Testimonials

Few   tour   companies   in   our   sphere   of   interest   have   such   a   proud   record   of   testimonials as   us   and   we   make   no   apologies   for   saying   that   this   is   our   proudest   web   page   (even   if a   bit   dull   looking).      It   is   the   genuine   feedback   from   those   who   have   travelled   with   us over   the   past   thirteen   years,   though   only   the   past   couple   of   years   can   be   displayed here.  All are 100% genuine. In   2009   we   were   amazed   (and   very   proud!)   to   have   been   awarded   Vanity   Fair's   'Best Tour'   award,   the   only   such   award   that's   ever   been   made   for   battlefield   tour   companies to   this   day.   This   was   a   complete   surprise   to   us,   whilst   at   the   same   time   a   rewarding acknowledgement   of   the   care   and   effort   we   put   in   to   the   tours   we   arrange.      This confidence   was   repeated   when   Country   Life   featured   us   in   an   article   a   couple   of   years ago. Our   testimonials   go   way   back   to   1997   which   you   can   see   if   you   have   a   look   at   our   old website here.  For now though, here’s our testimonials over the past couple of years. 2018
Email from Alison WELLS 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.
Email from Dr Tim Redmond James, My   group   and   I   returned   last Friday    from    our    four    days visiting         the         Somme Battlefield.           We           all thoroughly       enjoyed       it, thanks      largely      to      your fantastic        and        detailed information       pack.       The instructions    on    getting    to the    various    locations    were such   that   there   was   no   way we   could   get   lost.   The   ability to     compare     present     day maps    with    maps    of    1916, and     of     course     with     the trench   maps,   was   absolutely superb.    We    stayed    in    the Basilique   Hotel   which,   again, was   great.   It   is   a   nice,   small and      friendly      hotel      and staying    in    Albert    was    so convenient.      I      spoke      to Phoebe,   Teddy's   wife   at   the Ulster   Tower.   She   said   your tours    are    the    best,    and    I can't   disagree   with   her!   I'll probably   come   back   to   you in   a   couple   of   years   re   the Ypres Tour. Thanks again, Tim Redmond
The Bishop of Cork " My   family   and   I   want   you to         know         at         this 'Remembrance-time'      how much    we    appreciated    all your      work      for      us      in connection   with   our   recent visit      to      the      Western Front.....Your    guides    were excellent.        We    would    not have       survived       without them..."
The Sunday Telegraph 2013 The only Self-Drive company to be nominated ‘Best Battlefield Tour’
Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd  Wimborne  Dorset BH21 1EJ  Tel: +44 (0) 7776 195773 or +44 (0) 1202 840520 info@battlefield-tours.com
From Diane Kenwood  Editor  Women's Weekly It   was   a   profoundly   moving and   fascinating   trip,   which, thanks    to    your    stunningly detailed       and       thorough organisation   went   without   a hitch. . . Your    attention    to    detail    is astonishing.    .    .    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. 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!
Country Life  "If          you're          fiercely independent,   you   could   do no   better   than   to   sign   up for    the    highly    acclaimed self-guided    tours    provided by      James      Power.      His painstakingly       researched itineraries   are   the   work   of   a master logistician"
Dear James We   just   wanted   to   write   and   tell   you   that   we   had   a   most   interesting   and   poignant   visiting the   1WW   battlefields,   cemeteries   and   museums   in   the   Somme   and   Ypres   Salient   over   the last    week.    Your    detailed    itinerary    and    notes    helped    us    to    appreciate    the    terrible conditions   and   sacrifices   made   on   both   sides   during   the   battles,   taking   us   to   places   we would have certainly otherwise missed. We   thought   we   should   mention   one   cemetery   that   was   very   easy   to   visit   on   our   return from   Ypres   to   Calais,   namely   the   Lijssenthoek   Military   Cemetery   which   was   just   a   small diversion   from   our   route.   It   contained   a   really   interesting   and   informative   visitor   centre (unlike   the   one   at   Tynecot)   with   many   insights   into   the   workings   of   the   field   hospital based there. You may wish to add it to your itinerary for the return route. Both   hotels   were   excellent   with   upgraded   rooms   given   to   us   at   both   the   Ariane   and   Le Macassar.   The   new   owners   at   the   latter   were   most   welcoming   and   the   Art   Deco   nature   of the   rooms   very   interesting.   They   provided   a   lovely   Table   d’hôte   meal   on   the   Sunday evening   and   are   very   keen   to   maintain   the   level   of   hospitality   provided   by   the   previous owners.   We   would   definitely   recommend   that   you   keep   it   as   one   of   your   hotel   options   for the Somme region. Thank   you   again   for   the   efficient   and   comprehensive   service   that   you   provided   in arranging our trip. Yours sincerely David and Alison Levy (October 2018) Dear Mr. Power It’s   been   a   month   since   we   returned   from   Europe   and   the   Somme   and   its   effect   upon   my son    and    I    have    been    long    lasting.    Both    of    us    were    surprised    at    how    moving    an experience   it   was.   We   knew   the   history,   the   fatal   military   judgements   and   huge   number of   losses,   but   history   books   don’t   give   any   sense   of   the   magnitude   of   the   casualties   in the   terrain   that   exposed   so   many   troops   to   slaughter.   Being   there   does.   Seeing   all   those cemeteries   does.   And   your   guide   with   it’s   detail   and   meticulous   and   compassionate explanations   brought   the   Somme   battles   to   life.   What   made   our   experience   all   the   more poignant   was   that   the   beauty   of   the   gentle   rolling   Picardie   countryside,   its   fields,   copses and   steepled   villages   today   belied   what   took   place   there   102   years   ago.   We   were especially   moved   by   Sheffield   Park   and   the   PALS   memorials,   and   thought,   "There,   but   for time, place and the Grace of God” we could have been among those young men. I    might    add,    the    hotel    was    comfortable    and    pleasant,    its    food    surprisingly    good. Coincidentally,   staying   at   the   Royal   Picardie   were   graphic   novels   artist,   publishers   and editors   attending   a   book   fair   in   Albert.   Some   of   them   had   been   involved   with   the publication   for   the   centennial   of   a   graphic   novel,   “Traces   of   the   Great   War”;   just   one more experience to enrich a great trip. Thanks and my best, Robert B Kohn, USA (October 2018) Dear James, We   have   had   such   an   interesting   if   emotional   week   with   your   self   drive   tours   of   the Somme   and   Ypres   areas   and   would   like   to   thank   you   for   the   meticulous   detail   in   both   the route   directions   and   battle   details   with   the   maps   and   photographs.         We   had   many   of   the Somme   areas   to   ourselves   with   such   peace   in   the   surrounding   areas   contrasting   to   what must   have   been   unimaginable   horror.   It   was   busier   in   the   Ypres   area   at   the   more   well- known   sites   but   always   manageable.   October   was   a   good   time   to   go   and   the   weather was amazing too - just like summer! You   asked   to   mention   any   errors   that   might   be   found   -   just   one   very   small   one   on   page 49a   of   the   Somme   guide   Private   J   Sweeney’s   grave   is   Row   B   -   the   arrow   does   point   to this   although   A   is   written   in   brackets.   Good   to   see   he   was   given   a   graveyard   burial   and now   there   is   a   memorial   to   those   Shot   at   Dawn   at   the   National   Memorial   Arboretum. How   very   difficult   it   was   in   so   many   ways   for   all   those   in   the   Great   War   and   how powerful   hindsight   is.   There   were   many   very   moving   and   emotional   moments   for   both   of us    including    the    German    cemetery    at    Langemark.    Thank    you    again    for    such    a comprehensive tour which will not be forgotten. Yours sincerely, Janice and Tony Elvidge (October 2018) Hi James Just   a   quick   note   on   behalf   of   my   mum   and   myself   to   say   how   much   we   enjoyed   the Somme and Ypres itinerary that you provided. Extraordinary detail that gave a real insight into the terrible history of the conflict. We   enjoyed   both   hotels,   especially   the   Ariane   in   Ypres   -   and      the   cafe's   &   restaurants that   you   recommended      including   the   Hotel   de   Basilique   and   the   Ocean   Villas   Tea   rooms where we met Avril. All best wishes and thanks once again Richard Steeden (October 2018) Dear James, Got   back   on   Friday.   Everything   worked   like   clockwork;   Jan   and   I   want   to   thank   you   for the   detailed   and   comprehensive   planning   which   went   into   the   whole   trip.   The   Ariane Hotel   was   excellent,   including   the   upgrade,   and   we   were   blessed   with   superb   weather which   no   doubt   you   also   arranged.   (We   couldn't   help   thinking   that   a   steady   downpour would have been more appropriate to tour the Salient!). We   spent   Tuesday   and   Wednesday   touring   the   Ypres   area,   and   on   Thursday   drove   down to   the   site   of   the   Battle   of   Loos,   taking   in   Messines,   Ploegstreet   and   the   Irish   Peace memorial   on   the   way.   