From the beaches of Normandy to the dense forest of the Ardennes, Britain’s biggest battles have been waged throughout Western Europe. Every year, millions of people visit the continent’s most well known World War I and World War II battlefields to pay their respects to those that sacrificed their lives for peace and freedom.
This travel guide covers three of Britain’s most significant battlefields – the beaches of Normandy, the fields of Ypres, and the dense forest of the Ardennes – so that you can plan your historical tour of Europe.
1. The Normandy Beaches, France
In 1944, after years of preparation, the forces of Britain, the United States, and other Western Allies launched an amphibious assault on France’s northern coastline. The operation, now known as the D-Day Landings, was a decisive success for the Allies due to a combination of brave fighting and impressive military deception.
The same troops that stormed the beaches later went on to liberate Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control, with many sacrificing their lives for the freedom of the continent.
Today, the beaches of Normandy are a popular destination for Shearings.com battlefield tours of France. Several military cemeteries are located in the region for those that would like to show their respect to the fallen, as well as the remains of German defences along the coastline.
2. The Ardennes Forest, Belgium and France
The dense forest of the Ardennes twice played a decisive role in World War II – the first time, during the successful German invasion of France, and the second time in the successful Allied defence during Germany’s last ditch attack during the Battle of the Bulge. Some of the most intense fighting of World War I occurred near the town of Ypres. Image
While the fighting in the Ardennes may not be as well known as that which occurred on the Normandy beaches, it played a decisive role in ending the war in Europe, and is widely regarded as being a ‘decisive final defeat’ for Germany’s forces in Western Europe.
Today, visitors to the Ardennes can visit military cemeteries, a variety of interesting museums, and some of the most important battle locations of both the German 1940 invasion of France and the successful Allied operations of 1944 and 1945.
Some of the most intense fighting of World War I occurred near the town of Ypres.
3. The Ypres Fields, Belgium
The small town of Ypres, home to just 34,900 residents, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the First World War. A strategically important asset for Germany and the Allied forces, the town was the location of five significant , battles during the four years of combat.
Today, the town is an excellent destination for travellers interested in learning more about Britain’s role in the First World War. The Menin Gate – a memorial to all of the soldiers of the British Commonwealth that fell during combat – is one of the town’s most popular attractions.
As well as Ypres itself, the countryside surrounding the town is a major attraction for many British visitors, having been featured in the war poem In Flanders Fields.