Phil Craig is Co-Founder, Lead Historian and Master Story-Teller for Liberation Tours. He's also a professional actor with numerous credits in film, television and stage including seasons with the prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. In 2014 Phil embarked on a world tour in the highly successful stage production The Last Confession starring David Suchet (who many will know as BBC’s Inspector Hercule Poirot). Film-goers will recognize Phil as Rachel McAdams’ father in the hit movie The Time Traveler’s Wife or recall seeing him with Russel Crowe in Cinderella Man, or alongside Ralph Fiennes in David Cronenburg’s Spider. More recently he appears in the award winning Hardy Boys series and guest starred in the NBC mini-series Five Days at Memorial. He can also be seen in The Handmaid’s Tale, The Exorcist and in the acclaimed Netflix horror series Hemlock Grove. He has contributed several memorable characters for the CBC hit series Murdoch Mysteries and continues to lend his voice to numerous radio ad spots. Much to his chagrin, he is often remembered as the guy in the Lotto 6/49 commercial that gives away cottages to his family – and that commercial was a long time ago!
Phil has been guiding battlefield tours for over ten years where his combination of story-telling skills, knowledge and passion for history takes you inside the battle in a way that few historians can. He has been studying military history since his teenage years and has made numerous trips to the battlefields of Europe to investigate, research and remember. Some of the most poignant spots we visit have come as the result of Phil ‘tripping over them’ during his battlefield discovery tours.
Phil is co-founder of the Georgina Military Museum in Keswick, Ontario and has won many awards for his military historical work including the prestigious Ontario Heritage Trust Award. He recently became the proud recipient of the Minister of Veteran Affairs Commendation, awarded to individuals “who have contributed in an exemplary manner to the remembrance of the contributions, sacrifices and achievements of Veterans." Phil continues to make himself available as a guest speaker to ensure that the stories are never forgotten. He is the proud father of four university graduate children - two with Masters degrees and one pursuing her doctorate.
In his youth, Phil was a member of The Hastings Prince Edward Regiment Cadet Corps in Port Hope, home of famed ‘Hasty P's’ veteran and writer Farley Mowat, and he recently completed a term as a member of the Queen's York Rangers Regimental Council based at Fort York in Toronto.
Phil is a passionate traveler, whether it be the rolling hills of the Somme, the storied landscape of Britain or the more recent battlefields of Germany and Italy. They each have their poignant stories of service and sacrifice and Phil is honoured to be able to share them with you.
John Cannon is Co-Founder and Tour Director for Liberation Tours. John's interest in remembrance tourism is traced back through his Dutch heritage - his family grew up in occupied Holland and experienced the harsh realities of WWII. Although he inherits by birthright the proud Canadian tradition of service to country, he is more truly a Dutch descendant who is thankful to the Canadians for his family's freedom.
A long time entrepreneur, John has founded several successful businesses during his career beginning with in the 1990s with a professional sports statistics service. When the internet came online to the general public he launched a web design and development company, which also provided IT tech support.
His focus is on the overall travel experience and he particularly enjoys involving youth guests in the tour. He thrives when speaking to the group from the front of the coach, keeping things organized and light-hearted. He has come to appreciate some amazing places during his travels (the rolling hills of Devon, England, for example) but he finds himself most at home in his native Holland, where each spring the Canadian veterans, known to the Dutch as The Liberators, are treated like the heroes they are.
John volunteered for five years with the cadet youth program in Aurora, Ontario in both administration and public affairs roles. He is Past President of several community organizations, and served on the Juno Beach Centre's Education Advisory Council. John lives in Ontario's cottage country, on the shores of Georgian Bay.
Mark Zuehlke is best known as the award-winning author of the Canadian Battle Series, each volume of which focuses on a battle or campaign fought by the Canadian Army in World War II.
There are currently thirteen books in the series along with a companion title, Through Blood and Sweat: A Remembrance Trek Across Sicily’s World War II Battlegrounds, which combines history and memoir to relate the poignant and grueling story of a group of Canadians - including Mark - who walked in the footsteps of 1st Canadian Infantry Division in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. The thirteenth title in the series is The River Battles: Canada’s Final Campaign in World War II Italy: a detailed account of the last five brutal months of fighting in the Emilia-Romagna region that concluded our army’s operations in Italy.
