From: Winnipeg, MB
If you are rarely in Europe and want to snif some world war two from Lille, focused on Canadian effort:
- The UK/Canadian sector in Normandy is 4 hours by car (cemetery near the beach with 2000 graves), US sector 4,5 - 5,5 hours as Normandy is quite big
- Canadian cemetery for the '45 battles are around 4 hours by car to the northeast (Holten, beautiful location - 1200 graves)
- Arnhem / Market Garden area is about 2 (Southern edge) to 3 (Northern edge) hours by car to the northeast if that battle interests you. The areas of interest from Eindhoven to Arnhem can all be visited in about 1,5 day. You could even visit another large US Cemetery in Europe @ Margraten with 8300 US graves (about 1 hour from Eindhoven)
General remark - Commonwealth cemeteries are usually smaller and more distributed. USA / German are centralized. There is a big UK one @ Bayeux
So, what interests you - what would you really want to get out of the trip? Let me know and I can offer some help as I know the areas pretty well
Good input from someone living in the area. Not many know/realize that after Caen was taken (a bloody, desperate battle itself) the Canadians had to clear along the North Sea coast which was heavily fortified with concrete emplacements all the way along. So while Patton's tanks streaked across undefended countryside the Canadians slogged along the coast.
The only thing that stopped the Canadian advance was the flooded fields along the approach to Antwerp which forced the Canadians to advance along narrow dikes where German MGs and guns were waiting. The Canadians cleared the Scheldt Estuary up to the islands of Walchernan (sp) and another I can't recall but had no assault boats worthy of an amphibious landing. Monty wanted them to use their little river-crossing boats to assault across a vast expanse of water into a heavily fortified island. (Hitler & Co. knew that as long as he held the estuary, Antwerp port, already taken by the Canadians, could not be used by the Allies.) It took weeks for Monty to respond to Canadian requests for proper landing craft and bombardment support for the crossing to the islands at the mouth of the Scheldt. In the meantime a lot of Canadians died trying to do what Monty foolishly demanded.
To add insult to injury, when the Scheldt was finally cleared and Antwerp port received its first ship, no Canadians were allowed to participate in the parade. Canadian and other Commonwealth opinion of Montgomery is not generally favourable since he seemed to treat them as cannon fodder.
No matter how bad a situation is, you can always make it worse. - Chris Hadfield : An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth