"When the last post blows, the stars and planets stand still; the wind holds its breath; the rain stops; the moon turns pale; the bugles sound like fog horns. At the Menin Gate, night after night, this legitimate tribute takes place so that we never forget, but above all that we will see, once and for all, that every war, anywhere in the world, is an attack on the foundations of our civilization."
- Wim Opbrouck (30,000th Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate)
Our "Tour of Honour" pre-camp will allow youth to experience the WWI and WWII battlefields and memorials through France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Plans are still underway, but at a minimum, expect to experience the World War II Museum in Caen, France, Juno Beach, Dieppe, Beaumont-Hamel, Vimy Ridge, the Menin Gate, the battlefields of Passchendaele, Tyne Cot cemetery, and Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands. The pre-camp will be roughly five days.
We took our Scouts & Venturer Scouts (ages 10-17) on a similar tour in 2015, and from experience, it will be an experience that will change everyone forever. Even more powerful is the transition from the Tour of Honour to the Haarlem Jamborette. These young people sacrificed everything for the freedom of strangers, and the Haarlem Jamborette is the ultimate example of world peace in real life. Youth and adults from across the world camping, playing and living together in peace. Want to know what the soldiers fought for? This. They fought for this. Lest we forget.
Honestly one of the best museums I have ever had the privilege to visit! The Memorial Museum closely examines the causes and course of World War II through immersive displays and a detailed and powerful audio-tour. To say this is a powerful start to the trip is a vast understatement - the experience is the perfect way to set the stage for memorials and cemeteries to come.
June 6th, 1944, on Juno Beach, France, 14,000 Canadian soldiers aided by 10,000 Canadian sailors and 516 Canadian paratroopers stormed Juno Beach on the Normandy Coast. With the tragic Dieppe Raid just two years past, these young Canadians knew exactly the hell they were approaching as their boats hit the beach to a greeting of German gunfire. Failure at Juno would likely eliminate the allies’ ability to land on Europe for another several years, by which point the Nazis would have been unbeatable. Every single soldier knew the stakes and fought with everything they had. As history tells us, the battle was a complete success, but even great success in war comes at a terrible cost: 359 Canadian lost their lives, 574 were wounded and 47 captured.
The Juno Beach Centre (website) is a museum and cultural center, which opened at Courseulles-sur-Mer, France on June 6, 2003. The Centre presents the war effort made by all Canadians, civilian and military alike, both at home and on the various fronts during the Second World War, as well as the manifold faces of contemporary Canadian society.
From personal experience, it is incredible to be Canadian standing at Juno Beach. It's a feeling that cannot be expressed, it needs to be experienced first-hand!
On 19 August 1942 at 5:00am 5,000 Canadian soldiers attempted the impossible and stormed the shores of Dieppe, France to try and break Hitler’s stranglehold on Europe. They were told in advance that they faced nearly impossible odds, and they all likely knew as they boarded the boats that they would never return. Although the Dieppe raid did not establish the foothold that the allies were hoping for, it did provide valuable lessons that were instrumental for D-Day two years later. This lesson was paid for with 907 Canadian lives lost, 586 wounded and 1,946 captured. Many argue that if it wasn’t for the failed raid at Dieppe, the allies would have never succeeded on D-Day. It is very likely that these brave Canadians saved the war effort in their ultimate sacrifice.
From our personal experience with our Scouts & Venturer Scouts in 2015, the visiting Dieppe was profoundly emotional. We shared a ceremony on the beach, and then went for a moonlight dip in the ocean. What better way to honour this hallowed ground than with laughter and joy! In the morning we woke to watch the sunrise on the beach and then walked to the Canadian Dieppe Raid museum. Yet another experience that words completely fail to properly express. At one point, the museum curator said to us, with tears in his eyes "you (Canadians) promised you would come back for us, and you came back. We will never forget it". I still choke up thinking about it.
4th Grand Falls Scouts & Venturer Scouts thank the Dieppe veterans in our own way
On July 1, 1916 the Royal Newfoundland Regiment bravely emerged from the trenches on the ill-fated allied "Battle of the Somme", which was the regiments first major battle of the war. Following British orders they stormed towards the German front and were cut down in terrible numbers by German crossfire. Alone on the battlefield with no allied support they were slaughtered, and after only 30 minutes nearly the entire regiment was dead or seriously wounded. In total, 710 Newfoundlanders were killed, wounded or missing out of the 870 that started out. Although their battle was not successful, their bravery and sacrifice inspired all nations.
In total, on July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme claimed 71,000 casualties and more than 20,000 lives were lost. In one day...
The memorial site is the largest battalion memorial on the Western Front, and the largest area of the Somme battlefield that has been preserved. Along with preserved trench lines, there are a number of memorials and cemeteries contained within the site.
Of course experiencing Beaumont-Hamel is particularly profound for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians, but truly anyone will leave this place a changed person. At a cost of over a million casualties, 300,000 deaths, the front moved back and forth about 300m. That's 1,000 deaths per meter of ground covered. The scope of the loss is crippling, and is not lost on anyone. The area is perfectly preserved, and the guided tour will be an experience you remember for the rest of your life.
The 4th Grand Falls Scouts & Venturer Scouts had the honour of investing a new Scout in the shadow of the great caribou at Beaumont-Hamel
Over 100 years ago, in Vimy, France, 170,000 Canadians from four divisions representing Canadians from coast to coast fought together for the first time in history. It was at Vimy Ridge that Canada received worldwide respect as a sovereign nation; we achieved what our allies had considered impossible, and we did it as a nation. There were 10,602 Canadian casualties in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, with 3,598 Canadians that paid the ultimate price.