The   former   Hohenzollern   Redoubt   is   unmistakeable   and   overgrown but   firmly   entrée    interdite.   We   were   not   tempted,   but   were   mightily   impressed   with   the Quarry   cemetery   nearby   -   we   believe   the   quarry   was   the   Battalion   HQ   during   the   battle. It also has the grave of Captain Bowes-Lyon, the Queen's uncle. The   Battlefield   guides   were   superb,   giving   just   the   right   amount   of   information;   we   much appreciated   retaining   control   of   our   own   timing   and   activity.   As   a   former   naval   person,   I am   now   more   aware   of   the   importance   of   the   terrain   than   I   was;   the   aspect   of   the   slight slope up to the Hohenzollern  looked frightening! [guide update suggestion]. Again,   many   thanks   for   the   attention   to   detail   and   comprehensive   information.   We   shall certainly recommend Somme Battlefield Tours to our friends. Yours sincerely, Mike Forbes (September 2018) Hi James Just   wanted   you   to   know   that   we   had   a   fabulous   time   touring   the   Somme   and   Ypres   last week.   The   hotels   were   wonderful   especially   the   Hotel   De   La   Paix,   this   was   such   a   friendly hotel with wonderful amenities and staff. We   found   virtually   all   the   sites   in   your   guides   and   more,   we   never   stopped   to   be   honest and covered hundreds of miles, we even visited Dunkirk Beach on the way home. Everything   went   to   plan   with   the   euro   tunnel   and   it   was   a   great   experience,   one   we   will do again. Thank   you   for   planning   this   tour   for   us   James   it   was   a   lifetime   wish   of   my   Brother   and   I and   one   I   will   now   do   again   because   there   are   still   more   places   I   want   to   visit   like Amiens,   it   was   to   busy   to   go   there   because   of   the   celebrations   going   on   whilst   we   was there. Once again Thank you James Kindest Regards Ian J Blakey. (August 2018) James We   got   back   from   our   tour   late   on   Friday   and   wanted   to   thank   you   for   the   tour   that   you prepared for us. It   was   so   informative   and   detailed   and   even   though   we   did   not   manage   to   cover   the whole   itinerary   because   of   time,   we   now   feel   that   we   have   a   much   better   understanding of   the   horrors   and   the   awful   mistakes   made   resulting   in   the   huge   sacrifices   of   men   in this dreadful war. The directions and road information was clear and precise on your routes. The   hotel   Ariane   was   lovely   and   we   ate   there   on   their   terrace   and   the   Hotel   de   la   Paix was very welcoming, clean and homely and the evening meals were good. Thank you for making our trip so worthwhile. Best wishes Sue (July 2918) Hi James Myself   and   dad   just   wanted   to   send   you   a   massive   thank   you   for   making   our   battlefields tour   so   unbelievably   perfect.   Such   a   moving   experience   and   very   important   to   both   of   us. Made even better by the stress free arrangements and fabulous accommodation. Truly thank you we loved it. Naomi Walsby Dear James We   are   just   home   (we   had   a   few   extra   days   in   Antwerp)   after   the   most   absorbing   and interesting visit to the Somme and to Passchendaele. Your   itinerary   and   information   contributed   of   course   to   a   large   degree   and   I’m   writing   to let   you   know   on   behalf   of   all   three   of   us   how   much   this   was   appreciated.   We   have learned so much on this trip- at times it was almost overwhelming! In   addition,   the   overall   arrangements   worked   perfectly-   the   hotels   were   great,   restaurant recommendations    proved    really    helpful    and    the    driving    instructions    were    clear    and informative.   We   had   a   good   team      -   driver,   navigator   and   educator,   the   latter   reminding us   of   specific   information   at   each   stop   (we   had   done   a   lot   of   preparatory   reading   but   it was   difficult   to   retain   all   the   information   form   those   extensive   dossiers!).   Our   days   were very   full   and   it   was   excellent   having   slightly   more   than   two   days   for   each   centre   overall. It    was    interesting    how    the    different    museums/visitor    centres    each    had    sufficient information   and   display   to   merit   some   real   time   and   we   were   fortunate   to   be   able   to linger   as   we   wished.   We   thought   the   private   museum   at   Hooge   was   very   impressive (that   at   Hill   62   possibly   rather   less   so)..   We   located   some   family   graves   which   was particularly   special   for   us   -   at   Bonnay,   Peronne   and   Ieper,   plus   a   name   on   the   Menin Gate.    We    also    visited    the    Australian    cemetery    and    memorial    at    Villers-Brettoneux (between   Amiens   and   Albert),   and   the   trenches   and   wonderful   memorial   at   Vimy   Ridge.   I know   you   could   not   possibly   cover   everything   but   it   might   be   worth   mentioning   this   for those   doing   both   areas   of   the   ‘tour’   -   we   went   from   Albert   to   Arras,   explored   the   latter quite briefly and then went to Vimy en route to Ieper, which worked well. I   would   be   more   than   happy   to   add   the   gist   of   this   to   Trip   Advisor   or   similar   if   that   is helpful. With thanks again and best wishes from us all Deborah (May 2018) Hi James, We   are   on   our   last   night   in   Ypres   and   the   entire   trip   has   been   FANTASTIC!   Our   only hiccup   was   being   unable   to   reach   the   hotel   due   to   several   road   closures.   Our   sat/nav was   also   stumped,   but   nothing   that   going   the   wrong   way   on   a   one   way   street   couldn’t fix!   We   told   the   front   receptionist   that   we   had   to   go   the   wrong   way   on   the   street   and   her response was “Oh that’s ok, it’s Sunday”. This made me and Peter laugh so hard! We   followed   your   excellent   guide   to   the   letter   and   we   even   had   enough   time   to   visit Calais   and   Dunkirk   before   we   began   the   Ypres   part   of   the   trip!   Yes   I   know,   we   went   back and   forth,   but   that’s   the   beauty   of   having   your   own   transportation!   We   noticed   that   there were   no   tour   buses   on   the   routes   you   gave   us   and   very   often,   we   were   the   only   ones   at the   sites.   The   staff   at   Hotel   Ariane   were   great   and   the   breakfast   was   superb!   We   are looking forward to it again in the morning before we leave for France. I’ll give you another update after the second part of the tour. Thank   you   again   for   the   incredible   experience!   I   think   I   may   have   won   the   Wife   of   the Year Award for booking this :) Connie  (April 2018) Dear James I   just   wanted   to   convey   our   sincerest   thanks   for   arranging   a   really   wonderful   Battlefields trip recently. From   the   Euro-tunnel   check-in   through   to   the   Hotels   recommended   by   you,   we   were extremely   impressed.   Everything   was   just   as   you   described   and   the   food   and   service   in both hotels exemplary. Most   of   all   Jacques   made   the   sites   visited   come   alive.   He   has   a   style   of   his   own   and captivated   us   for   a   full   two   days   with   stories   and   anecdotes.   He   really   went   the   extra mile   in   making   it   a   truly   memorable   experience.   One   which   we   will   all   remember   for   a long time to come. Thank you again Best regards Ben Ben Penniston (April 1918) 2017 Dear James, This   is   a   rather   belated   note   to   say   a   very   big   ‘thank   you’   for   all   your   detailed   help   in setting   up   our   trip   last   month.         You   could   not   have   gone   to   more   trouble   for   us.         We were   lucky   with   perfect   sunny   dry   weather,   and   it   all   went   very   well.         Jacques   was excellent,   and   so   nice,   and   went   out   of   his   way   to   show   us   where   our   great   uncle   spent his last few days.   We also happened to meet Genevra during the day as well. Your   guides   were   amazing,   including   meeting   the   tricky   farmer   at   Serre,   who   while   we were   walking   along   the   track   not   only   drove   up   to   check   on   us   2   or   3   times,   but   also forced   bumper   to   bumper   a   mini   van   to   reverse   back   down!   .         We   reckoned   he   did   not have   much   spare   time   to   do   any   farming!         I   must   say   that   the   impact   of   the   trip   stayed with me for some time after we got back. I will certainly recommend you to friends in the future, and many thanks again, Jo Blake (October 2017) Dear James We thought you might be interested to have some feedback on our short trip. The   travel   plans   worked   well   and   we   were   lucky   not   to   have   any   delays   or   hold   ups.   On the   return   journey   we   arrived   early   at   Calais   and   were   able   to   join   an   earlier   departure which was a bonus. The   hotels   were   fine   with   the   one   in   Ypres   being   clearly   superior   although   their   evening menu   was   very   restricted   and   we   ate   there   for   one   night   only.   We   had   a   job   finding somewhere   to   eat   on   Sunday   evening   in   Albert   and   settled   on   Hotel   de   la   Paix   which   was not   a   huge   success   and   we   were   weak   enough   to   allow   them   to   serve   freezing   cold   red wine! Thanks   to   your   detailed   guides   and   an   efficient   navigator   and   driver   we   did   not   get   lost once!      