Email from Alison WELLS following a Somme Self-Drive tour March 2014

Dear James

Thank you very much for a superb weekend in the Somme Battlefields area.

We hadn’t taken our car onto Eurostar before and was amazed how easy it was – a bit scary when the machine said ‘Hello Mrs Wells’ before I had even touched it!

We had an easy drive down, stopping at old acquaintances of mine at the ‘Ol Blighty’ Cafe.  Alison who owns the cafe with her husband John, who I am sure you know, used to live in the same village as me 15 + years ago (Alison is a lot younger than me though!).  It was great to see them and John was superb with Andrew giving him a great introduction to our weekend. The  Hotel De Basilique was lovely and gave us a warm welcome.  

Friday we went around the Museum and drove out to the Newfoundland Memorial park with a lovely meal at the Hotel later. Saturday Morning we met John Anderson and had the most amazing day. John took us to the Newfoundland Memorial park and explained the detail of Battle, Andrew found this so interesting John had done so much research into Andrew’s great uncle. From the information we both had found was that we believe he was killed at Mouquet Farm which John took us to and also to a remote cemetery. The Regina Ridge I believe it was.(only John’s Jeep could have got there!) where possibly Andrew’s uncle could be buried. But seeing his name at Thiepval was good, but even more so was having just watch a film in the centre we came out to see Arthur Scott on the computer screen with all his personal detail on, a moment Andrew will always remember.

Having done most of the tour John took us to Selency, where we did some detective work, following research John had done and found ‘ Round Hill’ where there was fierce battle going on and also the road where the offensive was, the road that they retreated beyond and the Farm which was the objective. We spoke to local people to get our bearings it was great fun!  The rolling film at the Newfoundland centre where the men are coming up out of the trenches and disappearing into the distance was poignant for me; that was exactly what happened these men just disappeared. The numbers in  the cemeteries are staggering. Seeing an un-named soldier in the Regina Ridge Cemetery from the Northumberland Fusiliers was also very moving. A big thank you to John.

The drive up to Ypres was easy, thank you.  The Hotel was superb and got on so well with the owner. It helped that on arrival we burst into the Hotel having got round a Police Barrier which was there as a Bike race was due to start!  We never stopped laughing with her for the rest of our stay.

We went to the Menin Gate both evenings; the first taking photos etc but the second night stood there and took it all in, amazing. We went to the Museum in the Cloth Building, very well done.

Your tour is fantastic. From a navigators point of view so good as no arguments (you were the only back seat driver!) easy to follow and very helpful. We (you and me) got on very well even Andrew commented on how we were on the same wave length!  Converting the mileage into casualties was a numbing feeling.  

We liked the way the tour was away from the ‘tourist’ stops. But unfortunately we didn’t heed your directions taking us passed the Cafe with the trenches (can’t remember the name at the moment, sorry). Having commented all weekend how the French & the Belgium hadn’t really commercialised anything, we were horrified when we went in. Andrew loved the trenches but in the end we had to agree that the owners were not even commercial, they just hadn’t done anything to preserve anything. Inside was so revolting I had to leave and it was only when I was sitting back in the car reading your guide that I read your comments, exactly as I had commented to Andrew whilst we were in there, not good moving on, we loved the small cemetery, ‘where coaches can’t get to’ Where the time went we do not know, happily tired and so full of a very interesting day, made so by your guide.

A superb weekend, which Andrew hasn’t stopped talking about and tells everyone he meets and a trip which we shall always remember.

Thank you very much.

Kind regards

Allison Wells

Email from Ralph Richard  following a Somme Self-Drive tour April 2014 (and personal guide)

Dear James,

I just wanted to write , on behalf of all 5 of us, to congratulate you for the arrangements you made, for our trip to The Somme . It is rare to find an organisation like yours, which attends in such great detail, to the needs of tourists, wishing to go and experience the Battle Fields of WW1, and in particular The Somme.

As you know, we journeyed by car, using the channel tunnel, and stayed at the Hotel Royal Picardie, in Albert. Your directions from Calais, your recommendations of where to eat, and your appreciation and knowledge of the region, helped make our short visit, an amazing and emotional experience.

The guide you recommended, was without exception, one of the best, if not the best we have ever met. He covered a day with great in-depth knowledge,  taking us to many cemeteries and memorials, over a wide area in the region. I had spoken to him, prior to our departure from UK and asked if he could attend to certain wishes of ours -  all were attended to, without any fuss. His history lesson was incredible. 

