Wednesday 31 October 2018

Captain Darling’s Grand Tour 2018

Hello Everyone, it’s been quiet on the Blog recently due to many distractions but I shall try to address this and get the backlog of posts I have planned up! First up, earlier this year Mrs Darling and I head off from Australia for a 5 week European holiday, while overseas we took around 3,000 pictures and spent too much money! I’ll try to give you a run down of the places visited that are relevant to the Blog with just a handful a pictures…

Okay here it is, the Grand Tour Summation!

First stop in Europe was Rome, it wasn’t our first stay here but there’s so much to see and this time we included a visit to Ostia, Antica. Well I stumbled across what for the person interested in modern military history a gem...We’re in downtown Rome just up the road from the Colosseum and Mrs Darling says “I’m busting for a wizz!” I said, “Well there’s Italy’s Parliament building there’s bound to be a public toilet there!” And there was the but also there was the Altare della Patria a sort of War Memorial come Military Museum. They have varied displays including such stuff as an MTB, a human torpedo thingee, a WW I fighter and the colours of many of Italy’s warships in very hefty chests (I never really wondered where ships colours were stored!). A very worthwhile stop!

Captain Darling and a Bleriot XI-2 at the Altare della Patria…

Second stop after a short train trip was Florence and some time in Tuscany...lotsa touristy stuff here but not much for the blog!

Third stop Vienna it was our first time here and ‘lordy be’ so much to see and do and only five days! Our first morning was following the steps of Harry Lime! Yes one of my favourite movies The Third Man was filmed in Vienna. We visited Harry’s house, the Josefplatz, the doorway Harry is first seen in (sans cat) and the cemetery, Mrs Darling even enjoyed it as I hammed up it for photos but she drew the line at a sewer tour though! We ended the day later with dinner at the Ferris Wheel! A major spot to visit here is the HGM – Heeresgeschichtliches Museum AKA the Army Museum, this place is the ‘ants pants’. Displays go back to the Middle Ages! The Napoleonic and WW I levels are pure pleasure. I think with all the 100th anniversaries the WW I section has recently had some work. I could easily have spent a day here! Be warned you have to pay a couple of Euros extra to be able to take happy snaps!

The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum...

Fourth stop on the trip after another overnight rail trip Berlin once again mainly touristy stuff here due to trade-offs that ensue when travelling with your partner! But squeezed in: visits to some of the Cold War sights i.e. bits of the Wall and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, we cruised past the Soviet Soldiers Memorial, checked out the Stasi Museum and spent a while at the Deutsches Technikmuseum (Museum of Technology). The Technology Museum was a real highlight as should any museum that has a DC 3 suspended over its roof! It featured plenty of military bits and pieces but the railway section was truly awesome!

World War II vintage graffiti on the Reichstag!

Captain Darling with a ‘cannon bollard’ at the Brandenburg Gate…

The DC 3 atop the the Deutsches Technikmuseum...

Fifth stop Brussels. Okay we only had 2 days here (luckily I’d visited before so had seen the excellent Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and its famous Russian Gallery then) so we did a day tour of the city and spent the second day at the Waterloo Battlefield (As most of the battlefield is privately owned and since I had trekked it previously we just stuck to the main visitor area this time). Now I remember the old set up there from 2005 and the new Visitor Centre is a revelation! I really enjoyed it and so did Mrs Darling in fact I had to drag her out so we could visit the Panorama and scale the Lion Mound (which seemed much steeper than when I ascended it last time!) before we had to return to Brussels. Waterloo is now a must visit location after the ‘spruce up’ (after my 2005 sojourn I gave it an okay rating).

