Mercat Tours International - We do remember them

Christmas Truce Centenary

Mercat Tours International’s involvement with the history of WWI is well known and it is our intention to mark the centenary of this world-changing event in a singular manner.

From the early days of that great European tragedy, Ypres centred in the plans of the belligerent nations and it is only fitting that acknowledgement of this fact should be a key part in any centenary memorial ceremonies. Most people if, or when, they think about Christmas 1914 at all, are aware of the famous truce which occurred along the Western Front and was characterised by the football match in No Man’s Land. As you know, we have been taking school and adult groups to that site since 1979. Teachers and students have always been very moved by the account of the truce and the reinstallation of the carillon of bells in Messines Church which overlooks the site of the truce and football match.

Consequently, we propose to commemorate that truce on the anniversary of its occurrence - on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day 2014 - and invite you and your friends and family to join with us in this event. It will be a once in a lifetime visit!

We are well aware that Christmas is a special time for people and this may seem to be a gross intrusion into what is a busy family-orientated festival. However our proposal will still have time for sharing with family, opening Christmas presents, Christmas dinner etc. but will also commemorate a unique event and stage a ‘family’ Christmas on a much larger stage. You will have time to share with a wider family of friends and like-minded people in a manner that has hitherto not been possible. Essentially we are proposing a four day Christmas Festival in Ypres from 23rd – 27th December 2014.

It really will be a once in a lifetime visit!

The invitation is extended to all teachers and their families and any school students, former pupils or other interested personnel. It may be that you know someone who has always wanted to visit the battlefields but never yet managed. This is now their opportunity! On the other hand, you may wish to organise a small group of present/past students from your school. The options are open and up to you. In addition our contacts in Belgium will be advertising the event in and around Ypres and we are sure there will be considerable interest locally.

Mercat Tours International is now delighted to announce the arrangements are now in place for us to celebrate and recall the significance of the Christmas Truce and football game of 1914.

The key aim has been to provide a comprehensive and enjoyable experience which balances moments of reflection with opportunities for families and friends to meet and relax in a convivial atmosphere. Central to this has also been to providean inclusive package at a reasonable cost with lots of value added extras.

All participants will be known as the Christmas Pals

Accommodation

We are using a variety of our excellent regular accommodation providers in Belgium. They are all very warm, comfortable and have unique atmosphere. We use Munchenhof in Langemark and The Salient and Poppies in Ypres which all have en-suite accommodation and use bunk beds. It is our intention to use these places for family groups in order to keep everyone together and create a sense of community. We will also use the Pax Hotel in Diksmuide which is approximately 14 miles from the centre of Ypres. All the accommodation features meeting areas and bars which we intend to use in the evening for socialising with our musicians.

Please note that we are deliberately not using 3 and 4 star hotels in order to minimise costs whilst ensuring all accommodation is very comfortable and ideal for our purposes.

Transport

We are providing two possible modes of travel to Belgium. Option A involves an overnight journey by P&O ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge while Option B is the overland drive and overnight accommodation in Dover followed by the Channel Tunnel to France/ Belgium. Return journeys in both options will be by Channel Tunnel on 27th December since we anticipate everyone will want to be home as soon as possible after the conclusion of our commemorative events in order to prepare for the New Year.

Coaches will leave from both Glasgow and Edinburgh for the convenience of our passengers. It will also be possible to arrange for ‘pickups’ on the road down to Hull and Dover if that is more convenient than travelling up to Scotland.

As usual we will use the coach journey for entertainment and musical purposes. All coaches will be led by a Mercat International guide. The journey time will fly past!

Additional Features

Every effort has been made to recreate the atmosphere of the period and provide a programme of events which both honours the memory of the soldiers and accurately reveals the historic facts.

Uniform

Many of you will know the WWI song ‘Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers’. For the past months many volunteers across the country have been knitting scarves for the Christmas Pals, just like families did for their relatives in WW1. Each person participating in this Christmas Event will be presented with a souvenir scarf with the Christmas 2014 Event logo as featured in the heading of this letter. This will serve as a permanent souvenir of this tour and will identify all those who are part of our Christmas Pals group. This scarf will be the uniform of the Christmas Pals!

Lecture

In early December 2014 we have organised a lecture in Edinburgh on the background to the Christmas Truce. This will be under the auspices of the University of Edinburgh and be given by Yvonne McEwen who is the Director of the Edinburgh’s War 1914-18 Project. Entry will be free and details of date and time will follow.

Music

We are working with a number of Scottish musicians who will be travelling with us and will be responsible for providing the concert on Boxing Day in Ypres. In addition, musicians from Belgium will also be participating in the Boxing Day activities and may wish to join us on the other evenings at our various hotels. Those of you who have travelled with Mercat International before will be aware of the important contribution music has made to our Experience. The Christmas Event 2014 will be no different to our musical norm.