We   saw   everything   we   set   out   to   see   and   more   besides   although   after   visiting about   5   museums   we   found   it   all   a   bit   repetitive.      Your   guides   are   very   detailed   and   give excellent   background   to   each   site   visited   -   in   our   case   perhaps   a   bit   too   much   detail!     These   comments   are   not   really   intended   as   criticisms   -   more   a   reflection   on   the   fact   that we were on a "sentimental" journey and are not by any means connoisseurs. Overall   one   could   not   fail   to   to   moved   by   what   one   saw,   read   and   heard   and   it   was   good to   see   so   many   English   children   at   the   various   sites.   The   interest   in   the   Menin   Gate ceremony in particular and WW1 in general after 100 years, was amazing to experience. With thanks for all your help and arrangements and kind regards from the Carver family (October 2017) James, I   just   want   to   say   thank   you   for   the   great   time   that   my   family   and   I   have   had   on   our recent   trip   to   the   Somme   and   Ypres.      Your   guides   and   information   were   superb.      They were   easy   to   follow   and   very   informative.      The   hotels   were   great   and   bar   Avril’s   tea rooms    the    food    was    out    of    this    world.        I    am    wholeheartedly    recommending    your company to any one I speak too. Now we have a taste of the battlefields next year will be the WW2 Normandy landings. Once again thank you so much Glen Lloyd (October 2017) Dear James,    A   belated   “thank   you”   for   sending   the   published   material   to   my   hotel   in   Cork   –   it   was waiting for us on our arrival. The   Hotel   de   la   Paix   was   excellent   –   the   rooms   comfortable   and   well-appointed,   the   staff endlessly   helpful   and   the   food   good.   I   was   surprised   by   so   modern   an   establishment   in   a small French rural town. Bapaume   was   also   very   close   to   Delville   Wood,   the   most   famous   WW1   battle   for   South African   forces.   We   headed   there   soon   after   arriving   and   it   was,   as   you   noted,   an   eerie place.   I   collected   some   of   the   many   acorns   scattered   on   the   ground   and   will   plant   them here [South Africa]. The   material   you   provided   was   highly   informative   and   I   had   the   sense   it   has   been   honed over the years – thank you for the care taken with this. We   did   drop   into   Avril   Williams’   restaurant   for   lunch   one   day;   it   was   a   little   disappointing although   we   did   arrive   on   a   bad   day   –   the   chip-fryer   was   broken,   which   removed   a   good proportion    of    her    menu!    Le    Tommy    in    Pozières,    despite    the    rather    heavy-handed themeing, was better. I   came   away   from   the   three   days   with   a   jumble   of   thoughts   through   which   I’m   still working.   I   read   a   while   ago   that   Auschwitz   has   become   almost   like   a   theme-park   and   I wonder   if   the   same   isn’t   happening   to   the   WW1   Battlefields   –   the   souvenir   shop   at Thiepval   was   jarring   although   I   suppose   they   need   every   penny   they   can   collect.   Perhaps this   is   how   they   will   have   to   survive   in   the   modern   age,   as   the   generations   affected   by the world wars (mine is probably the last) die off. Regards, Dominic Rooney (September 2017) Dear James I   am   just   writing   to   thank   you   very   much   for   organising   the   excellent   tour   of   the   Somme and Ypres battlefields for Christopher and myself. I   was   very   impressed   from   the   outset   that   you   could   put   together   the   arrangements   for the   tour   so   quickly   and   efficiently   at   such   short   notice   and   I   thank   you   for   putting yourself out just before you were going away yourself. We   thought   your   choice   of   hotels   in   both   Albert   and   Ypres   was   very   good   and   the journey   to   and   from   from   Calais   went   seamlessly.      We   ate   very   well   with   the   exception   of the   Auberge   de   la   Vallee   Ancre   where   the   main   course   was   very   disappointing..   but   the wine list was exceptional! More   importantly,   however,   was   the   excellent   self-driving   itinerary,   which   once   we   had done   our   homework   on   using   it   efficiently,   was   without   fail   accurate   and   enlightening.     Your   background   work   on   the   history,   the   battles,   the   armies,   the   living   conditions   of officers   and   men,   the   equipment   and   the   horrifying   statistics   was   thorough   and   very interesting   and   visiting   various   museums   only   served   to   confirm   that   which   you   had already written. I   now   feel   much   more   au   fait   with   that   period   of   history   and   understand   what   is   meant when   people   refer   to   the   suffering   endured   by   most   of   the   world’s   nations   over   the   First World War.  And the experience begs the question... When will we ever learn? Thank you very much for a memorable 5 days. With best wishes Antonia (September 2018) Dear James I   just   wanted   to   thank   you   providing   us   with   such   excellent   material   for   our   Battlefields trip.  We returned last week and haven't stopped talking about it yet! The   maps   and   accompanying   booklets   for   both   Somme   and   Ypres   areas   were   superb   and kept   us   right   on   track.      The   only   time   we   overshot   anything   was   in   Hamel   just   outside Albert.   where   the   maize   had   grown   so   tall   by   the   time   of   our   visit   that   it   completely obscured   the   cemetery   as   we   approached,   so   we   had   to   turn   back,   park   on   the   roadside and   walk   to   discover   what   we   were   looking   for.      This   was   made   possible   by   the   clear description you gave of other landmarks in the village.  In   the   Somme   area,   we   managed   to   drive   round   everything   on   the   route   you   suggested, visited   the   museum   underneath   the   Basilica   in   Albert   and   also   the   one   in   Peronne   -   both very   impressive.      We   were   particularly   moved   by   a   temporary   exhibition   of   art   by   Otto Dix   which   displayed   the   true   horror   of   it   all,   both   real   and   imagined.      We   called   in   on Avril   for   coffee   and   ate   far   too   well   at   the   Hotel   de   la   Basilique!      One   of   the   most   moving experiences   was   our   visit   to   Delville   Wood   Museum,   and   Richard   found   the   Mametz Wood area very foreboding. On   our   way   to   Ypres,   we   stopped   at   Messines   for   coffee   and   visited   the   Ireland   Peace Park   and   the   New   Zealand   memorial.      We   also   had   a   mission   to   find   a   grave   of   a   soldier local   to   us   here   and   stopped   at   Wijkstaete   to   locate   his   resting   place   in   the   very   peaceful cemetery there. Whilst    in    Ypres,    we    attended    the    Menin    Gate    ceremony    on    Monday    when    the proceedings   were   more   formal   than   some,   due   to   an   impressive   number   of   wreaths being   laid   and   a   marching   band   also   in   attendance.      One   of   the   wreaths   was   laid   by   Mike Tindall   as   a   group   of   former   rugby   players   of   top   quality   were   on   tour   playing   Rugby   for Heroes!      We   were   so   impressed   that   we   attended   the   following   evening   as   well,   although this   was   a   less   formal   ceremony.      We   enjoyed   some   very   good   meals   in   the   town   and drove   around   much   of   your   tour   before   meeting   Genevra   on   our   final   day.      She   really   had done   a   lot   of   research   on   our   behalf   and   took   us   to   places   where   Richard's   grandfather had   been   in   action.      She   was   as   fascinated   as   we   were   to   relive   his   experience   of   viewing the   countryside   through   his   field   glasses   which   we   took   with   us.      It   was   a   wonderful   day made   very   special   by   her   passion   to   learn   of   individuals'   experiences.      She   has   since   sent us   further   information   to   which   we   didn't   have   access   and   we   have   exchanged   photos. We   dropped   in   on   St   George's   Memorial   Church   after   we   parted   company   and   both   found that very interesting. On   our   return   trip   to   the   port,   we   took   in   Talbot   House   in   Poperinge   (on   Genevra's advice) and visited the Lijssenthoek cemetery. Thank   you   so   much   for   making   our   trip   so   memorable.      We   would   have   missed   so   much had   we   not   had   your   guidance.      I   shall   certainly   recommend   you   to   friends   and   family who may wish to take a similar trip. Who,   knows   -   I   may   drop   in   when   we   are   visiting   my   brother   in   Wimborne   and   meet   you in person! Many thanks once again Sarah and Richard Musgrave August 217) Good afternoon James I   just   wanted   to   say   what   a   fabulous   weekend   Mum   &   I   had.      Ypres   was   beautiful,   its hard   to   imagine   that   100   years   ago   it   was   hell   on   earth.      The   Albion   Hotel   is   lovely,   very comfortable and the staff were really friendly. The   tour   with   Wouter   was   the   highlight   of   the   weekend.      What   a   lovely   man   he   is.      He totally   charmed   Mum,   had   her   hanging   on   his   every   word.      She   was   so   moved   being   able to   see   the   places   where   her   father   served   for   the   whole   4   years   of   the   war.      