The Great Escaper: From Portsmouth to Normandy


5 days from £649pp

About the tour: The Great Escaper: From Portsmouth to Normandy


Tour Introduction

D-Day was one of the great turning points in the Second World War. The invasion of the French coastline in Normandy saw more than 156,000 Allied soldiers put ashore successfully in a single day and marked the beginning of the end of the war in the West. Normandy was a battle of seventy-seven days and while many died, most men came home, and in the years that followed WW2, they returned to Normandy as veterans. In 'The Great Escaper', Sir Michael Caine stars as Bernard Jordan, the D-Day veteran who made global headlines when he ‘escaped’ his care home to attend the 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy, aged 89. The film explores what that return to the 1944 battlefield meant to him as an individual, but also the mental and physical impact shouldered by a whole generation who fought and survived the Second World War. Travel with us to understand Bernard Jordan's story, uncover the stories of other veterans who were there and visit some of the key battlefields of eighty years ago.

Tour Includes


  • 4 nights hotel with continental breakfast
  • Specialist Battlefield Guide
  • Regional coach departures
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Tour Itinerary

Day 1 - The D-Day Story

After our interchange, we travel to Portsmouth and visit the D-Day Story, the foremost D-Day Museum in Britain located in a key port connected with the Naval operations in 1944. Here we discover more about the Normandy landings and see many fascinating objects that link us to 1944. A new part of the museum is a preserved original Landing Craft Tank (LCT) which is the same type of ship Bernard Jordan served in on D-Day, and we can explore this and see a Churchill and a Sherman tank on its deck.

Bernard served in the Royal Navy, so we walk onto the seafront at Portsmouth and visit the Portsmouth Naval Memorial which commemorates many sailors who died in action at Normandy and who were buried at sea.

We then proceed to our overnight hotel in Portsmouth.

Landing Craft Tank at D-Day Museum

D-Day Story (3)

Key Visits

  • D-Day Story
  • Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Day 2 - Build up to D-Day

Portsmouth was one of the main ports of departure for the D-Day landings in 1944, and 70 years later, it was also the point of departure for Bernie Jordan on his journey back to Normandy. After Bernie ‘escaped’ his care home in Hove early on the 5th June 2014, he ended up spending all of his cash on a taxi to the ferry terminal, not that that deterred him from continuing on his journey.

In 1944, the force that would land on the Normandy coastline assembled in the countryside around the city, with key marshalling areas for troops being located in the fields and woods on the city outskirts.

Before we leave Portsmouth, we look at some D-Day-related sites around Portsmouth, including one of the loading ramps used by the Navy. We then travel to Dover for the ferry to France, continuing to Normandy and our hotel in Caen for three nights.

Included meals: Breakfast

Sherman Tank on D-Day

D-Day Battlefield Sites (2)

Key Visits

  • D-Day Battlefield Sites

Day 3 - The Great Escaper & D-Day

Bernard Jordan's war on D-Day took him across the Channel as a leading seaman on a Landing Craft Tank transporting an armoured unit to Sword Beach, one of the five Allied beaches on 6 June 1944. Today, we travel to Sword Beach and look at how the landings worked, from the types of ships bringing the troops in, to H-Hour when the ramps went down and men, tanks and specialist armour hit the beaches. As a qualified electrician, Bernie was tasked with operating the huge ramp on the front of his LCT and the film explores the psychological impact sending his comrades onto the beach, where many would lose their lives, may have had on Bernie.

Sword Beach was no pushover, and we discuss the problems they had breaking the Atlantic Wall here. We also look at the Commando story as men from Lord Lovat's Special Service Brigade came in the follow up waves, but also fought on the beach, including the legendary piper Bill Millin, whose memorial we will see. We visit the 'Sword Beach Cemetery' at Hermanville and the Naval Memorial on the seafront, see the unit memorials to those who landed, and also discuss what places like Sword Beach mean to the veterans who returned after the war.

After lunch, we examine what the armoured units that Bernard Jordan landed on D-Day did in the advance on Caen. We follow the battlefields around the city where the fighting raged in June-July 1944, visit the ground around the Abbey Ardennes where Allied soldiers clashed with the SS, and finish the day at Bayeux War Cemetery. This is the largest Second World War British Cemetery in France with over 4,500 graves. It holds a special place in the narrative of The Great Escaper as both Bernie and a fellow veteran he befriends on his journey travel to the cemetery to pay their respects to fallen soldiers who were close to them. We also look at some of the preserved WW2 tanks in the grounds of the nearby war museum.

Included meals: Breakfast

Bayeux War Cemetery

Bayeux War Cemetery (3)

Key Visits

  • Sword Beach
  • Bayeux War Cemetery

Day 4 - D-Day: Day of Days

Bernard Jordan was one of many veterans of the D-Day landings and today we explore the wider story of June 1944, looking at the British Airborne story from Pegasus Bridge to Ranville War Cemetery and onto the Breville Ridge. This ground was all very special to the surviving veterans, and we see memorials that many of them had a hand in and tell the stories of their friends who never returned.

We then travel across to Juno Beach and see where the Canadians landed, and afterwards visit the new British Normandy Memorial overlooking Gold Beach where the names of Bernard Jordan's comrades who died are engraved on the panels.

Lunchtime is in Arromanches, where you can explore the story of the Mulberry Harbour, the artificial port that helped secure victory in 1944 and enabled supplies, men, and equipment to be brought in after the beach landings. We finish the day at the excellent Overlord Museum – one of the best in Normandy with an unrivalled collection of vehicles and artefacts from WW2 – before travelling down to Omaha Beach where American soldiers landed on D-Day. We discuss what places like this meant to what the United States calls 'The Greatest Generation'.

Included meals: Breakfast

Pegasus_Bridge-PEGASUS_BRIDGE

Pegasus Bridge (5)

Key Visits

  • Omaha Beach
  • Pegasus Bridge
  • Overlord Museum
  • British Normandy Memorial

Day 5 - Return home

Return home.

Included meals: Breakfast

Specialist Battlefield Guides

All of Leger’s battlefield tours are accompanied by specialist guides. Their individual in-depth knowledge of warfare will be informative, as well as enhance your overall experience, as they recreate a fascinating perception of the history and factual events of each battle. Discover the actual catalysts for war, the strategies employed and the final, inevitable outcomes, as well as experiencing the emotional human side of the front line.

Please note: On certain tours, you may get tour guides other that the ones listed below.

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Hotel

You will stay for one night at the Ibis Portsmouth Centre, and three nights at the Ibis Falaise, or similar.

Ibis Styles Ouistreham

Ibis Styles Ouistreham
Mercure Paris Velizy
Mercure Paris Velizy

About the hotel

Situated in central Ouistreham, the Ibis Styles Ouistreham is just 6 minutes’ walk from the beach and the fishing harbour. The beaches of Ouistreham were codenamed Sword Beach during the WW2 Normandy Landings.

Hotel Features

  • Bar
  • English Speaking Staff
  • Guest Lounge
  • Lift
  • Restaurant
  • WiFi Available

Room Features

  • Bath and/or Shower
  • Hairdryer
  • Telephone
  • TV

Travel Options

All our coaches and transfer vehicles operate a 'no smoking on board policy'. The use of electronic cigarettes is strictly forbidden.
In the interest of fellow guests, do not take hot food or ice cream on board.
alcohol can only be taken on board our vehicles at the discretion of your driver.

When it comes to getting to the Battlefields, Leger Holidays make it easy, with a selection of travel options for you choose from.

Silver Service Coach

Silver Service, refreshments
Silver Service, lounge
Silver Service, entertainment

Silver Service Features

  • Sit back and relax in specially-designed, deluxe reclining seats, with leather headrests, footrests and more legroom than standard coaches.
  • Enjoy the perfect temperature onboard with climate control.
  • Relax and have a chat in the spacious rear lounge.
  • Servery on board offering a range of refreshments.
  • Porterage* at most hotels, so you really don’t have to lift a finger.
  • Time flies with our onboard entertainment system.
  • With free personal headphones you can tune into the music channel, listen to the radio or watch DVDs.
  • Onboard toilet

Silver Service Seating Plan

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Travel Extras

With an overnight stay or a Door-to-Door pick up, our travel extras allow you to create a travel experience to suit your needs...

Door-to-Door service

On Battlefield tours of 7 days’ duration or more, you don’t even have to think about getting to your local joining point. If you live within 20 miles of one of our free joining points we’ll pick you up from your home and take you to meet your transfer vehicle, then return you back home at the end of your holiday. The cost is just £30 per booking each way for up to four people per booking.

If you live a little further afield, you can also take advantage of this convenient option for an additional charge – please enquire at the time of booking.

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