Visits

While Pals will be free to dip in and out of the scheduled events as they wish, we will be organising a variety of additional guided visits/walks on the morning of 26th December. These will provide an opportunity to see places not normally on the ‘tourist route’. Alternatively, you may prefer to go sightseeing around Ypres.

In order to secure the accommodation and begin planning the logistics of this exercise please examine the following itineraries and advise which is most suitable for you and your family. Decisions about which activity you wish to follow on Boxing Day can be made at a later date.

The charge per adult will be £495 and for children under 16 will be £350.

The form below should be completed and returned with £100 deposit per person to Mercat Tours International Ltd. 28 Blair Street, Edinburgh EH1 1 QR.

Cheques should be made out to Anderson Strathern Ltd.

Our Terms and Conditions are as stated on our Application Form.

Finally, we are aware that many will be feeling the pull of family and family events at Christmas.

We would simply ask you to consider the following-

a) This is a unique event and will be a once in a lifetime experience. Can you afford one Christmas period in a lifetime?

b) Bring all the family! There will be plenty of opportunity to opt in and out of events. There will be plenty of free time to wander the beautiful streets of Ypres or relax in your own time.

c) In 2014 postpone Christmas until New Year and celebrate a family New Year.

Should you require further information on any aspect of this exciting project our contact details are:

Email: info@mercattoursinternational.com

Tel : 0131 225 5445

The Itineraries

Itinerary: A Hull/Zeebrugge

23rd December 2014
  • 10am Leave Glasgow/Edinburgh
  • Transfer to Hull.
  • Ferry to Zeebrugge.
  • Cabins and evening meal provided
24th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • 9am Arrive Zeebrugge.
  • Transfer to hostels/hotels
  • Afternoon : visit Ypres, Christmas Market.
  • Lunch not provided
  • Evening meal provided.
  • 7.30pm : Assemble Ypres for Menin Gate Ceremony
  • 9pm: Assemble Messines for torchlight procession to Prowse Point Cemetery on old German Front line.
  • Carol service.
  • 11pm: Coaches to hostels/hotels
25th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • Free morning
  • Snack lunch provided
  • Afternoon: Football match
  • Evening: Meal in hostels/hotels and ceilidh/party
26th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • Morning: optional Visits:
    • Poperinge/ Ljssenhoek, Brandhoek
    • Poperinge, Croonart, Hooge
    • Railway Wood, Hooge
    • Trail around Ypres
    • Sanctuary Wood, Hill 60
    • Essex Farm, Poelcapelle
    • Free time : lunch not provided
  • Afternoon: Carol Singing in Ypres Markt
  • Evening: Meal in hostels/hotels
  • 7pm: Concert in Ypres followed by ceilidh in Cloth Hall restaurant
27th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • Depart for Channel Tunnel
  • Arrive Glasgow/Edinburgh approx 11pm
Cost
  • Adult: £495pp
  • Under 16: £350pp

Itinerary B: Dover/ Channel Tunnel

23rd December 2014
  • 7am Leave Glasgow/ Edinburgh
  • Transfer to accommodation near Ashford/Tunnel
  • Dinner, bed and breakfast provided
24th December 2014
  • Channel Tunnel to Calais.
  • Transfer to hostel/hotels
  • Afternoon: visit Ypres, Christmas Market.
  • Lunch not provided
  • Evening meal in hostel/hotel
  • 7.30pm: Assemble Ypres for Menin Gate Ceremony
  • 9pm: Assemble Messines for torchlight procession to Prowse Point Cemetery.
  • Carol service.
  • 11pm: Coaches to hostel/hotel
25th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • Free morning
  • Snack lunch provided
  • Afternoon: Football match
  • Evening: Meal in hostels/hotels and ceilidh/party
26th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • Morning: optional Visits:
    • Poperinge/ Ljssenhoek, Brandhoek
    • Poperinge, Croonart, Hooge
    • Railway Wood, Hooge
    • Trail around Ypres
    • Sanctuary Wood, Hill 60
    • Essex Farm, Poelcapelle
    • Free time : lunch not provided
  • Afternoon: Carol Singing in Ypres Markt
  • Evening: Meal in hostels/hotels
  • 7pm: Concert in Ypres followed by ceilidh in Cloth Hall restaurant
27th December 2014
  • Breakfast provided
  • Channel Tunnel to Dover.
  • Arrive Glasgow/Edinburgh approx. 11pm
Cost
  • Adult: £495pp
  • Under 16: £350pp

So that is our proposal. We really hope you are interested in participating in what really will be a once in a lifetime experience! If you are, can you please let us know as soon as possible and I will add you to the list of Christmas 2014 volunteers.

Very best wishes,

Des Brogan
Director
Mercat Tours International

Christmas Truce Centenary