders of the Dark Ages.

We concluded our journey with an Indian dinner (very typical in London) and celebration of our time together.  The group was fantastic to travel with and hopefully everyone will return with lifelong memories to share with you.