The   stories that   Wouter   told   us   and   the   photos   he   showed   brought   it   all   to   life   and   gave   us   both especially   Mum   a   clearer   understanding   as   to   why   her   Dad   was   the   way   he   was,   very quiet and detached and always deep in thought. We   managed   to   get   tickets   to   go   into   the   Dugout   at   Zonnebeke,   mum   did   really   well getting down the steps.  It was amazing to be able to see it. We   were   really   emotional   being   able   to   lay   a   poppy   at   the   Menin   Gate   at   the   panel commemorating   his   friends   who   were   lost   from   his   regiment.      It   was   a   very   special weekend, one which both of us will remember forever. Many thanks for organising it for us Suzanne Bevington (August 2017) James Just   got   back   to   the   UK   after   a   fantastic   week   in   France.      My   sincere   thanks   for   all   your organisation   -   the   whole   trip   worked   like   clockwork.      Peter   Smith   was   excellent   and   I   will be sending him a separate note to say thank you. Many   thanks   again   and   I   will   certainly   be   recommending   you   to   anyone   who   enquires about our trip. Kind regards Brett Wooldridge (July 2017) Hi James, Got   back   Sunday   night   from   our   tour.   We   were   both   very   impressed   with   the   whole   6   day excursion.   Incredibly   well   organised,   highly   detailed   notes,   directions   and   info.   Even   my wife   couldn't   help   but   successfully   direct   me   to   our   next   stop!   Hotels   -   very   good.   Euro- Tunnel very good - beats the ferry!  Definite trip of a lifetime - thank you. My   wife   who   was   at   first   slightly   cautious   of   the   trip   thoroughly   enjoyed   it   and   was   at times   very   moved.   Didn't   do   every   stop   but   tended   to   linger   longer   at   some   places   such as   Newfoundland   Park,   Tyne   Cot,Passchendaele   Museum,   Hills   62   &   60   and   Lochnagar crater to name but a few. Definite advantage of self-drive over coach. Regards, Gordon & Enez Tompsett (July 2017) Hello James, I   just   wanted   to   send   you   a   quick   note   to   say   that   we   had   a   great   trip   to   Ypres/Somme between   5-12   July.   Your   itinerary   was   first   rate   and   created   the   right   balance   between the   big   set   piece   such   as   a   Tyne   Cot   or   Thiepval   and   the   more   unusual   corners   of   the battlefields,   many   of   which   were   new   to   me   despite   having   visited   both   areas   a   dozen times   or   more.   The   whole   family   really   enjoyed   the   experience   and   we   felt   a   real connection to the areas and the moments of significance from 1914-18. The   Ariane   was   superb   as   a   hotel   and   we   would   hurry   back.   They   really   did   look   after   us well.   Highly   recommended!   The   Royal   Picardie   was   very   good   also   although   we   suffered a   bit   on   the   first   night   as   our   room   for   3   people   was   a   "traditional"   room   with   no   air   con and   it   had   been   29   degrees   that   day!   We   did   move   the   next   morning   to   a   newer   room with   air   con   and   the   staff   did   look   after   us   so   "all's   well   that   ends   well"   etc.   You   may know   already   but   they   have   no   restaurant   for   dinner   any   longer   (breakfast   was   very good). We used Corners Pub and the Basilique Hotel and both were well-received. One   tip   in   the   itinerary   materials   might   be   to   warn   the   casual   visitor   that   if   there   has been   rain   then   a   few   areas   may   be   quite   muddy   and   wellies   or   similar   would   be   useful   - Hawthorn   Crater   was   a   case   in   point.   I   was   not   popular   for   leading   3   females   into   the mud but all part of the experience if you ask me! The   whole   experience   was   superb   and   I   want   to   thank   you   on   behalf   of   the   family   for   a truly   memorable   holiday.   It   was   all   the   more   poignant   as   we   managed   to   visit   the   resting places of several former pupils in both Ypres and the Somme. Thanks and best wishes David Burnett (June 2017) Hi James Just   to   let   you   know   -   the   trip   was   excellent.   We   crammed   so   much   in   it   was   quite   tiring, but   extremely   worthwhile   -   sometimes   poignant,   sometimes   overwhelming   in   the   scale   of the   casualties,   but   always   interesting.   The   museums   in   Albert   and   Zonneberg   were especially good. There   were   lots   of   school   parties   there   on   organised   tours,   which   is   encouraging.   They seemed enthusiastic even though it's ancient history to them. The   substitution   of   the   Albion   Hotel   proved   excellent   -   great   location,   friendly   staff,   and excellent   facilities,   with   the   car   parking   a   real   bonus.   We've   received   your   kind   refund, and   I   can   assure   you   it   went   to   a   good   cause,   as   we   found   the   beer   and   food   in   Ypres quite   expensive   -   to   be   expected   around   the   Grote   Markt   and   the   Menin   Gate   as   they   are major   tourist   attractions.   Don't   know   what   the   issue   was   with   the   Ariane   Hotel,   but   your prompt action and excellent substitution saved the day! The   tour   literature   was   impressively   comprehensive,   so   much   so   that   we   could   cope   with splitting   the   routes   in   each   battlefield   over   2   days,   choosing   where   to   spend   more   time and   where   to   skim,   and   even   do   some   runs   in   different   order   when   small   roads   were blocked (roadworks, etc). The   staff   at   the   Royal   Picardie   were   fine,   but   the   restaurant   is   not   open   at   all   for   dinner- don't   know   whether   this   is   temporary   or   a   permanent   cost-saving   measure.   No   problem for   us   as   we   ate   in   the   centre   of   Albert,   with   just   the   odd   drink   in   the   hotel   bar.   We   did get   a   taxi   to   and   from   the   centre,   which   the   hotel   receptionist   organised   for   us,   as   my co-traveller   had   had   a   replacement   knee   operation   fairly   frequently   and   was   saving himself   for   the   tour   walks.   Other   travellers   with   mobility   issues   may   wish   to   do   the   same - it was only 7 euros each way. Once again, many thanks for your help - we may even go back. Kind Regards Robert Pringle (June 2017) Dear James, Sue   and   I   had   a   brilliant   four   days   in   France/Belgium   last   week.   With   Sue   driving   and   me navigating   and   your   excellent   instructions   we   managed   on   the   first   day   to   see   the   grave of   my   grandfather’s   cousin,   William   Thomas   Brewer   in   Abbeville.   We   made   an   error   at first   and   came   off   the   motorway   at   Junction   22   instead   of   23   but,   having   had   some   help from   some   friendly   French   workers,   who   directed   us   to   the   centre   of   the   town   we   found a   sign   to   the   cemetery.   After   that   we   were   a   bit   lost   thanks   to   the   lack   of   signing   on French roads but we made it in the end! After   that   we   made   for   Albert   and   found   the   Hotel   Royal   Picardie   very   easily.   We   walked into   town   for   a   meal   and   found   the   excellent   Hotel   De   La   Paix   which   was   French   cooking at   its   best.   The   Hotel   Picardie   didn’t   seem   to   be   offering   meals   in   their   restaurant   at   all so   we   returned   to   the   Hotel   De   La   Paix   the   second   night   for   another   excellent   meal.   We spent   this   second   day   on   the   Somme   battlefields   and   followed   half   of   your   self-drive guide   –   we   started   at   9   am   and   stopped   at   6   pm   having   had   a   fascinating   first   day.   We visited   many   cemeteries   and   as   we   turned   for   Albert   on   the   D929   we   found   the   Pozieres Cemetery where one of the Holt Parish Hall Plaque men is remembered – William Squibb. We   found   his   names   on   the   panel   91.   Having   read   the   whole   of   your   book   on   the   Somme now   I   understand   not   all   the   missing   are   mentioned   at   Thiepval.   We   found   Ernest Brewer’s name there – he is the brother of William. On   Wednesday   ,   we   made   for   Ypres   via   Vimy   Ridge   as   Sue’s   brother   had   recommended   a visit.   We   were   not   disappointed   and   the   Canadians   took   s   down   into   the   tunnels   dug   out by   Welsh   and   Australian   miners.   When   we   reached   Ypres   we   checked   into   the   Hotel Ariane   –   again,   easily   found   using   your   directions   and   then   walked   the   ramparts,   in reverse,   ending   up   at   the   Menin   Gate   Memorial   at   7pm.   A   very   moving   ceremony   and   we had   an   extra   as   a   student   from   a   Canadian   College   played   the   bag   pipes   after   the buglers. All the people there were so friendly. On   the   last   day   we   had   time   to   do   about   aa   quarter   of   the   Ypres   Salient   tour   which   was very   informative   and   we   visited   Hill   60,   the   Caterpillar   mine   crater      and   the   Bluff   which was beautifully quiet and full of wildlife. On   the   way   back   to   Calais   we   went   into   Merville   and   found   the   grave   of   my   Great-uncle, William   John   Bleddyn.   This   was   very   emotional   for   me   as   I   have   carried   out   much research on him and have his medals and his photo. Both   Sue   and   I   are   very   grateful   for   your   help   and   guidance   and   organizing   of   the   trip. We   enjoyed   the   trip   enormously   and      we   came   back   on   a   high,   despite   the   awful   news   of Grenfell Tower!