After our 1st day we did our own driving tour, using the information you provided in the comprehensive pack you sent us, and we completed 2 full days, feeling emotionally drained, but very happy and pleased that we had decided to take this trip. 

Well done, and thank you 

Ralph Richard

Email from John & Christine Smith following a Somme and Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2014

Dear James

We have just returned from our 5 day self drive tour of the Somme and Ypres battlefields and wanted to say a huge thank you for making this trip so successful. The tour was a surprise birthday present for my husband. We spent 2 days visiting the Somme battlefields and stopped at Le Macassar in Corbie (what a gem that turned out to be!) and 2 days visiting the battlefields around Ypres.

The guide and maps provided were very comprehensive. The directions clear and concise and so much information! As we visited each site, I read the guide aloud to my husband, together with poems and personal stories. He found it perfect, just listening, imagining and drinking in the atmosphere. I was rather hoarse at the end of it! We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Vimy Ridge on route to Ypres.

Once again many thanks.

John and Christine Smith

Email from Christopher Emptage following a Somme and Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2014

Dear James

Just wanted to let you know that we had a very memorable time in France and Belgium. Your materials worked superbly, particularly the trench maps and the individual stories. We were able to build on that and I managed to add some more links between poetry and places. Reading a poem relevant to specific place certainly enhances the emotional truth of the events.

Hotels [Royal Picardie, Somme and Ariane, Ypres] were both excellent too and so was the dining.

Thanks again for making the experience so worth while.

Best regards

Chris Emptage

Email from Amanda and Keith Hornsbury following a Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2014

Dear James 

I wanted to commend you on another fantastic tour this weekend.  The self drive guide is so easy to use and we love going off the beaten track a little and finding some of the less touristy places.  

The hotel was exceptional and we have gone to trip advisor to say so!

I wondered if you did any tours of the second world war further into France for another time? 

Kind regards 

Amanda and Keith Hornsbury and Clare and Tim Pepper

Email from Jette Edwards following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour May 2014

Dear James

We have had a truly amazing if sobering week helped in no small part by glorious weather each day.  

We have found your guides excellent and been taken to places we would never have found otherwise. I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge of WW1 was very limited until this week and I now feel much better informed and have become very interested. Michael was much better read on the war but it was a first visit to the area for us both.  We both look forward to reading your guides again and re- tracing our steps. Unfortunately, even with careful use, our Somme part 2 guide has come apart and released the back few pages. It seems impossible to repair. On a practical note maybe a larger diameter comb binding would be stronger for the thicker guides? The pages have to be turned back on themselves to be manageable. Your zipped wallet was just great for keeping the information together. We found referring to the part 2 guide much easier at Ypres. Maybe we had got used to the procedure by then or things are more straightforward there,  

We were able to incorporate research into our own family members and on people listed in our village during the trip. It was very satisfying to find and photograph their graves or name on a memorial. Thank you for the trench map of Neuve Chapelle. It helped us to make my great uncle’s involment clearer.  I think the only things we missed out on in your guides suggestions were the Hooge museum and the Hill 62 museum .On average one museum a day was all we could take in and they were generally excellent! Perhaps the one we found the least interesting was in the castle at Peronne. We enjoyed the ones at Albert, Ypres and Passchendaele (Zonnebeke) much more.

At Yorkshire Trench we met Patrick van Wanzeele who was the person who discovered  the trench while metal detecting. He explained it all to us and showed us his original photos of the discoveries and remains there.. He was delighted to see your guide and that you are using his photos! I had been fascinated by the  footage of the dig at the 'In Flanders field museum  but did not realise where it was from. He told us that there are plans for a museum opposite the trench site. In the meantime he and his wife seem to spend a fair amount of time there talking to visitors. Unfortunately after a Canadian  TV documentary was shown the trenches were vandalised and quite a lot of mindless damage done. It is a very open site.

We visited the new cemetery at Fromelles. One of Michael’s former colleagues was involved in the identification of the Australian soldiers found in the mass grave there recently and now in the new cemetery. It was scientifically very interesting to know how relatively many were able to be identified, especially in terms of finding descendents of Australians of 100 years ago.

We were very comfortable in both hotels, particularly the Ariane of course which would be very hard to fault. We had an excellent meal at ‘t Ganzeke which is handy and right opposite the Cathedral entrance. It spills into the pavement. We found the Menin gate and the last post difficult because of the numbers of people there. We were there 40 minutes ahead of time and still couldn’t see anything!  The second night we were walking on the ramparts and looked down from above at the wreath laying. It was much nicer, we could hear everything and only two other people there! 

