2006

Connecting Spirits 2006

In mid 2005, the first planning meeting was held at Meningie Area School and 10 students expressed interest. Planning began and ideas for raising funds to support these students were discussed. With generous support from Singapore Airlines, a raffle was launched, with first prize being a trip to Turkey for Anzac Day 2006.

Eventually 8 students made a firm commitment to participate in the project, but this number was not enough for a viable trip. By this time Julie had moved to Birdwood High School, and she approached her new principal for approval to ask students from this school if they would like to take up this opportunity. 5 quickly signed up and with less than 6 months to plan, began their own journey.

After months of hard work, raising funds and researching soldiers, we were ready to leave.

The group, consisting of the 13 students and 9 adults, left Adelaide on November 6th, 2006. For many this was the first time overseas, and the longest time that they had been away from home and their families, so anticipation was mixed with some trepidation as the plane left the runway.

  

Our first stop was Singapore where we had a cultural tour which introduced us to the customs, religions and foods of the Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures. We then toured the battlefield sites before a ceremony at the Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery to commemorate those who lost their lives in South-East Asia during World War 2.

From there we flew to Paris. The highlight of this part of the journey was the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, for which we had official invitations from Jacques Chirac. We spent the next few days visiting the sites of Paris and getting used to 22 people negotiating the Met in one group.

Our next stop was Amiens, where the real focus of our tour began. We spent the next 4 days touring the battlefields and cemeteries of the Somme region, commemorating our soldiers who had fallen in this region. A highlight here was our commemoration at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Brettoneux, where we commemorated 10 soldiers, including the first of our Ngarrindjeri soldiers, Arthur Walker and Francis Varcoe.

From here we travelled to Ieper in Belgium, stopping on the way at the site of the Battle of Fromelles, the first major battle fought by Australians on the Western Front.

While in Ieper we spent another 4 days commemorating soldiers and visiting sites of interest in the area. Highlights of this part of the journey were the service commemorating Rufus Rigney and participating in the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

After this we travelled to Menin, where we went to Sint Aloysis College to meet the families that we were to be billeted with for four days. While there we visited Bruges and Brussels with our Belgium hosts.

Our final leg was over the English Channel to a one night stay at Canterbury and tour of the Cathedral. Then to London for a few days of sight-seeing and the return flight to Adelaide.

You can read all about our trip in detail in the book, "Connecting Spirits 2006", launched on Remembrance Day 2007. For your copy contact Meningie Area School.

November 6th, 2006
Depart Adelaide, arrive in Singapore.

November 7th
Cultural Tour of Singapore.

November 8th
Battlefields Tour of Singapore plus Zoos.

November 9th
Free day in Singapore. Depart for Paris.

November 10th
Arrive in Paris. Visit Australian Embassy.

November 11th
Remembrance Day Ceremony at Arc de Triomphe. Visit Mont Marte.

November 12th
Visit Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower.

November 13th
Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery, walk along Champs Elysees and climb Arc de Triomphe.

November 14th
Euro-Disney. OMG!!!!

November 15th
Leave Paris. Meet Les, our Coach Captain. Visit Palace of Versailles. Arrive in Amiens.

November 16th
Begin commemorations in Somme. Meet Rod Bedford, our Battlefields Guide.

November 17th
Special Service at Villers-Brettoneux. Visit Le Hamel

November 18th
Pozieres, Bellicourt, Bullecourt.

November 19th
Free day in Amiens.

November 20th
Leave Amiens. Visit Fromelles. Arrive in Ieper.

November 21st
Begin commemorations in Ieper. Visit Poperinghe, Talbot House, "Shrapnel Charlie".

November 22nd
Special Service for Rufus Rigney at Harelbeke. Menin Gate ceremonies. BIG DAY.

November 23rd
Lots of relatives commemorated today. Emotional. Walked through Polygon Wood.  Farewell to Rod.

November 24th
"In Flanders Fields Museum". Go to Menin. Visit St. Aloysis College, meet host families.

November 25th
Free day with host families.

November 26th
Visit Bruges with host families.

Novmeber 27th
Travel to Brussells with whole group and families. Visit Australian Embassy.

November 28th
Leave Menin and host families. Etaples for last commemorations. Cross the Channel. Arrive in Canterbury.

November 29th
Walk around Canterbury and visit Cathedral. Leave for London.

November 30th
British Museum. Covent Garden. Variety of activities.

December 1st
Buckingham Palace. Trafalgar Square. London Eye. Left London.

December 2nd
In the air or in the airport.

December 3rd
HOME!!!