Today the ridge is dominated by an enormous monument dedicated to the brave young Canadians that bled the fields of France so long ago. The French and Canadian governments have preserved most of the vast network of trenches along Vimy Ridge, so our Scouts & Venturer Scouts will literally be able to walk through the same trenches soldiers fought in 100 years ago.
Every Canadian should visit Vimy Ridge at least once in their life. The memorial is such a uniquely Canadian approach to remembrance. There is no glory here, no victorious statues, no congratulations - this was the sight of one of our nation's greatest victories, yet there is no gloating or celebrating, only profound grief. Every single carving and statue expresses a nation in grief, a world in grief. Vimy marks the extreme sadness and terrible cost of war. Engraved in the walls are the names of all the Canadian soldiers who were lost in the war and have no known graves... the names wrap endlessly around the enormous monument... each name a life, a person with a family, with a future... lost forever. When the Germans captured France in World War II, Hitler ordered the vandalism or destruction of all the allied World War I memorials as they celebrated Germany's defeat. When Hitler arrived at Vimy Ridge, he was so moved by the memorial that he instead ordered it to be protected by his personal guard. Vimy Ridge speaks to everyone - you will not ever forget your visit.
To say Belgium is "anti-war" is a vast understatement. Belgium was a neutral country in both world wars, yet in both wars they were invaded and their country absolutely decimated. In World War I in particular, the area of Passchendaele & Ypres was reduced to a barren landscape of deadly mud. There were no buildings, no roads, no trees, just shell-torn land and endless mud. The area was truly hell on Earth, and the battles there cost the lives of millions of people.
We will be experiencing Belgium's war experience through an in-depth guided tour of several significant battlefields and memorials for the Canadian and Newfoundland regiments. Experienced together the sites tell a story of bravery, generosity, tragedy and gratitude. The range of emotions is powerful and life changing.
Some highlights include: the Essex Farm Cemetery, where John McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields"; Hill 62 where you can experience the last fully preserved trenches in Belgium; St. Julien Memorial (the Brooding Soldier), which symbolizes the incredible cost to the Canadian soldiers who lost comrades; Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war, with almost 12,000 graves; and so much more.
Perhaps the most moving experience of the entire trip is the Menin Gate, the commonwealth memorial for the missing. This enormous structure bares the names of 54,389 officers and men from United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who fell in the Ypres Salient before 16th August 1917 and who have no known grave - lost, but never forgotten.
Every night at 8.00pm a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate. The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ypres and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defense of their town.
From 11th November, 1929 the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate Memorial every night and in all weathers. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20th May 1940 to 6th September 1944. On the very evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate, in spite of the heavy fighting still going on in other parts of the town. Bullet marks can still be seen on the memorial from that time.
Below is the 30,000th ceremony conducted at the Menin Gate. These ceremonies have been conducted EVERY night for the last 90 years! We pause for a minute once a year, but the people of Ypres say thank you to our veterans every single day with much more than just a moment of silence. One of the most powerful experiences of my life.
We don't yet have a plan for our Tour of Honour through the Netherlands as there are just so many options and so many places to see. Trust that it will be a humbling experience that will fill you with pride like you have never felt before. The gratitude the Dutch people have towards Canadians is boundless, and has been passed down through the generations. The friendship shared between our two nations is like no other, and is truly precious.
On 5 May 1945, the Canadian General Charles Foulkes accepted the capitulation of German forces in the Netherlands after almost nine months of brutal combat with over 7,600 Canadian casualties. Canadians played the leading role in the liberation of the Netherlands, and the Dutch have never forgotten. Canada is revered in the Netherlands, and even to this day Dutch school children tend the graves of the Canadian soldiers who never made it home. Every year the Dutch Royal Family send thousands of tulip bulbs to Ottawa to remind Canadians that we are forever in the hearts and minds of the Dutch people.
We are still very much in the early planning phase of the contingent Tour of Honour pre-camp, so it is still too early to give firm pricing. The final plan and pricing will also depend on the level of interest from Canadian groups. When you register for the 2023 Haarlem Jamborette you will be given an opportunity to express interest in participating in the Tour of Honour. We will all then work together to give our youth the experience of lifetime.
As far as cost is concerned, we are hoping to keep the cost as low as possible. We completed a similar tour with our Scouts & Venturer Scouts in 2015. We stayed in really nice hotels, and also paid for some more expense (and less rewarding) stops that we will not be doing in 2023. It was our first ever international trip, so we just did whatever the travel agent said we should, lol! We have learned a lot since then! Even with all these extra costs, the trip was roughly $1,500/person. It is reasonable to expect that for 2023, the total cost of the 12 day Jamborette (which includes food and all your activities), your equipment rental, the 5ish day Tour of Honour and your flights should be less than the cost of attending World Jamboree in West Virginia in 2019 ($3,850). Obviously COVID-19 is a massive wildcard on pricing - industry experts are split as to the effect that will have on airline and travel pricing. So like I said, we're still a long way off getting solid pricing.
That said, the Canadian Contingent is running this trip like we run every Scout Camp in our own Troops - like every single dollar is precious. As Scouts we have to be "wise in the use of all resources", and you have our absolute promise that we will do everything possible to keep costs as low as possible while still providing the best possible experience. We will be using youth group accommodations instead of hotels for example, and restricting our trip to what really matters. We have a lot of experience traveling in Europe, and we will be using that experience to create an amazing adventure that youth and Scouters will never forget.
So after you register for the 2023 Haarlem Jamborette, we will contact you to guage your interest in the Tour of Honour pre-camp.
"When you go home, tell them of us, and say for your tomorrow, we gave our today"