A couple of constructive points for Ypres guide 1 ……We nearly came to grief at the unusual junction referred to at the bottom of page 13. We don’t recall what  road markings were there but Michael had to brake sharply to avoid a car sweeping in from the right. Maybe a warning note for the unwary English on the potential danger there would be good.

The very last entry direction to the Essex Farm Cemetery seemed to cause us some confusion. The distance seemed longer than 0.4 miles and the way we read it was that the cemetery would be on our right. We now realise you were meaning the right of the flagpoles.  It then meant a tricky u turn on a fast road to be able to park safely outside with the buses. However, I’m sure you didn’t intend us to do this!  Looking at your photo we think the road markings have changed. It is now a fast dual carriageway  and we can’t recall any parking provision on the rhs opposite the cemetery or we would have used it. However……don’t take this as gospel ……it was the end of the day and we were tired and didn’t check afterwards. That was when the heavens opened for the first time during our week!

These are just minor points. You have two very satisfied customers and we are happy to help if needed.

With good wishes

Jette and Michael Edwards

Email from Nick Alexander following a Ypres Self-Drive tour for group of 7 friends May 2014

James, I just wanted to thank you for a really great trip. We all had a fascinating time. Jacques [personal tour option] was fantastic and the hotel in Ypres [Ariane] was delightful.

I have already recommended you to several friends!

Thank you again and my best wishes.

Email from Marcos Diez following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour May 2014


Just wanted to send you an email to let you know how pleased I was with the five day tour of The Somme and Ypres that you had organised.

We somehow managed to get to Albert by 10am so had almost a whole day at the beginning of the tour so we managed to get loads done around the Somme on the Monday which gave us plenty of free time to rest and spend additional time at some of the museums in both The Somme and Ypres.

The hotel in Albert [Royal Picardie] was very good and our whole experience of the Somme was fantastic. Thanks to your directions and notes we were able to visualise exactly what went on almost 100 years ago which of course adds immensely to the whole experience. The whole tour around the Somme area was so precise and well organised and it really made for an unforgettable and moving experience.

On Wednesday morning we headed off to Ypres and when we arrived I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of Ypres, especially when you see the photos of the city from 1917, a quite amazing and beautiful place. We cracked straight on with the tour and finished up early that day so we could get to the Menin Gate early. I was totally blown away by the Menin Gate and how beautifully done the Last Post ceremony is, it has been on my wish list for many years and I was not disappointed.

The Ariane hotel in Ypres was absolutely fantastic with lovely clean, well presented rooms and very helpful staff and a wonderful breakfast buffet which sets you up for the day. I found the whole of the Ypres Salient a wonderful experience and thanks to the precise directions and informative notes the whole experience was simply amazing. We had time on the Friday to get back down the motorway and visit Vimy Ridge which must have the most beautiful monument I have ever witnessed, the Canadians sure know how to build a stunning reminder to the Great War. 

All in all both myself and my Mum could not have been more pleased with all the notes etc. that you had supplied and found the whole trip to be simply amazing. You cannot help but be moved by the whole experience, from the first immaculate Cemetery to looking out over what was once no-man’s land and wondering quite how possibly so many young lives can be destroyed. Your notes add to this experience and without them the trip would not have been worth doing.

A massive thank you to you and your staff James and I will be recommending you to everyone.

Best Regards


Email from Diane Kenwood, Editor of Women's Weekly, following a self-drive and personal tour of the Ypres and Somme battlefields May 2014

Dear James

It will take us both a long time to process everything we saw, heard and experienced during our days in Ypres and the Somme. It was a profoundly moving and fascinating trip, which, thanks to your stunningly detailed and thorough organisation went without a hitch (other than the journey to the tunnel, but you can hardly be held responsible for that!)

Everything about the experience was absolutely perfect - the gorgeous hotel (what a magical place!), the incredibly detailed route instructions and the fascinating and equally detailed historical accompanying packs. Your attention to detail is astonishing. We never got lost once (you should only know how exceptional that is!) And we never lacked for information on the sites and places we visited and saw along the way. You really did bring every location to life in the most fantastic way. (I loved your personal remarks dotted through the commentary). It was so marvellous to be able to do everything at our own pace and spend however long, or short, a time as we chose at the places we stopped.

