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Discover Australian battlefield history on unique tours

TRAVEL: Getting up very close to the aircraft in a private hangar on the Bomber Command tour.
TRAVEL: Getting up very close to the aircraft in a private hangar on the Bomber Command tour. Graham Fleeton

DELVE into Australia's fascinating war history with the help of passionate battlefield tour guides who want to share their knowledge in a unique way.

Retired Colonel Graham Fleeton's Battlefield Tours take small group tours to battlefields in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and South Africa.

Graham and his tight tour leader group of retired military personnel prepare for each tour by asking their guests about particular interests in a tour. Where a guest has a family connection with a battlefield, the team will research that history before leaving Australia and then do their best to give the guest the opportunity

Most of his groups, which are no larger than 26 people and can be as small as handful, are mostly aged 50 and over.

"I don't cancel a tour. Once I start taking bookings, the tour goes anyway."

Graham, who has a degree in history and serves on the board of the Army Museum of NSW, draws on his knowledge from 44 years in the Army Reserve, to develop his unique tours.

There are eight tours on offer in 2018.

TRAVEL: Monastery at Meteora Northern Greece which is in the Battle of Greece and Crete tour.
TRAVEL: Monastery at Meteora Northern Greece which is in the Battle of Greece and Crete tour. Graham Fleeton

Battle of Greece and Crete 76th Anniversary

  • April 8 to 26, led by Colonel Graham Fleeton and assisted by Dr Helena Sulioti.
  • Attend ANZAC Dawn Service in Athens, which Graham has been conducting since 2005.
  • Includes visits to the Acropolis and the Pantheon, Olympia, Delphi and Kalambaka and the Metéora monasteries.

On April 6, 1941 the German army launched its attack against the Greeks on the Metaxos Line and the allied expeditionary force located at Florina. The allied force, including the 6th Australian Division, were withdrawn from mainland Greece and so began the Battle for Crete.

"The Australian troops went through these areas during the war," Graham said.

"We talk about happened on a date and walk the ground, and being a solider, I can tell them what happened."

Vietnam Tunnel Rats

  • May 13 to 21, led by Colonel Sandy MacGregor MC.
  • The tour includes Saigon, Mekong Delta and Vung Tau.
  • Included in the tour price is a personally autographed book, A Sapper's War or The Tunnel Rats.

"Sandy won his MC in Vietnam, by going down the tunnels, leading his troops," Graham said.

"He was the first one to find the Cu Chi tunnels.

"Sandy takes the tour to all the spots the Australians fought and he knows so much about the country and its culture."

Australia fought side by side with the USA in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973 as a counter to the 'communist tide' that was sweeping through Asia. Some 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam and 521 were killed while 3000 were wounded.

BATTLEFIELDS: Vietnam during the war years will be remembered during the Tunnel Rats tour.
BATTLEFIELDS: Vietnam during the war years will be remembered during the Tunnel Rats tour.

Boer War, South Africa

  • May 26 to June 9, led by Lt Colonel John Howells.
  • A visit to the Kruger National Park is an extension to the main tour. One of the members of the Pretoria Scottish Rifles is a friend of Graham's and runs these tours.

"We only go to the areas where Australians were which covers over a 1000 square kilometres," Graham said.

"We are in the bush most of the time and walk the battlefields where the Australians were, visiting some of the cemeteries and museums."

Bomber Command, UK

  • July 5 to 17, led by Colonel Graham Fleeton.
  • This heritage tour goes to sites where the RAAF squadrons served as they flew missions over Europe.
  • Once leaving London there are nine museums, two air shows, fabulous English pubs and more to enjoy.
  • In Lincoln the group stay in the Dam Busters Mess.

"Some of the guys have done it two or three times with me," Graham said.

"I get them into the areas where the conservation work is going on.

"We also visit the home of a friend of mine who has a control tower that was used during the war, which he has made his home."

UK Heritage Rail Tour

  • July 17 to 31, led by led by Colonel Graham Fleeton.
  • This tour is everything trains and steam with the group travelling to about 15 destinations by coach and then jumping on a steam train to travel or visiting the train sheds and museums.

"On the first of these tours which was this year, there was 26 people," Graham said.

"A few of them are coming back this year.

"It's a must for railway enthusiasts that want to be taken back to those days of steam."

Guadalcanal 76th Anniversary

  • August 5 to 10, led by Lt Colonel John Howells.
  • The group is usually no bigger than 10.

"We go across the Iron Bottom Sound where the HMAS Canberra was sunk and we usually lay a wreath above where it lies."

It was here that the US 1st and 2nd Marine divisions, supported by the US army, navy and army air force with the valued assistance of the Australian Navy and Australian and Solomon Island Coastwatchers, stopped the Japanese advance into the South Pacific.

TRAVEL: High Trees Cemetery at Montbrehain, The Somme. The Last grave to the east has Australians interred.
TRAVEL: High Trees Cemetery at Montbrehain, The Somme. The Last grave to the east has Australians interred. Graham Fleeton

Special Western Front to Normandy

  • September 13 to 25, led by Colonel Steve Larkins.
  • This extraordinary tour starts in Paris, goes to Peronne, The Somme, Ieper and Normandy for an intimate insight to the battles of WWI.

"The Australians weren't there, but a lot of people are interested in this history.

Monash Advance to Victory Tour, Western Front

  • September 26 to October 8, led by Colonel Graham Fleeton.
  • Follow Lt General John Monash's campaign as it advanced across the Somme to their final confrontation with the retreating Germans at Montbrehain.
  • Attend service at High Tree Cemetery at Montbrehain in memory of October 5, 1918 when five Australian divisions fought their way into the village and won the battle. The cemetery is the furthest to the east where an Australian is buried.

"I may be taking some pipers with me," Graham said.

He hopes they will be at the Arc de Triumph October 7 to play at 5pm when the flame for the Unknown Solider is extinguished, which is done daily.

For full information on all tours, go to www.battlefieldhistorytours.com.au/index.php.

Topics:  general-seniors-news history travel travel-international


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