The only Self-Drive WW1 tour company to be recommended in the Independent’s ‘Complete Guide to Great War Travel’
Dear James We   just   wanted   to   write   and   tell   you   that   we   had   a   most interesting    and    poignant    visiting    the    1WW    battlefields, cemeteries   and   museums   in   the   Somme   and   Ypres   Salient over   the   last   week.   Your   detailed   itinerary   and   notes   helped us   to   appreciate   the   terrible   conditions   and   sacrifices   made on   both   sides   during   the   battles,   taking   us   to   places   we would have certainly otherwise missed. We   thought   we   should   mention   one   cemetery   that   was   very easy   to   visit   on   our   return   from   Ypres   to   Calais,   namely   the Lijssenthoek    Military    Cemetery    which    was    just    a    small diversion   from   our   route.   It   contained   a   really   interesting and   informative   visitor   centre   (unlike   the   one   at   Tynecot) with   many   insights   into   the   workings   of   the   field   hospital based   there.   You   may   wish   to   add   it   to   your   itinerary   for   the return route. Both   hotels   were   excellent   with   upgraded   rooms   given   to   us at   both   the   Ariane   and   Le   Macassar.   The   new   owners   at   the latter   were   most   welcoming   and   the   Art   Deco   nature   of   the rooms   very   interesting.   They   provided   a   lovely   Table   d’hôte meal   on   the   Sunday   evening   and   are   very   keen   to   maintain the   level   of   hospitality   provided   by   the   previous   owners.   We would   definitely   recommend   that   you   keep   it   as   one   of   your hotel options for the Somme region. Thank   you   again   for   the   efficient   and   comprehensive   service that you provided in arranging our trip. Yours sincerely David and Alison Levy (October 2018) Dear Mr. Power It’s   been   a   month   since   we   returned   from   Europe   and   the Somme   and   its   effect   upon   my   son   and   I   have   been   long lasting.    Both    of    us    were    surprised    at    how    moving    an experience   it   was.   We   knew   the   history,   the   fatal   military judgements   and   huge   number   of   losses,   but   history   books don’t   give   any   sense   of   the   magnitude   of   the   casualties   in the   terrain   that   exposed   so   many   troops   to   slaughter.   Being there    does.    Seeing    all    those    cemeteries    does.    And    your guide    with    it’s    detail    and    meticulous    and    compassionate explanations   brought   the   Somme   battles   to   life.   What   made our   experience   all   the   more   poignant   was   that   the   beauty   of the   gentle   rolling   Picardie   countryside,   its   fields,   copses   and steepled   villages   today   belied   what   took   place   there   102 years   ago.   We   were   especially   moved   by   Sheffield   Park   and the    PALS    memorials,    and    thought,    "There,    but    for    time, place   and   the   Grace   of   God”   we   could   have   been   among those young men. I   might   add,   the   hotel   was   comfortable   and   pleasant,   its food   surprisingly   good.   Coincidentally,   staying   at   the   Royal Picardie   were   graphic   novels   artist,   publishers   and   editors attending   a   book   fair   in   Albert.   Some   of   them   had   been involved   with   the   publication   for   the   centennial   of   a   graphic novel,   “Traces   of   the   Great   War”;   just   one   more   experience to enrich a great trip. Thanks and my best, Robert B Kohn, USA (October 2018) Dear James, We   have   had   such   an   interesting   if   emotional   week   with your   self   drive   tours   of   the   Somme   and   Ypres   areas   and would   like   to   thank   you   for   the   meticulous   detail   in   both   the route    directions    and    battle    details    with    the    maps    and photographs.            We    had    many    of    the    Somme    areas    to ourselves    with    such    peace    in    the    surrounding    areas contrasting   to   what   must   have   been   unimaginable   horror.   It was   busier   in   the   Ypres   area   at   the   more   well-known   sites but   always   manageable.   October   was   a   good   time   to   go   and the weather was amazing too - just like summer! You   asked   to   mention   any   errors   that   might   be   found   -   just one   very   small   one   on   page   49a   of   the   Somme   guide   Private J   Sweeney’s   grave   is   Row   B   -   the   arrow   does   point   to   this although   A   is   written   in   brackets.   Good   to   see   he   was   given a   graveyard   burial   and   now   there   is   a   memorial   to   those Shot   at   Dawn   at   the   National   Memorial   Arboretum.   How   very difficult   it   was   in   so   many   ways   for   all   those   in   the   Great   War and    how    powerful    hindsight    is.    There    were    many    very moving   and   emotional   moments   for   both   of   us   including   the German   cemetery   at   Langemark.   Thank   you   again   for   such   a comprehensive tour which will not be forgotten. Yours sincerely, Janice and Tony Elvidge (October 2018) Hi James Just   a   quick   note   on   behalf   of   my   mum   and   myself   to   say how   much   we   enjoyed   the   Somme   and   Ypres   itinerary   that you provided. Extraordinary   detail   that   gave   a   real   insight   into   the   terrible history of the conflict. We   enjoyed   both   hotels,   especially   the   Ariane   in   Ypres   -   and     the   cafe's   &   restaurants   that   you   recommended      including the   Hotel   de   Basilique   and   the   Ocean   Villas   Tea   rooms   where we met Avril. All best wishes and thanks once again Richard Steeden (October 2018) Dear James, Got   back   on   Friday.   Everything   worked   like   clockwork;   Jan and   I   want   to   thank   you   for   the   detailed   and   comprehensive planning   which   went   into   the   whole   trip.   The   Ariane   Hotel was   excellent,   including   the   upgrade,   and   we   were   blessed with   superb   weather   which   no   doubt   you   also   arranged.   (We couldn't   help   thinking   that   a   steady   downpour   would   have been more appropriate to tour the Salient!). We   spent   Tuesday   and   Wednesday   touring   the   Ypres   area, and   on   Thursday   drove   down   to   the   site   of   the   Battle   of Loos,   taking   in   Messines,   Ploegstreet   and   the   Irish   Peace memorial   on   the   way.   The   former   Hohenzollern   Redoubt   is unmistakeable   and   overgrown   but   firmly   entrée    interdite.   We were   not   tempted,   but   were   mightily   impressed   with   the Quarry   cemetery   nearby   -   we   believe   the   quarry   was   the Battalion   HQ   during   the   battle.   It   also   has   the   grave   of Captain Bowes-Lyon, the Queen's uncle. The   Battlefield   guides   were   superb,   giving   just   the   right amount    of    information;    we    much    appreciated    retaining control   of   our   own   timing   and   activity.   As   a   former   naval person,   I   am   now   more   aware   of   the   importance   of   the terrain   than   I   was;   the   aspect   of   the   slight   slope   up   to   the Hohenzollern  looked frightening! [guide update suggestion]. Again,    many    thanks    for    the    attention    to    detail    and comprehensive   information.   We   shall   certainly   recommend Somme Battlefield Tours to our friends. Yours sincerely, Mike Forbes (September 2018) Hi James Just    wanted    you    to    know    that    we    had    a    fabulous    time touring   the   Somme   and   Ypres   last   week.   The   hotels   were wonderful   especially   the   Hotel   De   La   Paix,   this   was   such   a friendly hotel with wonderful amenities and staff. We   found   virtually   all   the   sites   in   your   guides   and   more,   we never   stopped   to   be   honest   and   covered   hundreds   of   miles, we even visited Dunkirk Beach on the way home. Everything   went   to   plan   with   the   euro   tunnel   and   it   was   a great experience, one we will do again. Thank   you   for   planning   this   tour   for   us   James   it   was   a lifetime   wish   of   my   Brother   and   I   and   one   I   will   now   do again   because   there   are   still   more   places   I   want   to   visit   like Amiens,    it    was    to    busy    to    go    there    because    of    the celebrations going on whilst we was there. Once again Thank you James Kindest Regards Ian J Blakey. (August 2018) James We   got   back   from   our   tour   late   on   Friday   and   wanted   to thank you for the tour that you prepared for us. It   was   so   informative   and   detailed   and   even   though   we   did not   manage   to   cover   the   whole   itinerary   because   of   time,   we now   feel   that   we   have   a   much   better   understanding   of   the horrors   and   the   awful   mistakes   made   resulting   in   the   huge sacrifices of men in this dreadful war. The   directions   and   road   information   was   clear   and   precise on your routes. The    hotel    Ariane    was    lovely    and    we    ate    there    on    their terrace   and   the   Hotel   de   la   Paix   was   very   welcoming,   clean and homely and the evening meals were good. Thank you for making our trip so worthwhile. Best wishes Sue (July 2918) Hi James Myself   and   dad   just   wanted   to   send   you   a   massive   thank you   for   making   our   battlefields   tour   so   unbelievably   perfect. Such   a   moving   experience   and   very   important   to   both   of   us. Made    even    better    by    the    stress    free    arrangements    and fabulous accommodation. Truly thank you we loved it. Naomi Walsby Dear James We   are   just   home   (we   had   a   few   extra   days   in   Antwerp) after   the   most   absorbing   and   interesting   visit   to   the   Somme and to Passchendaele. Your   itinerary   and   information   contributed   of   course   to   a large   degree   and   I’m   writing   to   let   you   know   on   behalf   of   all three    of    us    how    much    this    was    appreciated.    