He is currently at work on a new Canadian Battle Series title focused on Canada’s role in the war with Japan entitled The Maple Leaf Versus the Sun. The Canadian Battle Series is recognized as the most extensive account of any national army’s involvement in World War II written by a single author. In 2006, Holding Juno: Canada’s Heroic Defence of the D–Day Beaches won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.
Mark is the proud recipient of the 2014 Governor General's History Award for Popular Media, The Pierre Berton Award. He lives in Victoria with partner and fellow writer Frances Backhouse.
Mark Proulx brings an extensive background from a historical and current military perspective. With more than 12 years experience delivering material related to WW1 and WW2 to a variety of audiences, Mark’s gift lies in his ability to engage the audience and make personal connections. As a living historian, Mark spent a significant amount of time researching and experiencing the life and times those who served. Participating in a variety of television and motion picture roles allowed Mark to contribute to a more lasting legacy and ensure the stories and history were presented in a factual and respectful manner.
Mark is formerly a Second Lieutenant with the Queen’s York Rangers of the Canadian Forces Primary Reserve. His passion for both historical and current military knowledge allows for an enriching tour experience and maintains connections between those who served and those who are serving. The juxtaposition between the equipment, tactics and strategy then and now, serves to show that soldiers are not that dissimilar when fighting for country, friends and loved ones.
Mark is both a father and husband and with family the priority, rarely has down time. Mark works as a project manager with a not-for-profit organization and enjoys playing, watching and coaching hockey.
John Fotheringham is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Canadian Armed Forces. He served with The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, Toronto's D-Day regiment, from 1985 to 2011, commanding the unit twice. During that time John had the privilege to meet many veterans, and visited key battlefields in Europe on numerous occasions.
Highlights of his military career include:
He was involved with the Juno Beach Centre prior to its construction, and became a Director of the JBC Association in 2006, primarily responsible for the rotating temporary exhibits at the Centre. He continues his association with the QOR as the chair of the Regimental Museum and Archives at Casa Loma, as well as the Memorials Committee, which is concentrating on marking WW1 battle sites in the Ypres Salient.
Brett Stringfellow has been passionate about history since an early age. His fascination with history, especially military history of World War II, has developed substantially over the years. The focus of his interest is the allied air forces in England, specifically 8th Air Force. He has variously been a member and/or volunteer with a number of museums, including Parham 390th Bomb Group in Suffolk, UK. Brett is an enthusiastic specialist of WWII aircraft and the airfields of England, and leads our 'Flyboys' Air War tours each summer.
Having spent ten years in Italy, Brett has also developed a real passion and substantial knowledge of the Italian Campaign of 1943-45. He has studied in great detail the battlefields of Ortona, the Gothic Line, and the Liri Valley to name but a few, and has led guided small group tours for travelers wanting to connect with their family's history of military service.
Brett finds most fascinating the 'human factor' of the war, and studies in detail individual people’s histories and personal accounts of the war - both the participants in the conflicts and the silent witnesses of the battles. Brett and his young family reside in eastern England.
Dr. Francis Pryor was born in London in 1945. He read archaeology and anthropology at Trinity College, Cambridge where eventually he took a PhD. After Cambridge he emigrated to Toronto where he joined the staff of the Royal Ontario Museum. Using the Museum as a base, he began a series of major excavations (1971-78) in England, at Fengate, on the outskirts of Peterborough. Here he revealed an extensive Bronze Age field system, plus Neolithic and Iron Age settlements. After Fengate he turned his attention north of Peterborough, to the Welland Valley, where he excavated two large sites, at Maxey (1979-81) and Etton (1982-87). Etton was a superbly preserved earlier Neolithic (3500 BC) causewayed enclosure, an early type of ceremonial centre. In 1982 he also began survey work in the nearby Fens and soon discovered the timbers of a Late Bronze Age (1300-900 BC) timber causeway and religious complex at Flag Fen, just east of Peterborough. This remarkable site was opened to the public in 1987. Today it has become one of the best known Bronze Age sites in Europe and a principal visitor attraction in the region. He was awarded an MBE ‘for services to tourism’ in 1999. Fengate was published in four volumes in the 1970s and ‘80s and major English Heritage monographs on Maxey, Etton and Flag Fen appeared in 1986, 1998 and 2001. His popular account of this remarkable site, Flag Fen: Life and Death of a Prehistoric Landscape (Tempus Books, Stroud), was revised for a second edition in 2005. His book on prehistoric farming, Farmers in Prehistoric Britain (also for Tempus) is also in its second edition (2006).
