Fa­mous bat­tle­fields world­wide a com­pelling draw

A me­mo­rial to the fallen sol­diers of Bel­gium on Provencher Boule­vard

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - TRAVEL -

THE con­cept of giv­ing your life for the free­dom of oth­ers may be hard to grasp for those who have never felt free­doms have ever been threat­ened in our coun­try.

Far­away wars can be dif­fi­cult to iden­tify with when pol­i­tics and vested na­tional in­ter­ests muddy the rea­sons for go­ing, or not go­ing into bat­tle.

The num­bers of liv­ing vet­er­ans from the Sec­ond World War are shrink­ing, and as tragic as they are, the num­bers of Cana­di­ans lost in more re­cent skir­mishes may seem small in comparison.

But free­dom can be a fleet­ing thing when we look at the num­ber of na­tions whose jour­ney to democ­racy has been thwarted by dem­a­gogues of all na­ture.

While most to­day can­not per­son­ally iden­tify with the hor­rors of war, there is al­most a fas­ci­na­tion sur­round­ing the sites of the best known bat­tle­fields of his­tory. En­tire tourism in­dus­tries have been cre­ated around vis­its to these lo­ca­tions, with bat­tle­field tours ex­plain­ing the his­tory and sav­agery of war al­ways pop­u­lar at­trac­tions.

For Cana­di­ans the World War I bat­tles at Vimy Ridge, where there were 10,602 Cana­di­ans wounded and 3,598 dead, and Pass­chen­daele with 15,654 Cana­dian ca­su­al­ties, 4,028 of which were killed, are just two of the bat­tles that have gained in­creas­ing at­ten­tion from movies, me­dia cov­er­age, and or­ga­nized tours.

The Sec­ond World War bat­tles at Dieppe and Nor­mandy where Cana­dian ca­su­al­ties were huge have been even more un­der the mi­cro­scope.

The bat­tle­fields of the Civil War in the United States have cap­ti­vated the in­ter­est of Amer­i­cans and vis­i­tors alike for gen­er­a­tions.

With al­most 52,000 war­riors killed or wounded over three days of in­tense fight­ing, the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg was seen as the defin­ing vic­tory for the Union that led to the ul­ti­mate de­feat of the south­ern Con­fed­er­ates.

Thou­sands visit this sa­cred land ev­ery year.

There are a num­ber of or­ga­nized tours that lead vis­i­tors through the bat­tle his­to­ries of most of the Civil War con­flict zones.

The year 2015 will be the 200th an­niver­sary of a war, which be­came an ex­pres­sion over cen­turies af­ter, be­cause it was where Napoleon met his fi­nal de­feat.

This Bel­gian bat­tle site of Water­loo is one of the best pre­served any­where, with the bat­tle re-en­acted ev­ery year em­ploy­ing over 1,000 par­tic­i­pants demon­strat­ing the means and meth­ods that won the war that ended the Napoleonic era.

To un­der­score its pop­u­lar­ity to­day, a train leaves nearby Brus­sels ev­ery half hour for the short jour­ney to the site. There vis­i­tors are greeted by spe­cial ve­hi­cles adapted to best high­light the ex­pe­ri­ence of that war as it was.

Known as the Bat­tle of Ham­burger Hill, this Viet­namese cam­paign was small in his­tor­i­cal terms. Nev­er­the­less it is cred­ited with chang­ing pub­lic opin­ion in the United States so dra­mat­i­cally it is seen to have been the be­gin­ning of the end of the Viet­nam War.

The ca­su­al­ties com­pared to the cause be­came an af­front to the pub­lic.

Life magazine, the leader in pho­to­jour­nal­ism at the time, pub­lished pho­tos of the al­most 250 peo­ple who were killed in just one week of the Viet­nam War.

The coun­try that was once the scourge of U.S. pol­icy mak­ers in the ’60s is now judged as the safest tourist des­ti­na­tion in Asia, and is vis­ited by count­less thou­sands of Amer­i­cans each year who go to see, or re­turn to see, the places where they tried, and failed to win vic­tory over the Viet Cong.

It is in Tu­nisia where a ma­jor chap­ter in the Arab Spring for democ­racy was writ­ten.

It is also the home of the great war­rior Han­ni­bal who, af­ter con­quer­ing a world of his own, was brought back to de­fend his home­land as the tides of war turned against him.

His troops would be de­feated in the Bat­tle of Zuma in 202 BC. His con­quests and de­feats are chron­i­cled in tours to the area, only a short drive out­side of Tu­nis, the cap­i­tal city.

Where there are not wars there are war and mil­i­tary mu­se­ums. From the more re­cently opened Bun­deswehr Mil­i­tary His­tory Mu­seum in Dres­den, Ger­many, whose stated ob­jec­tive is to have peo­ple think dif­fer­ently about war, to our own Cana­dian War Mu­seum in Ot­tawa that pro­motes Peace ex­hi­bi­tions, these ed­i­fices have also be­come part of the tourist im­per­a­tive where they re­side in cities around the world.

Find a town or city in Canada where wars have taken any num­ber of its cit­i­zenry, and you will most likely find a me­mo­rial to their brav­ery.

It is around these places we gather on Novem­ber 11 to hon­our those who have fallen; to re­mem­ber them as in­di­vid­u­als and as sym­bols of the pain and grief caused by wars, as a duty to re­mind our­selves that wher­ever we live, we need to find peace­ful ways to re­solve our dif­fer­ences.

As we pause this week to con­tem­plate how for­tu­nate we are that we live in the kind of coun­try we do, it is worth tak­ing more than a cou­ple of min­utes to re­mem­ber those who fought for our free­doms over the past and present cen­turies.

For­ward your travel ques­tions to askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.com. Ron Prad­inuk is pres­i­dent of Jour­neys Travel & Leisure Su­perCen­tre and can be heard

Sun­days at noon on CJOB. Pre­vi­ous col­umns and tips can be found on www. jour­neystrav­el­gear.com and at www.


The Bel­gian Club in Win­nipeg com­mem­o­rates the Bat­tle of Water­loo in Bel­gium.


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