We    have learned    so    much    on    this    trip-    at    times    it    was    almost overwhelming! In   addition,   the   overall   arrangements   worked   perfectly-   the hotels    were    great,    restaurant    recommendations    proved really   helpful   and   the   driving   instructions   were   clear   and informative.   We   had   a   good   team      -   driver,   navigator   and educator,   the   latter   reminding   us   of   specific   information   at each   stop   (we   had   done   a   lot   of   preparatory   reading   but   it was    difficult    to    retain    all    the    information    form    those extensive   dossiers!).   Our   days   were   very   full   and   it   was excellent   having   slightly   more   than   two   days   for   each   centre overall.   It   was   interesting   how   the   different   museums/visitor centres   each   had   sufficient   information   and   display   to   merit some   real   time   and   we   were   fortunate   to   be   able   to   linger   as we   wished.   We   thought   the   private   museum   at   Hooge   was very   impressive   (that   at   Hill   62   possibly   rather   less   so)..   We located   some   family   graves   which   was   particularly   special   for us   -   at   Bonnay,   Peronne   and   Ieper,   plus   a   name   on   the Menin   Gate.   We   also   visited   the   Australian   cemetery   and memorial   at   Villers-Brettoneux   (between   Amiens   and   Albert), and   the   trenches   and   wonderful   memorial   at   Vimy   Ridge.   I know   you   could   not   possibly   cover   everything   but   it   might   be worth   mentioning   this   for   those   doing   both   areas   of   the ‘tour’   -   we   went   from   Albert   to   Arras,   explored   the   latter quite   briefly   and   then   went   to   Vimy   en   route   to   Ieper,   which worked well. I   would   be   more   than   happy   to   add   the   gist   of   this   to   Trip Advisor or similar if that is helpful. With thanks again and best wishes from us all Deborah (May 2018) Hi James, We   are   on   our   last   night   in   Ypres   and   the   entire   trip   has been   FANTASTIC!   Our   only   hiccup   was   being   unable   to   reach the   hotel   due   to   several   road   closures.   Our   sat/nav   was   also stumped,   but   nothing   that   going   the   wrong   way   on   a   one way   street   couldn’t   fix!   We   told   the   front   receptionist   that   we had   to   go   the   wrong   way   on   the   street   and   her   response was   “Oh   that’s   ok,   it’s   Sunday”.   This   made   me   and   Peter laugh so hard! We   followed   your   excellent   guide   to   the   letter   and   we   even had   enough   time   to   visit   Calais   and   Dunkirk   before   we   began the   Ypres   part   of   the   trip!   Yes   I   know,   we   went   back   and forth,     but     that’s     the     beauty     of     having     your     own transportation!   We   noticed   that   there   were   no   tour   buses   on the   routes   you   gave   us   and   very   often,   we   were   the   only ones   at   the   sites.   The   staff   at   Hotel   Ariane   were   great   and the   breakfast   was   superb!   We   are   looking   forward   to   it   again in the morning before we leave for France. I’ll give you another update after the second part of the tour. Thank   you   again   for   the   incredible   experience!   I   think   I   may have won the Wife of the Year Award for booking this :) Connie  (April 2018) Dear James I   just   wanted   to   convey   our   sincerest   thanks   for   arranging   a really wonderful Battlefields trip recently. From    the    Euro-tunnel    check-in    through    to    the    Hotels recommended    by    you,    we    were    extremely    impressed. Everything   was   just   as   you   described   and   the   food   and service in both hotels exemplary. Most   of   all   Jacques   made   the   sites   visited   come   alive.   He   has a   style   of   his   own   and   captivated   us   for   a   full   two   days   with stories    and    anecdotes.    He    really    went    the    extra    mile    in making   it   a   truly   memorable   experience.   One   which   we   will all remember for a long time to come. Thank you again Best regards Ben Ben Penniston (April 1918) 2017 Dear James, This   is   a   rather   belated   note   to   say   a   very   big   ‘thank   you’   for all   your   detailed   help   in   setting   up   our   trip   last   month.         You could   not   have   gone   to   more   trouble   for   us.         We   were   lucky with   perfect   sunny   dry   weather,   and   it   all   went   very   well.        Jacques   was   excellent,   and   so   nice,   and   went   out   of   his   way to   show   us   where   our   great   uncle   spent   his   last   few   days.        We also happened to meet Genevra during the day as well. Your    guides    were    amazing,    including    meeting    the    tricky farmer   at   Serre,   who   while   we   were   walking   along   the   track not   only   drove   up   to   check   on   us   2   or   3   times,   but   also forced   bumper   to   bumper   a   mini   van   to   reverse   back   down!   .        We   reckoned   he   did   not   have   much   spare   time   to   do   any farming!         I   must   say   that   the   impact   of   the   trip   stayed   with me for some time after we got back. I   will   certainly   recommend   you   to   friends   in   the   future,   and many thanks again, Jo Blake (October 2017) Dear James We   thought   you   might   be   interested   to   have   some   feedback on our short trip. The   travel   plans   worked   well   and   we   were   lucky   not   to   have any   delays   or   hold   ups.   On   the   return   journey   we   arrived early   at   Calais   and   were   able   to   join   an   earlier   departure which was a bonus. The   hotels   were   fine   with   the   one   in   Ypres   being   clearly superior   although   their   evening   menu   was   very   restricted and   we   ate   there   for   one   night   only.   We   had   a   job   finding somewhere   to   eat   on   Sunday   evening   in   Albert   and   settled on   Hotel   de   la   Paix   which   was   not   a   huge   success   and   we were   weak   enough   to   allow   them   to   serve   freezing   cold   red wine! Thanks   to   your   detailed   guides   and   an   efficient   navigator and   driver   we   did   not   get   lost   once!      We   saw   everything   we set   out   to   see   and   more   besides   although   after   visiting   about 5   museums   we   found   it   all   a   bit   repetitive.      Your   guides   are very   detailed   and   give   excellent   background   to   each   site visited   -   in   our   case   perhaps   a   bit   too   much   detail!      These comments   are   not   really   intended   as   criticisms   -   more   a reflection    on    the    fact    that    we    were    on    a    "sentimental" journey and are not by any means connoisseurs. Overall   one   could   not   fail   to   to   moved   by   what   one   saw, read   and   heard   and   it   was   good   to   see   so   many   English children   at   the   various   sites.   The   interest   in   the   Menin   Gate ceremony   in   particular   and   WW1   in   general   after   100   years, was amazing to experience. With   thanks   for   all   your   help   and   arrangements   and   kind regards from the Carver family (October 2017) James, I   just   want   to   say   thank   you   for   the   great   time   that   my family   and   I   have   had   on   our   recent   trip   to   the   Somme   and Ypres.      Your   guides   and   information   were   superb.      They were   easy   to   follow   and   very   informative.      The   hotels   were great   and   bar   Avril’s   tea   rooms   the   food   was   out   of   this world.      