Since 1998 he has devoted himself to writing popular books on archaeology, including Seahenge (HarperCollins 2001), an account of the discovery of a Bronze Age timber circle on the Norfolk coast; Britain BC (HarperCollins 2003), the story of British prehistory before the Romans and Britain AD (HarperCollins 2004), a book about new finds from Dark Age Britain. The third of this series, Britain in the Middle Ages, is on the archaeology of the medieval period and was published in 2006 by HarperCollins. His largest book, The Making of the British Landscape was published by Penguin Press in June 2010 and is now in paperback. His fourth and final book in the Britain series, The Birth of Modern Britain, was published by HarperCollins, in 2011. More recent books have included Home: A Time-Traveller’s Tales from Britain’s Prehistory (Penguin, 2014), Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape (Head of Zeus, 2016) and Paths to the Past: Encounters with Britain’s Hidden Landscapes (Penguin, 2018). He was President of the Council for British Archaeology from 1998-2005 and has written and presented series for Channel 4 on Britain BC, Britain AD and The Real Dad’s Army, a review of archaeological remains surviving from 1940. He is also a regular contributor to, and member of, that channel’s long-running series, Time Team and has presented several half-hour programmes on archaeology for Radio 4.
Although a freelance author and broadcaster, he retains close links with academia and is currently visiting Professor in Archaeology at the University of Leicester.
Francis joins us as a specialist on our Medieval Britain tour.
Helen Cox holds a BA (Hons) degree in Archaeological Studies and a Masters degree in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester, and a post-graduate Diploma in Archaeological Conservation from the University of Durham. Between 1985 - 1994 she worked as an antiquities conservator for museums in Britain and the USA. She then specialised in preventive conservation, and was employed as a regional Environmental Adviser for the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council before starting her own business as a freelance consultant in 1997.
In 2005 she left the heritage sector to pursue long-held personal interests in medieval history and creative writing. As an active member of Towton Battlefield Society and a keen longbow archer, Helen co-founded the Society's affiliated Wars of the Roses re-enactment group, the Frei Compagnie, and acted as its secretary until 2016. She now works part-time as a freelance speaker, Wars of the Roses interpreter and tour guide, often assisted by her husband Mick Doggett. She is also the author of three books on the battles of Wakefield and Towton, and a fantasy trilogy inspired by medieval politics and personalities entitled The Lay of Angor. Further details about Helen and her work can be found on her websites http://www.helencox-herstorywriting.co.uk and http://www.lay-of-angor.co.uk, and her blog site https://helenraerants.wordpress.com.
Helen is a specialist contributor to our annual Medieval Britain tour: Castles, Cannons & Crowns.
Our European consultant and ground specialist, Mark Gascoigne was born and raised in Plymouth, England and has been working in the travel industry for nearly twenty years. He has helped to manage many of our battlefield tours.
After finishing his degree in French and Spanish Mark started out leading educational trips through Europe for North American students. He eventually became Operations Manager for the National Educational Travel Council based in Boston, MA (now part of the WorldStrides Group) where he was responsible for hiring and training new Tour Directors and providing them the on-the-road support needed to run successful tours.
Over the past decade Mark has run over 100 trips for Trafalgar Tours, Europe’s leader in coached-based guided holidays. He possesses a vast knowledge of local history, culture, art, architecture and more – and has an extensive understanding of the battlefields of northwest Europe. Mark is conversant in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
After time spent living in the UK, Spain and Japan, Mark is now based with his young family in the historic Dordogne region of southwest France.