Band of Brothers graced our screens in 2001. From then, it has been re-watched worldwide many times. It has gathered a fan base like no other and has developed a camaraderie between the actors, fans and families of the original veterans.
A website by the name of We Happy Few 506 has been running tours to Band of Brothers locations. The tours are run by Matthew Leitch, who you will remember as Floyd Talbert and Leighton Hughes. Throw in fans of the show, actors accompanying the tour and surprises along the way, and you have a special experience.
The latest tour filled a tour bus of 55 people. One of those aboard, was asked this question.
Why do you like Band?
Her answer..I have always been a history nut, especially concerning the 2nd World War. Maybe it is because of my connection to it. As a German, you can’t get around learning about the war. I stumbled upon Band of Brothers in 2014 and was immediately hooked. In school I only ever learned about the political side of the war, so Band introduced me to the much more tangible side of what it was like to live through the war. I have learned so much since becoming involved in this fandom, both about actual operations etc. but also about life during this time in history.
Let’s meet Anna, and see how she enjoyed her tour.
Tell me about yourself
Hi, my name is Anna, I am just shy of 30 years old and I live in the beautiful city of Hamburg, in the north of Germany.
How many of the tours have you been on?
I have been on all three tours with We Happy Few 506: Eindhoven in April/May 2022, Bastogne in November 2022 as well as this most recent one to Bastogne just last week
What drew you to the tours?
Ever since I got into Band of Brothers, I had wanted to visit the places Easy Company had fought at. I had been to Haguenau before, just passing through on a day trip to Strasbourg, but I had never had the chance to visit any other places.
I originally found We Happy Few 506 because of their Zoom Cast Reunions and I just loved the friendly atmosphere of them. When the first tour was announced, I knew that the feel of the zoom calls would be brought over to the in person events. Getting to see the real places of Market Garden or the Battle of the Bulge mixed with the friendly atmosphere appealed to me immensely. So it wasn’t even a question for me to come along, even if that meant knowing no one there personally.
What is the atmosphere of the tours like?
The atmosphere on these tours is honestly the best! Literally everyone is welcomed into our weird little group of history nuts, no matter if you have been to tours before or it’s your first time. We all have a love for this special TV series and the men it represents in common, so there is always something to bond over. I also need to add that the respect everyone has for the history that we are revisiting is remarkable. Everyone gets how important it is to keep the legacy alive. It’s not your typical convention-like setting, where attendees are shuffled through a line only to have a glimpse of the actor who might have played your favorite character. In fact, it isn’t about the actors at all. It’s about the men they brought to life on screen. As such, it is much more like a group of friends going on an adventure together than anything else. And I love that so much about the tours.
Did you meet any old friends
Like I said, I didn’t know anyone personally before going on the first tour. I had talked on instagram to a few others who would go on the tour as well, but no one in my “real life” cared or even knew about Band of Brothers. But as soon as we all met, I immediately knew that these people would be friends for life. On the first evening, even of the Eindhoven tour, even before the real event had started, Matt had posted that anyone who was already in Eindhoven was welcome to meet with him for a drink at the bar. At that meeting, by pure chance, I met Rach, who is now one of my closest friends. We simply sat next to each other at the bar, and the rest is history! I genuinely can’t imagine my life without her as my friend anymore, and it is all thanks to WeHappyFew.
Now going back the third time, it really felt like reuniting with loads of old friends. Anyone who had been on the previous tours immediately clicked again, and it felt like no time had passed between last seeing each other. And that includes Matt and Leighton, the masterminds behind the tour.
So, just to name a few: Rach, Kirsty, Maartje, Carsten, Marcel, Brianna, y’all are stuck with me forever now! 🙂
It’s so easy (haha, pun intended) to make new friends on this tour. I got to talk to some tour ‘veterans’ who I hadn’t interacted much with before, but also quickly met and befriended some new faces. Making friends on these tours is honestly just so effortless.
Where did you go on this tour?
This time around, we went to Bastogne, Belgium, to do a tour of the battlefields of the Battle of the Bulge
What did you see?
This tour was basically a continuation of the one we had been on in November, so we didn’t hit up the spots you’d expect on a Easy company-focused tour of Bastogne (Foy, Shifty’s Corner, Easy Company memorial, etc.). Instead, we spent the first day traveling the surrounding towns of Bastogne, where the defensive line around the city had been located. Our tour guide, Reg (an absolutely brilliant guide!), talked to us about the other units that had been involved in the defense of Bastogne. His knowledge about this offensive is seriously remarkable!
On Sunday, we all got up at what felt like the crack of dawn to drive to the Bois Jacques. We entered the woods, sat down in the foxholes that were still there, and experienced the eerie silence of the forest while the sun came up. I think I will remember this experience for the rest of my life. After coming back and having breakfast, we then went on a walking tour of Bastogne, learning about the work of Renée Lemaire and Augusta Chiwy, the Angels of Bastogne, and seeing the place where Renée was killed on Christmas Eve 1944. We went to see their graves, where the actors laid wreaths and I lit candles to commemorate them. The second day of the tour ended with a trip to the American Military Cemetery and Memorial in Luxemburg, where we got a tour of the graves of Easy Company Soldiers Skip Muck, Alex Penkala, and John Julian.
What was the emotional impact of the tour like for you?
By far the most emotional experience for me was the morning spent in the Bois Jacques. To experience even just a fraction of what the men of Easy Company went through during the winter of 1944/45, the cold, the solitude, was eye opening. I can’t imagine what they must have felt sitting in their foxholes, not allowed to say anything for fear of giving away their position, no light, no sound, and constantly being afraid of barrages that could start at any moment. It is humbling to imagine what they had to sacrifice in order for us to experience freedom, especially now that sadly, war has become a reality in Europe again. We only sat in the foxholes and imagined what it must feel like to be in a war, while men in Ukraine are currently going through exactly that.
But I also got very emotional when we visited the Bastogne barracks. The curators there talked about how grateful they were that the legacy of the soldiers was being kept alive because of the series and the continued interest of us fans, and I have to admit I did shed a few tears when they said that. It’s an honor to know that I am even just a miniscule part in keeping the word out about what Easy Company and all the other soldiers did to free the world from fascism.
Who did you meet from Band?
On this tour, we were joined by Doug Allen, who played Alton More, Shane Taylor, who played Doc Roe, as well as Lucie Jeanne, who portrayed Renée Lemaire. And of course we were again joined by Matthew Leitch, who is an amazing tour host, and an even more amazing human being.
On previous tours, we had the pleasure to meet Tim Matthews (Alex Penkala), Mark Lawrence (William Dukeman), as well as Phil McKee (Col Bob Strayer) and Technical Advisor and Boot Camp legend Freddie Joe Farnsworth
Anything else you’d like to share?
I really just want to say thank you to We Happy Few 506 for putting these tours together. I have met so many amazing people that I can call friends for life because of them. I am continuously learning more about the history of the 2nd World War because of my exposure to amazing people in our tour family. To anyone who is on the fence about attending one of these tours: Do it. I can safely say that you will not regret coming along. Also, you will likely fall over from laughing so hard at Matt’s antics. Definitely worth it!
Thank you Anna for your time with this interview. It has been beautiful spending this ‘cyber-time’ with you and experiencing the tour through your eyes.
Shane Taylor, Lucie Jeanne & Doug Allen, thank you for sharing your time with those on the tours.
Matt & Leighton – founders of @wehappyfew506 – there are not enough words to say thank you for all the things that you guys pull together. The website, the tours, the signings and the simple fact that you are just all round good guys!
Lastly, the most important thing…Thank you 506E for your service.
“We stand along together”