Mrs Darling at the base of Lion Mound, for some strange reason she didn't want to ascend the 200 plus steps, Waterloo

Sixth Stop(s) Ypres, Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux and Lille with lots of touring. Now this was the main point of this trip with both Mrs Darling and I having relatives who served in France with the First A.I.F. we were on the ground to attend the 100th anniversary ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux. The Service was the highlight of the Grand Tour for both of us and well worth the freezing wait overnight! Kudos to the Australian Government Veteran Affairs Department for the work done organising this event. Now I am not going to list everything we did over the 10 days travelling the WW I Battlefields and points of interest but I recommend it to anyone who had relatives who served there or for anyone with a military interest in the Western Front. My Grandfather served and returned as did two of his brothers but Mrs Darling’s three Great Uncles served there and were all KIA in the space of a couple of weeks in 1917, fate is a fickle creature. When we visited the Menin Gate and Villers Bretteneux Memorial Mrs Darling saw the names of 2 relatives on the walls and then with the help of a guide we located the Vaulx Hill Cemetery where she became quite emotional visiting the grave of her third Great Uncle. This part of the trip was very sobering yet we still ensured we enjoyed ourselves, there was the brewery tours, finding great little shops in the backstreet of Lille, picturesque walks etc…
Hard to decide what pictures to select for here but here’s a few…

Mrs Darling and the Menin Gate!

Part of the memorial to animals for their part in the Great War near Pozziers…

The last resting place of  Second Lieutenant William O’Brien remembered with honour at the Vaulx Hill Cemetry…one of Mrs Darling’s relations.

The Australian memorial in Bullecourt….the slouch hat is a recent addition. Slouch hats are being added to many memorials around Australia too.

A live artillery round ploughed up by a farmer awaiting collection by the army! We were told this is a common sight!!!

The tower of the Villers-Bretonneux memorial at daybreak on ANZAC Day 2018…

Last stop London and for the benefit of the Blog there were only a couple of bits of interest. Firstly we visited the Imperial War Museum whilst there and it was a letdown! The old crowded and overloaded displays of my previous visits were gone and a Spartan like setup greeted us. The WW I display was the only real part we found up to scratch, it seems they have decided to modernise and open up the rest of the galleries and they are the poorer for it (just my opinion here!) there must be a hell of a lot of items now languishing in storage. Also I ensured we visited St Helens Church which Mrs Darling thought was a great idea as within its walls lay hundreds of years of history but actually the purpose of the visit was to see the bollard right by it which unlike most of the ones in London is made with a real cannon! Outside of London whilst still in Ol’ Blighty we encountered a couple more bits of interest! During our day trip to Brighton we saw the only VSF related sight of the 35 day trip! Along the beach we spotted two elaborately costumed Steampunk couples strolling with their dog. They were proudly promenading and looking quite magnificent until their dog decided it was whoopsie time! A Steampunk gentleman carrying a plastic bag of pooh managed to lose the participants all their majesty! Also we spent a day and a half at Hever Castle which we highly recommend, the accommodation was lavish and the breakfast was to die for and bugger me drunk literally we fell over one more little Military Museum! We discovered on the grounds the Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry Museum...this was a nice surprise. It is a very well presented little museum with some very interesting items and a Saladin Armoured Car and a 25lb field gun on site to boot.

St Helens Church London, a ‘real’ cannon bollard!

Captain Darling getting tea a Cabby Shelter, great food at a good price, we were invited inside for a look see and these are pretty cool little retreats for the London cabbies…

Captain Darling enjoying the sunshine in Ol’ Blighty…our trip of 35 days on mainland Europe we had 2 wet days out of 28 and for our time in England we had wet weather on 3 out of 7 days!

On the grounds of Hever Castle you’ll find the Kent & Sharpshooters Yeomanry Museum…

…and there you’ll see some very cool displays!

Okay that’s Captain Darling’s 2018 Grand Tour wrapped up! 

Next Time - I have a new Flying Contraption completed, a couple of AAR's, a VSF scenario, more The russians are Coming action and some more figures plus some bio story lines…so much to post so little time!


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers Ben, yes a long way to travel but worth it, New Zealand next year much closer!

  2. An epic journey across European history , I do need to go back to Waterloo since the revamp 🙂

    1. Thanks Matt, yes a visit to Waterloo now is much better experience...much closer you than us!