Ip­swich Trip Ad­vi­sor

His­tor­i­cal war sites make for a fas­ci­nat­ing, emo­tional and ed­u­ca­tional hol­i­day

QT Magazine - - TRAVEL -

IF YOU’VE been to Ip­swich Jets or joined the Lost Ip­swich Face­book group, chances are you’ll know Greg “Jacko” Lyons.

What you might not know though, is that he’s a proud ex-RAAF mem­ber and a bit of a his­tory buff, so when he went to Europe to visit sev­eral his­tor­i­cal sites, it was a per­fect chance for Jacko to share his ad­vice with any­one in Ip­swich keen to do the same. Here are his words about his trip.

Who went on your hol­i­day?

My Part­ner Karen and I de­cided to visit our friends in the UK and as we were there we would visit as much as we could.

How did you plan ahead? About 12 months out, when we first dis­cussed the trip, we both started mak­ing a list of ev­ery­thing we wanted to see. I watched a lot of travel videos on Youtube and picked up ex­tra hints on places to visit. Ob­vi­ously there were some “fam­ily” places to visit so Google Maps and other sites were ac­cessed to gain as much info as I could.

What in­spired you to visit th­ese his­tor­i­cal sites through Europe?

There were three main rea­sons.

My grandfather was killed in WWI and is buried in France. No one in the fam­ily had vis­ited.

My un­cle was a Welling­ton pi­lot and was killed over Europe so a visit to the base he flew out of in Eng­land was planned on our road trip through the UK. My great-great-grandfather and his fam­ily came from the vil­lage of Har­bury in War­wick­shire so that was an­other must-do.

Which fa­mous war sites did you visit?

As a visit to my grandfather’s grave was the main rea­son to head to France, he was at the start of a very emo­tional trip through North­ern Frances bat­tle­fields, which in­cluded a visit to his grave at Achiet le Grande, Villers Bre­ton­neux, many small ceme­ter­ies along the route, Menin Gate and the beach of Dunkirk.

How did you get there?

For­tu­nately our friends in the UK de­cided to take us on a road trip through France and Bel­gium. Sadly we didn’t get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked to to just take in all the sites. Trust me, there is a lot of ceme­ter­ies and points of in­ter­est in north­ern France

alone. The enor­mity of bat­tle­field sites con­tin­ues through Bel­gium but sadly I did not get there. So that is on my bucket list for the next trip.

What were your first im­pres­sions of the sites? How beau­ti­ful and pic­turesque the coun­try­side is around the ceme­ter­ies and how well kept and re­spected by the lo­cal French peo­ple they are. The other thing that hit me was there were so many ceme­ter­ies in such a small area of coun­try­side.

Was it what you ex­pected?

I did not have ex­pec­ta­tions, but one thing it did was let us ex­pe­ri­ence the sense of hor­ror and mas­sive sac­ri­fice that all na­tions suf­fered dur­ing a fu­tile war as all wars are. Be­ing ex-mil­i­tary, I was proud to say I stood amongst many Aus­tralians who paid for our free­dom.

What was your favourite ex­pe­ri­ence out of all the sites you vis­ited?

Ob­vi­ously be­ing the first fam­ily mem­ber to visit my grandfather’s fi­nal rest­ing place. He left his home town of Wondai to fight in the Great War, and at just 28 years of age his fight was over. Menin Gate Me­mo­rial was an­other high­light, the Menin Gate was erected in 1927 and con­tains over 54,000 names of Com­mon­wealth sol­diers with no known grave. They are listed by unit and we were over­awed by the enor­mity of the num­bers of Aus­tralians with no known fi­nal rest­ing place.

Was it an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for you?

My grandfather’s grave visit was very emo­tional, my thoughts went back to my gran who, bring­ing up a young fam­ily, was on her own. An­other im­por­tant fact here was my mum had two older broth­ers and both those were killed and had no fam­i­lies. I went through a va­ri­ety of emo­tions from re­lief to find­ing his grave, sad­ness in know­ing that I was the first fam­ily mem­ber to see his grave and also the fact that his life was cut short at such a young age. I felt a sense of ex­treme pride be­ing an Aussie be­ing able to freely travel across the world to say hello to a grandfather whom I never met but ad­mire for what he did. My fi­nal task on his visit was to sprin­kle Aussie soil on his grave and plant three Aus­tralian flags to rep­re­sent his chil­dren.

What tips would you give Ip­swich residents think­ing of go­ing to visit his­tor­i­cal sites?

Plan well ahead and work out the most im­por­tant sites to visit, and you need time to take it all in, there is so much to see and ex­pe­ri­ence.

What would you do dif­fer­ently if you went back? Take more time. Un­for­tu­nately we were with an­other couple and they had planned a few things so we did miss out on so much. I would plan to stay in a cen­tral lo­ca­tion and just take our time vis­it­ing the sites around our stop, then move on to the next lo­ca­tion.

Where do you plan to go next and why?

Ei­ther an­other trip to Europe to take in the North­ern Lights, Ger­many and a few more lo­ca­tions we never got to or to Amer­ica as there is so much to see, New York, Wash­ing­ton, Mem­phis, Los An­ge­les and so much more.

Did you go some­where new for a hol­i­day in the past year? Care to share your tips and ex­pe­ri­ences?

Email: [email protected]

My grandfather’s grave visit was very emo­tional, my thoughts went back to my gran...

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

SAME BEACH, WORLDS APART: The beach at Dunkirk looked very dif­fer­ent from May 26 to June 4 in 1940.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

The Run­nymeade Air Forces me­mo­rial that lists ev­ery com­mon­wealth air­man and woman lost in WW2 with no known grave. That’s 20,456 names, in­clud­ing Greg’s un­cle. Find­ing his grandfather’s grave was par­tic­u­larly poignant. A church near Villers Bret – rid­dled with bul­let holes

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