I   am   wholeheartedly   recommending   your   company to any one I speak too. Now   we   have   a   taste   of   the   battlefields   next   year   will   be   the WW2 Normandy landings. Once again thank you so much Glen Lloyd (October 2017) Dear James,    A   belated   “thank   you”   for   sending   the   published   material   to my hotel in Cork – it was waiting for us on our arrival. The   Hotel   de   la   Paix   was   excellent   –   the   rooms   comfortable and   well-appointed,   the   staff   endlessly   helpful   and   the   food good.   I   was   surprised   by   so   modern   an   establishment   in   a small French rural town. Bapaume   was   also   very   close   to   Delville   Wood,   the   most famous   WW1   battle   for   South   African   forces.   We   headed there   soon   after   arriving   and   it   was,   as   you   noted,   an   eerie place.   I   collected   some   of   the   many   acorns   scattered   on   the ground and will plant them here [South Africa]. The   material   you   provided   was   highly   informative   and   I   had the   sense   it   has   been   honed   over   the   years   –   thank   you   for the care taken with this. We   did   drop   into   Avril   Williams’   restaurant   for   lunch   one   day; it   was   a   little   disappointing   although   we   did   arrive   on   a   bad day   –   the   chip-fryer   was   broken,   which   removed   a   good proportion   of   her   menu!   Le   Tommy   in   Pozières,   despite   the rather heavy-handed themeing, was better. I   came   away   from   the   three   days   with   a   jumble   of   thoughts through   which   I’m   still   working.   I   read   a   while   ago   that Auschwitz    has    become    almost    like    a    theme-park    and    I wonder   if   the   same   isn’t   happening   to   the   WW1   Battlefields –    the    souvenir    shop    at    Thiepval    was    jarring    although    I suppose   they   need   every   penny   they   can   collect.   Perhaps this   is   how   they   will   have   to   survive   in   the   modern   age,   as the   generations   affected   by   the   world   wars   (mine   is   probably the last) die off. Regards, Dominic Rooney (September 2017) Dear James I   am   just   writing   to   thank   you   very   much   for   organising   the excellent    tour    of    the    Somme    and    Ypres    battlefields    for Christopher and myself. I   was   very   impressed   from   the   outset   that   you   could   put together    the    arrangements    for    the    tour    so    quickly    and efficiently   at   such   short   notice   and   I   thank   you   for   putting yourself out just before you were going away yourself. We   thought   your   choice   of   hotels   in   both   Albert   and   Ypres was   very   good   and   the   journey   to   and   from   from   Calais   went seamlessly.      We   ate   very   well   with   the   exception   of   the Auberge   de   la   Vallee   Ancre   where   the   main   course   was   very disappointing.. but the wine list was exceptional! More    importantly,    however,    was    the    excellent    self-driving itinerary,   which   once   we   had   done   our   homework   on   using   it efficiently,   was   without   fail   accurate   and   enlightening.      Your background   work   on   the   history,   the   battles,   the   armies,   the living   conditions   of   officers   and   men,   the   equipment   and   the horrifying   statistics   was   thorough   and   very   interesting   and visiting   various   museums   only   served   to   confirm   that   which you had already written. I   now   feel   much   more   au   fait   with   that   period   of   history   and understand   what   is   meant   when   people   refer   to   the   suffering endured   by   most   of   the   world’s   nations   over   the   First   World War.  And   the   experience   begs   the   question...   When   will   we   ever learn? Thank you very much for a memorable 5 days. With best wishes Antonia (September 2017) Dear James I   just   wanted   to   thank   you   providing   us   with   such   excellent material   for   our   Battlefields   trip.      We   returned   last   week   and haven't stopped talking about it yet! The   maps   and   accompanying   booklets   for   both   Somme   and Ypres   areas   were   superb   and   kept   us   right   on   track.      The only   time   we   overshot   anything   was   in   Hamel   just   outside Albert.   where   the   maize   had   grown   so   tall   by   the   time   of   our visit    that    it    completely    obscured    the    cemetery    as    we approached,   so   we   had   to   turn   back,   park   on   the   roadside and   walk   to   discover   what   we   were   looking   for.      This   was made   possible   by   the   clear   description   you   gave   of   other landmarks in the village.  In   the   Somme   area,   we   managed   to   drive   round   everything on   the   route   you   suggested,   visited   the   museum   underneath the   Basilica   in   Albert   and   also   the   one   in   Peronne   -   both   very impressive.      We   were   particularly   moved   by   a   temporary exhibition   of   art   by   Otto   Dix   which   displayed   the   true   horror of   it   all,   both   real   and   imagined.      We   called   in   on   Avril   for coffee   and   ate   far   too   well   at   the   Hotel   de   la   Basilique!      One of   the   most   moving   experiences   was   our   visit   to   Delville Wood   Museum,   and   Richard   found   the   Mametz   Wood   area very foreboding. On   our   way   to   Ypres,   we   stopped   at   Messines   for   coffee   and visited    the    Ireland    Peace    Park    and    the    New    Zealand memorial.      We   also   had   a   mission   to   find   a   grave   of   a   soldier local   to   us   here   and   stopped   at   Wijkstaete   to   locate   his resting place in the very peaceful cemetery there. Whilst   in   Ypres,   we   attended   the   Menin   Gate   ceremony   on Monday   when   the   proceedings   were   more   formal   than   some, due   to   an   impressive   number   of   wreaths   being   laid   and   a marching   band   also   in   attendance.      One   of   the   wreaths   was laid   by   Mike   Tindall   as   a   group   of   former   rugby   players   of top   quality   were   on   tour   playing   Rugby   for   Heroes!      We   were so   impressed   that   we   attended   the   following   evening   as well,   although   this   was   a   less   formal   ceremony.      We   enjoyed some   very   good   meals   in   the   town   and   drove   around   much of   your   tour   before   meeting   Genevra   on   our   final   day.      She really   had   done   a   lot   of   research   on   our   behalf   and   took   us to   places   where   Richard's   grandfather   had   been   in   action.     She   was   as   fascinated   as   we   were   to   relive   his   experience   of viewing   the   countryside   through   his   field   glasses   which   we took   with   us.      It   was   a   wonderful   day   made   very   special   by her   passion   to   learn   of   individuals'   experiences.      She   has since   sent   us   further   information   to   which   we   didn't   have access   and   we   have   exchanged   photos.   We   dropped   in   on   St George's   Memorial   Church   after   we   parted   company   and both found that very interesting. On   our   return   trip   to   the   port,   we   took   in   Talbot   House   in Poperinge   (on   Genevra's   advice)   and   visited   the   Lijssenthoek cemetery. Thank   you   so   much   for   making   our   trip   so   memorable.      We would   have   missed   so   much   had   we   not   had   your   guidance.     I   shall   certainly   recommend   you   to   friends   and   family   who may wish to take a similar trip. Who,   knows   -   I   may   drop   in   when   we   are   visiting   my   brother in Wimborne and meet you in person! Many thanks once again Sarah and Richard Musgrave August 217) Good afternoon James I   just   wanted   to   say   what   a   fabulous   weekend   Mum   &   I   had.     Ypres   was   beautiful,   its   hard   to   imagine   that   100   years   ago   it was    hell    on    earth.        The    Albion    Hotel    is    lovely,    very comfortable and the staff were really friendly. The   tour   with   Wouter   was   the   highlight   of   the   weekend.     What   a   lovely   man   he   is.      He   totally   charmed   Mum,   had   her hanging   on   his   every   word.      She   was   so   moved   being   able   to see   the   places   where   her   father   served   for   the   whole   4   years of   the   war.      The   stories   that   Wouter   told   us   and   the   photos he   showed   brought   it   all   to   life   and   gave   us   both   especially Mum   a   clearer   understanding   as   to   why   her   Dad   was   the way   he   was,   very   quiet   and   detached   and   always   deep   in thought. We    managed    to    get    tickets    to    go    into    the    Dugout    at Zonnebeke,   mum   did   really   well   getting   down   the   steps.      It was amazing to be able to see it. We   were   really   emotional   being   able   to   lay   a   poppy   at   the Menin   Gate   at   the   panel   commemorating   his   friends   who were   lost   from   his   regiment.      