As for Jacques, well it would be impossible for us to praise him enough. He was sensational. Knowledgeable, passionate, fascinating and inspiring. And what a completely lovely man.

My partner absolutely LOVED everything (He declared it the best birthday present ever) and has returned even more obsessed by the period than he was before!

Thank you so much for everything - for your help in the early stages sorting out what the best itinerary and approach would be, for organising all the bookings and for the brilliant support packs. I have raved about your company to everyone I've spoken to since my return (and will definitely write about it in the magazine) and I know at least one person who's definitely going to book through you as a result. I hope you get inundated with bookings!

All the best and thank you again (and again)


Email from Hilary Summers following a self-drive a self- tour of the Ypres and Somme battlefields May 2014

Dear James,

Thank you very much for arranging everything so efficiently.  Our trip last week went extremely well and we were able to fit in visits to the Loos Memorial as well as Tilloy Cemetery on the way from Ypres to Albert.  Both hotels were very comfortable with excellent food particularly the Ariane where we were given an upgrade of room.  We also went to Talbot House which we thought well worth a visit.

The Canadian University students handing out leaflets and acting as guides at the Newfoundland Memorial were delightful and we gather stay there for 4 months at a time.  A torch and wellies proved useful at Sanctuary Wood to get the full trench and tunnel experience. 

As you may have heard from others the junction at the turning to Thiepval by the railway has been changed, and the signage is somewhat lacking. We quickly realised we had overshot but were then facing the wrong way to take a photo for you.  The cafe at the Ulster Tower had only sandwiches but we had a good lunch a little later at the Old Blighty Cafe, where it might be worth mentioning the car park entrance is not terribly obvious as we missed it the first time! 

The Cafe at the Bluff was closed on a Tuesday, and it looked like a fairly permanent notice so perhaps worth a mention, though fortunately it was not too far to backtrack to the portaloo at Hill 60!  The Delville Wood Museum was shut on Ascension Day, so possibly is on other public holidays too, but the information office (and loos) were shut too, possibly for some time as refurbishment was mentioned on the notice.  There is now a metalled road up to and round the New Zealand Memorial so that was quite easy to visit. 

Sorry this is in a random order but for some reason I do not seem to be able to get "cut and paste" to work.  If you not off on a tour at the moment Victor would like a chat about the trench maps to better understand them.

Yours sincerely,

Hilary Summers

Email from Johanne Lee following a self-drive a self- tour of the Ypres and Somme battlefields May 2014

Hi James,

We've just returned from our tour. We've all really enjoyed it and found it fascinating. The accommodation in both places was really lovely and immaculate. Le Macassar was just stunning. We just wanted to thank you for the brilliant guidance in the travel pack and especially for putting us in touch with Jacques who we all thought was just amazing , his knowledge and personality just made those 2 days marvellous. Regards

Johanne Lee

Email from Paul MacCourt & friends following a self-drive a self- tour of the Ypres and Somme battlefields June 2014

Dear James

Apologies that it’s a bit belated, but I just wanted to let you know what a fantastic four days our group had in the Somme and Ypres area following your self-guided battlefield tour.

We were extremely lucky with the weather and enjoyed four days of bright sunshine, which made the whole trip even more enjoyable.

We found the tour maps very easy to follow and the guide notes really informative, helping to portray the tactics, events and personal narratives at each location.

The concept of a self-guided tour worked really well for the group, allowing us to choose how long we wanted to spend at each location and even to vary the route on occasion, to include sites and museums that were not in the tour.

Both hotels proved comfortable and accommodating, but the Ariane in Ypres was especially good.

Thank you for all the help you provided, especially securing the hotel bookings at such short notice.

We had a truly memorable trip and have no hesitation recommending your services to our friends and colleagues.

Kind regards

Paul Mac Court

Email from Robin and Christine Hawke following a self-drive a self- tour of the Ypres and Somme battlefields June 2014

Dear Mr Power

Having now returned from our trip to the Somme and Ypres, we want to let you know what a moving experience we found it to be, and the extent to which your travel directions, notes and maps helped in making everything run so smoothly and prove so informative.

We feel that we made exactly the right choice in opting for a 'self-drive' approach, as it resulted in so many unexpected conversations with other independent travellers, and the ability to choose exactly how much time one spent in each location - and to reach some which a coach tour never could.

We are also pleased that we chose to stay at Avril Williams' Guest House (we found it delightful, even if it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea). We also liked Old Tom's in Ypres - even if we turned up for the first time on Wednesday evening, which proved to be closing day (we went again on the Thursday evening instead, and were glad we did).

