Alan Jordan, a retired engineer, has always been interested in political and military history. Having discovered battlefield tours as a holiday experience in 1990, he has been on 30 such trips, covering history from the Romans to the Second World War and lots in between.
These tours are always escorted by a guide who has a military background and also, at times, by an expert too. The accommodation en route is good quality and meals are either included or stops along the way allow for a good range of food.
A critical point about the tours is that, of course, all your fellow travellers are interested in the battlefields too, so with a shared enthusiasm it is easy to relate to each other, and Alan now finds he meets the same folk time and again.
The Great Patriotic War
The trip Alan has enjoyed most, and they are all great, was The Great Patriotic War - the Russian name for the Second World War. On the Eastern Russian Front, 20 million Russians died (soldiers and civilians) while playing a vital role in overcoming the Germans.
This particular trip started and finished in Moscow, which was pivotal in the Russian defence and counter-attack in 1941. The Armed Forces Museum captured Alan’s imagination, as it covered the history of Russia’s military from its beginning, displayed an armoured train and had an extraordinary image of the Russian Victory Parade on Red Square.
Another of Alan’s highlights was an excursion to the museum at what was the Red Army tank proving ground at Kubinka. Yes, there was a wonderful array of Russian and German tanks, however astonishingly he saw Japanese tanks from the Second World War, taken in Manchuria in 1945, now in Moscow.
Incredibly, Alan’s tour group was also able to watch President Putin and the Russian military at the Victory Day Parade in Red Square, amid high level security. This was an exceptional opportunity because very few foreigners were present.
Stalingrad, re-named Volgograd, experienced heavy battles in 1942 which ultimately resulted in the German 6th Army being beaten in 1943. The tour group flew here, putting up in a central hotel, very close to the defining front line which is delineated by T-34 tank turrets on pedestals. When Alan saw these he was surprised at the very limited area the Russians retained during the most intense fighting.
The tour took in the highlights of the battle, including the Tractor Factory. And they also visited a good museum which displays the State Sword given by Britain to remember the events that took place.
Alan’s most lasting, powerful memory however is of Mamayev Kurgan, where brutal exchanges took place. There are graves of important military figures, a memorial with an everlasting flame and an enormous statue to Mother Russia.
The final journey Alan and his tour took was by rail to Kursk, travelling overnight to the location of the final German offensive in Russia, which took place in 1943. The Ponyri are took the brunt of the battle and the Command Bunker of the Russians still exists, which was much enjoyed by Alan and his fellow travellers. The south of this area is famous for being the place where the biggest tank battle in history took place.
Alan was, once again, delighted by the quality and knowledge of the military guide, a retired Russian soldier who was injured during the famous tank battle and was awarded the medal that is his country’s version of the Victoria Cross, ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’.
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Alan's tour was organised by Holts Tours, which specialises in battlefield tours.