Overseas Camp - Battlefield Tour

Hi All,

I want to run an overseas expedition in 2014 to France and specifically to Normandy to do the usual tour of the beaches, pegasus bridge, some museums etc etc. I am happy with the procedual stuff and the paperwork that has to be completed.

Does anyone have any suggestions about suitable tour operators that we could use that are not going to cost the earth per head?

The plan would be to use our SOV and a support van to transport the kit - 14 cadets and a couple of staff. I would think that we will end up camping to keep the accommodation costs down.

Any advice or guidance would be appreciated.


Hi Xab,

I’ve run six such trips and was on the HQ staff for the 65th anniversary camp, so drop me a pm. I can give you my tour itinerary and handouts, plus a suggested reading list (there are a lot of cheap and excellent guide-books). A guide will cost you a fortune, but depending on the dates, I’ll do it for you for nowt, Memsahib and work permitting.

However, you might have a major snag in using your SOV: The law regarding minibuses is very different on continental Europe. You’ll need to have a fitted and working tacho, plus drivers with tacho cards and certificates of competence (whatever they are). Hence why you hardly ever see minibuses over there. I suggest hiring a coach or two 8-seaters, but then you need lots of drivers.

Military Green or White Fleet MT is exempt from this legislation, but there is no way to get it with the current moratorium on public funds being spent on overseas trips (we used to use MT - all drivers had to have FMT600s plus European Matrix Test).

We’ve always managed to avoid the need for tacho cards and associated gubbins on our trips to Normandy.
I’m not sure of the details but it seems to be something akin to giving the hired minibuses a sort-of ‘temporary white fleet’ status. Filling out the usual log has been sufficient.

I investigated that and was told that it was absolutely not legal. I wouldn’t want to test that with a Gendarme or French court, so better safe than sorry.

Unfortunately I have no idea how it’s sorted out, but we’ve been doing it for the past 5 years.

[quote=“wdimagineer2b” post=12940]Hmm.
Unfortunately I have no idea how it’s sorted out, but we’ve been doing it for the past 5 years.[/quote]I’d reconsider that stance! Ignorance won’t stand up in court. Especially a Frenchie! We went through the taco hoops (at a one off cost of £500 for purchase, installation and servicing) and its served us well for our multiple trips with no dramas. There’s also some querks of French Law for multiple vehicles (additional recovery and rescue and insurance costs, strange things you need to carry by law which you don’t in this country etc etc).

I would definitely recommend the second vehicle (either as panel van or similar) and a support team (even if its just one or two people). It’ll just help things run smoother and give you some additional flexibility.

I would recommend contacting your local RBL or RAFA. They may be willing to subsidise the venture or, potentially, could provide you some support and logistics - be it recommending campsites or whatever. I think there are some reasonable tour types advertised in the RBL glossy - however it will drive up your costs. One of RBL members once accompanied us on our trips - which made for some very boring times. He was also very offended by our wish to visit an Axis graveyard - just to appreciate the differences - but also similarities in terms of absolute wastage of human life (something I would wholeheartedly recommend).

Regardless of whether you’re doing anything in uniform, make sure you get HQAC buy in ASAP - I think (i’m sure GOM can correct me!) that it’s a 6 month lead time for overseas visits to be processed and clearances issued. And next year, with the WW1 commemorations, those poor civil servants will be overworked as it is!

Because of next years commemorations, camping might require early booking too! Don’t overlook YHAs or “Hostels” (loose definition!) - they will offer you some quite competitive rates which may rival camping.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the supporting documents - I’ll try and get them to you if our organisers will provide…

GOM’s absolutely right guys. And, I can tell you something more. The Gendarmerie and the French Customs (can’t remember their title) are having a real clamp down on it too. They’ll no doubt enjoy any opportunity to prosecute. I would go with GOM’s advice, better safe than sorry!!!

Depending on how close you are to your parent station, it might be worth contacting their FDS to see if they have any suggestions on places to visit as part of your battlefield tour. Most stations will have conducted ‘Staff Rides’ to Normandy etc, and might have some good ideas for reading and research questions/projects. Having a question to research and present the answer to brings the theatre to life and will enhance the understanding of those on the tour. For me delivering a short talk in answer to a question about Maj J Frost in the shaddow of JohnFrostBrug in Arnhem was quite an experience, oddly enough on another ‘ride’ I had a question about him that I had to present by the cliffs at Bruneval.

Batfinks comment about the Axis graveyard reminded me that if passing through the area, there is a cemetary above Dunkirk (at Zuydcoote) containing French, British and German areas that is worth a look for comparison of styles.

Transport-wise we always use crew cabs so that everyone can have their personal kit in the vehicle that they’re travelling in, just in case a driver becomes ‘directionally challenged’ on for example the Eindhoven ring-road… (it wasn’t me!)

[quote=“Batfink” post=12943][quote=“wdimagineer2b” post=12940]Hmm.
Unfortunately I have no idea how it’s sorted out, but we’ve been doing it for the past 5 years.[/quote]I’d reconsider that stance! Ignorance won’t stand up in court. Especially a Frenchie![/quote]

The reason I have no idea is because it’s actually nothing to do with me. I don’t organize the transport and I don’t drive. But thanks; I’ll pass the concerns along to the right chap for next year!

Talk to Sqn Ldr TG3 at HQAC re paperwork. He’s a very helpful chap, but as Bats says, get it in early, as they’re going to be snowed under with applications due to the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1.

However, you’ll be pleased to know that the paperwork is very straightforward: ACTO 51 applies and you’ll need to submit form TG004 in plenty of time (minimum of 64 days before trip for France) and remember that it needs to go via WHQ and RHQ, so double that! Then it’ll need to be followed up by TG005 at a later date.

Once you have numbers, talk to HQAC Accts about ATC overseas travel insurance. It’s very reasonable - £5.65 per person per 7 day period at 2013 prices.

Finally, book your accommodation and travel early! We’re going across for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the campsite we usually use was already booked out by the end of last August! Similar story with the ferry and they’re all asking for much larger deposits than usual.

Absolutely second the recommendation for a support vehicle - ideally a van. Bloody handy for nipping to Leclerc’s for groceries at the very least. I’d recommend that you get all drivers to do the MT European Matrix Test, just so that you’re squeaky-clean with regard to driver competency and training for going abroad. I don’t care how many times people reckon they’ve driven abroad; they still frequently have no clue regarding the rules of priority on European roads, so do the matrix test, which includes the necessary training.


Many thanks for this fantastic wealth of information :slight_smile:

I am increasingly thinking it would be more sensible to delay and go in 2015 rather than 14 - that would give a clear year to fund raise for the event and get a really good trip organised…


GOM - PM inbound :slight_smile:


What happened there? I posted a bloody great reply earlier, but it’s disappeared! :frowning:

Replied to your Bader address if you haven’t already seen it?

Yeah recieved mate …in the pile,

Thread dredge:

Does anyone have any recommendations for hard accommodation (i.e. not a campsite) in Normandy? Looking at going in October half term 24 and trying to find suitable accommodation. I did consider a tour company but they want at least £700pp to sort it for 4/5 days so we’re going to do it ourselves!

Normandy is a big place! I assume you are looking to be nearer the Sword/Juno/Gold beaches etc?

Fair, but we are talking about a battlefield tour so I thought that bit was self-explanatory :wink:

But yes, northern Normandy, close to the beaches as possible.

It will be interesting to see if HQAC try and stop squadrons/Wings who wish to plan ‘no cost’ activities in their reprioritisation program!!

Sussex used to run a week long camp there every year. I went once as a cadet, and it was a fantastic week. I think they were all camping though, so not sure how much help I can give :sweat_smile:

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