Air War Europe: Colditz, Dambusters & the Great Escape
DEPARTS: Convenient joining points in the UK, or begin/end your tour in Europe
Price: per person, twin share
Air War Europe: Colditz, Dambusters & the Great Escape
We look at the battlefields of the war in the air above Europe involving the men of RAF Bomber Command. On this tour we visit the RAF graves in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery then travel through the Ruhr Valley area on trips to the Eder Dam and Möhne Dam examining the Dambusters Raid. We later visit Colditz Castle, examine the fire-bombing of Dresden and the story of the Great Escape. In Berlin we look at raids on the Nazi capital and also visit the Luftwaffe Museums in Gatow and Hannover. The tour ends with a visit to the grave of Dambuster hero Guy Gibson VC.
Day 1 > Arrive Holland
Depart from your chosen UK pick-up point and travel to the port where a coach interchange will take place, you will then join your tour coach for the Channel crossing. On arrival on the Continent we continue to our hotel (passengers joining the tour in Europe will meet the group at the hotel this evening).
Day 2 > Möhne Dam
We continue our journey into Germany and visit Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, the largest WW2 British Cemetery in Europe – nearly half the 7,400 graves are men from Bomber Command. From here we travel to the Möhne Dam, stopping en-route at Rheinberg War Cemetery where some of the Dambusters are buried. The Möhne Dam, in the Ruhr Valley, was heroically breached by the Lancasters of 617 Squadron (Dambusters) in 1943. At Möhne you can walk on top of the dam and still see where the breach was made. Of the 20 massive dams constructed in the Ruhr Valley, six dams were selected as targets with three of these being the primary targets – the Möhne, the Eder and the Sorpe dams. Between the Möhne and Sorpe, they held back 76% of the total water available to the industrial valley, one of the main reasons they were primary targets. If breached, these dams would bring the whole industrial valley to a standstill, causing massive damage to the steel industry, devastating production of tanks, aircraft, guns and locomotives which were all vital to Germany’s war effort. As well as visiting Möhne Dam, we also make a stop at the Eder Dam en route to our overnight hotel in the former East German city of Jena, a centre of the optical industry. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Reichswald Forest War Cemetery ★ Mohne Dam ★ Eder Dam
Day 3 > Colditz
Today we will visit the castle and museum at Colditz (entrance and guided tour approximately €7.50 per person), the infamous ‘bad boys camp’ and scene of many ingenious escape bids. Perched above a sleepy town of the same name, Colditz has a varied history, although we will concentrate on its use as an internment camp for Allied prisoners during WW2. Hear the story of the ‘Red Fox’, Mike Sinclair, killed on an escape attempt, and also the story of Douglas Bader, plus many more. From Colditz we continue to Dresden and our hotel where we will stay for two nights. (B)
STAR INCLUSION ★ Colditz Castle
Day 4 > The Dresden Raids
We stay in Dresden this morning to uncover the tumultuous history of this great city. As the seat of the Saxon royalty, Dresden became arguably Germany’s most beautiful city. During the war it suffered almost complete destruction; however, it has since been painstakingly restored to resemble its former glory. This afternoon is spent at leisure in Dresden, or alternatively you can join our optional visit to the Bundeswehr Military History Museum which has an unparalleled collection of WW2 artefacts. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Dresden OPTIONAL INCLUSION ★ Bundeswehr Military History Museum
Day 5 > Zagan & The Great Escape
Today we cross the border into Poland to Zagan to visit the German POW camp, Stalag (Luft) III (entrance to the museum approximately €2 per person). The camp, founded in 1943, was one of the six special German POW camps specially built for the ever increasing amount of POW aircrews. At the height of the camps use, about 10,000 commissioned and non-commissioned officers were in the camp. The Stalag (Luft) III became famous for what was known as ‘The Great Escape’. In March 1944, a large group of 80 Allied prisoners got out during ‘The Great Escape’. They dug a tunnel with the nickname ‘Harry’. Only three men managed to escape to free territory. Of the rest, 50 were murdered by the Gestapo. We will uncover the story of the escape and the reprisals ordered by Hitler, and visit the memorial, before continuing to our hotel in the Berlin area for two nights. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ German POW camp, Stalag (Luft) III
Day 6 > Berlin Air Raids
In Berlin we look at the raids on the city but start at the impressive air force museum in Gatow, which has a large collection of aircraft from WWI to the Cold War Period. We then visit Berlin War Cemetery where many RAF Bomber Command Crews are buried. Around the city we see Flak Tower defences and the air raid shelters used to protect Berliners from the bombs. In the evening join us on an optional visit around Berlin’s WW2 sites. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Berlin ★ Air Force Museum Gatow ★ Berlin War Cemetery
OPTIONAL INCLUSION ★ Evening Tour of Berlin WW2 Sites
Day 7 > Hannover
In the morning, we see one of the last remaining Flak Towers then travel to Hannover and visit the Air Force museum (entrance approximately €6 per person) which has some impressive WWII items as well as a memorial to Second World War air crew. In Hannover itself we see some of the signs of the bombing raids, ending the day at Hannover War Cemetery where more than 2,000 graves of bomber crew casualties can be found. We stay overnight in Hannover. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Hannover ★ Air Force Musuem
Day 8 > Rheinberg War Cemetery
We travel into Holland, stopping at Rheinberg War Cemetery where some of the Dambusters are buried. We end at the grave of Guy Gibson V.C. whose war ended when his Mosquito crashed at Steenbergen. We stay overnight in Belgium. (B)
STAR INCLUSIONS ★ Rheinberg War Cemetery
Day 9 > Depart
We leave the Belgium hotel after breakfast and travel to the Channel port. You will leave your tour coach behind as you join your transfer vehicle for your return journey to the UK (passengers departing the tour in Europe will farewell the group at the hotel). (B)
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