Thanks for all the meticulous attention which must have gone into the compilation of the tour. (In one conversation, we showed a French (head) gardener your notes. He commented how informative they were, and asked for contact details....we gave him your business card....!)

Robin and Christine Hawke 

Email from Ian Standing following a self-drive a self- tour of the Somme and Ypres battlefields August 2014


This is just to say how much we enjoyed our battlefields trip and to thank you for the comprehensive information, which was excellent. The best thing about our tours was to have had Jacques Ryckebosch as our guide at both locations: he certainly lived up to your recommendation and we found him both personable and highly knowledgeable. He helped us immensely with the personal structure of the conflict and by bringing the events to life, has given us new motives to remember the men who found themselves on the western front from 1914.

Also to say how splendid the Main Street Hotel at Ieper was. It’s a shame that Albert hasn’t anything to match given its central location for the Somme.

We’ll certainly be happy to recommend you given the opportunity.  

Email from Rosemary Hull following a self-drive a self- tour of the Somme and Ypres battlefields August 2014

Dear James

We have returned from our weekend to the Somme and Flanders Fields.  We just want to say thank you for your files, directions and stories.  Everything was so very well done and all your hard work made our weekend very enjoyable.  We learned so much and saw so many things, culminating in the last post at the Menin Gate on Monday evening.  That was when the tears arrived.

We will definitely be recommending this tour to our friends and family and will be watching the programmes on telly with very different eyes.

Again thank you as we had a most informative and enjoyable trip.


Rosemary Hull

Email from Richard & Cynthia Fisher following a self-drive a self- tour of the Somme & Ypres battlefields September 2014

Dear James

As promised, a short note to say thank you for organising our recent trip to Ypres and The Somme.

The route guides and the information regarding the locations and people who fought in the various battles of the first world war were comprehensive and most valuable in helping paint a picture of what took place a hundred years ago.

The various cemeteries are now places of peace and quiet. A colossal change from what must have been scenes of sheer mess, confusion, noise and horror when they were first set up.

It really has been a worthwhile trip, especially when considering that millions were sacrificed and wounded horrifically, fighting over ground that had no apparent strategic value. I'm sure the memories will stay with us.

As far as the accommodations were concerned, we loved the Ariane in Ypres and despite its unprepossessing appearance, The Royal Picardie in Albert offered a warm welcome and the staff did a marvellous job of looking after us during our stay there.

I shall certainly recommend your services to those of our friends who decide to make the trip themselves.

Dick and Cynthia Fisher

Email from Alan Walder following a self-drive a self- tour of the Somme battlefields September 2014


Just a thank you for organising an excellent visit to the Somme battlefield. Everything went smoothly for my brother and I and our wives. The guide you arranged, Martin Pelling, was first rate and we would certainly recommend him to anyone on a similar trip. His military background was particularly valuable in fleshing out the tactical details of the conflict. Please thank Martin again on our behalf. All in all, a very interesting and worthwhile visit.

Best regards,

Alan Walder

Email from Anne Murrayl following a self-drive a self- tour of the Ypres & Somme battlefields September 2014


Just to say that John and I really enjoyed our trip to the Battlefields.  The hotels and guides were excellent.  We learnt so much really interesting information.

My only criticism would be your recommendation of ‘Old Tom’ in Ypres where the food was mediocre and the service was awful.  Karine at Main Street Hotel did warn us that it was not the restaurant it used to be but we still thought we would try it.  However that experience fades into the background when we remember everything else which was wonderful.

Thanks for arranging it all.

Best wishes 


Email from Neil Wilkinson following a self-drive a self- tour of the Somme & Ypres battlefields September 2014

Dear James

Just a short note to say how much John and I enjoyed our recent trip to the Somme and Ypres battlefields.

Our experience was greatly enhanced by the quality of your literature. It meant so much more to be able to superimpose trench lines and lines of attack on the immediate landscape. I still find it difficult to imagine the scale of the carnage on these battlefields, especially on a bright and warm summer's day, whilst today's farmers go about their business in total solitude.

Your literature really helped us to gain a sense of perspective and we found the trip to be a profound and humbling experience.

Many thanks

Kind Regards

Neil Wilkinson


Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd
19 Old Road, Wimborne, Dorset, UK BH21 1EJ
Tel: 01202 880211 or 07776 195773   

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