It   was   a   very   special   weekend, one which both of us will remember forever. Many thanks for organising it for us Suzanne Bevington (August 2017) James Just   got   back   to   the   UK   after   a   fantastic   week   in   France.      My sincere   thanks   for   all   your   organisation   -   the   whole   trip worked   like   clockwork.      Peter   Smith   was   excellent   and   I   will be sending him a separate note to say thank you. Many   thanks   again   and   I   will   certainly   be   recommending   you to anyone who enquires about our trip. Kind regards Brett Wooldridge (July 2017) Hi James, Got   back   Sunday   night   from   our   tour.   We   were   both   very impressed   with   the   whole   6   day   excursion.   Incredibly   well organised,   highly   detailed   notes,   directions   and   info.   Even my   wife   couldn't   help   but   successfully   direct   me   to   our   next stop!   Hotels   -   very   good.   Euro-Tunnel   very   good   -   beats   the ferry!  Definite trip of a lifetime - thank you. My    wife    who    was    at    first    slightly    cautious    of    the    trip thoroughly   enjoyed   it   and   was   at   times   very   moved.   Didn't do   every   stop   but   tended   to   linger   longer   at   some   places such     as     Newfoundland     Park,     Tyne     Cot,Passchendaele Museum,   Hills   62   &   60   and   Lochnagar   crater   to   name   but   a few. Definite advantage of self-drive over coach. Regards, Gordon & Enez Tompsett (July 2017) Hello James, I   just   wanted   to   send   you   a   quick   note   to   say   that   we   had   a great   trip   to   Ypres/Somme   between   5-12   July.   Your   itinerary was   first   rate   and   created   the   right   balance   between   the   big set   piece   such   as   a   Tyne   Cot   or   Thiepval   and   the   more unusual   corners   of   the   battlefields,   many   of   which   were   new to   me   despite   having   visited   both   areas   a   dozen   times   or more.   The   whole   family   really   enjoyed   the   experience   and we   felt   a   real   connection   to   the   areas   and   the   moments   of significance from 1914-18. The   Ariane   was   superb   as   a   hotel   and   we   would   hurry   back. They   really   did   look   after   us   well.   Highly   recommended!   The Royal   Picardie   was   very   good   also   although   we   suffered   a   bit on    the    first    night    as    our    room    for    3    people    was    a "traditional"    room    with    no    air    con    and    it    had    been    29 degrees   that   day!   We   did   move   the   next   morning   to   a   newer room   with   air   con   and   the   staff   did   look   after   us   so   "all's   well that   ends   well"   etc.   You   may   know   already   but   they   have   no restaurant   for   dinner   any   longer   (breakfast   was   very   good). We   used   Corners   Pub   and   the   Basilique   Hotel   and   both   were well-received. One   tip   in   the   itinerary   materials   might   be   to   warn   the casual   visitor   that   if   there   has   been   rain   then   a   few   areas may   be   quite   muddy   and   wellies   or   similar   would   be   useful   - Hawthorn   Crater   was   a   case   in   point.   I   was   not   popular   for leading   3   females   into   the   mud   but   all   part   of   the   experience if you ask me! The   whole   experience   was   superb   and   I   want   to   thank   you on   behalf   of   the   family   for   a   truly   memorable   holiday.   It   was all   the   more   poignant   as   we   managed   to   visit   the   resting places    of    several    former    pupils    in    both    Ypres    and    the Somme. Thanks and best wishes David Burnett (June 2017) Hi James Just   to   let   you   know   -   the   trip   was   excellent.   We   crammed so   much   in   it   was   quite   tiring,   but   extremely   worthwhile   - sometimes   poignant,   sometimes   overwhelming   in   the   scale of   the   casualties,   but   always   interesting.   The   museums   in Albert and Zonneberg were especially good. There   were   lots   of   school   parties   there   on   organised   tours, which    is    encouraging.    They    seemed    enthusiastic    even though it's ancient history to them. The   substitution   of   the   Albion   Hotel   proved   excellent   -   great location,   friendly   staff,   and   excellent   facilities,   with   the   car parking   a   real   bonus.   We've   received   your   kind   refund,   and   I can   assure   you   it   went   to   a   good   cause,   as   we   found   the beer   and   food   in   Ypres   quite   expensive   -   to   be   expected around   the   Grote   Markt   and   the   Menin   Gate   as   they   are major   tourist   attractions.   Don't   know   what   the   issue   was with   the   Ariane   Hotel,   but   your   prompt   action   and   excellent substitution saved the day! The    tour    literature    was    impressively    comprehensive,    so much   so   that   we   could   cope   with   splitting   the   routes   in   each battlefield   over   2   days,   choosing   where   to   spend   more   time and   where   to   skim,   and   even   do   some   runs   in   different   order when small roads were blocked (roadworks, etc). The   staff   at   the   Royal   Picardie   were   fine,   but   the   restaurant is   not   open   at   all   for   dinner-   don't   know   whether   this   is temporary   or   a   permanent   cost-saving   measure.   No   problem for   us   as   we   ate   in   the   centre   of   Albert,   with   just   the   odd drink   in   the   hotel   bar.   We   did   get   a   taxi   to   and   from   the centre,   which   the   hotel   receptionist   organised   for   us,   as   my co-traveller    had    had    a    replacement    knee    operation    fairly frequently   and   was   saving   himself   for   the   tour   walks.   Other travellers   with   mobility   issues   may   wish   to   do   the   same   -   it was only 7 euros each way. Once   again,   many   thanks   for   your   help   -   we   may   even   go back. Kind Regards Robert Pringle (June 2017) Dear James, Sue   and   I   had   a   brilliant   four   days   in   France/Belgium   last week.    With    Sue    driving    and    me    navigating    and    your excellent   instructions   we   managed   on   the   first   day   to   see the    grave    of    my    grandfather’s    cousin,    William    Thomas Brewer   in   Abbeville.   We   made   an   error   at   first   and   came   off the   motorway   at   Junction   22   instead   of   23   but,   having   had some   help   from   some   friendly   French   workers,   who   directed us    to    the    centre    of    the    town    we    found    a    sign    to    the cemetery.   After   that   we   were   a   bit   lost   thanks   to   the   lack   of signing on French roads but we made it in the end! After   that   we   made   for   Albert   and   found   the   Hotel   Royal Picardie   very   easily.   We   walked   into   town   for   a   meal   and found   the   excellent   Hotel   De   La   Paix   which   was   French cooking   at   its   best.   The   Hotel   Picardie   didn’t   seem   to   be offering   meals   in   their   restaurant   at   all   so   we   returned   to   the Hotel   De   La   Paix   the   second   night   for   another   excellent meal.   We   spent   this   second   day   on   the   Somme   battlefields and   followed   half   of   your   self-drive   guide   –   we   started   at   9 am   and   stopped   at   6   pm   having   had   a   fascinating   first   day. We   visited   many   cemeteries   and   as   we   turned   for   Albert   on the   D929   we   found   the   Pozieres   Cemetery   where   one   of   the Holt    Parish    Hall    Plaque    men    is    remembered    –    William Squibb.   We   found   his   names   on   the   panel   91.   Having   read the   whole   of   your   book   on   the   Somme   now   I   understand   not all   the   missing   are   mentioned   at   Thiepval.   We   found   Ernest Brewer’s name there – he is the brother of William. On   Wednesday   ,   we   made   for   Ypres   via   Vimy   Ridge   as   Sue’s brother   had   recommended   a   visit.   We   were   not   disappointed and   the   Canadians   took   s   down   into   the   tunnels   dug   out   by Welsh   and   Australian   miners.   When   we   reached   Ypres   we checked   into   the   Hotel   Ariane   –   again,   easily   found   using your   directions   and   then   walked   the   ramparts,   in   reverse, ending    up    at    the    Menin    Gate    Memorial    at    7pm.    A    very moving   ceremony   and   we   had   an   extra   as   a   student   from   a Canadian   College   played   the   bag   pipes   after   the   buglers.   All the people there were so friendly. On   the   last   day   we   had   time   to   do   about   aa   quarter   of   the Ypres   Salient   tour   which   was   very   informative   and   we   visited Hill   60,   the   Caterpillar   mine   crater      and   the   Bluff   which   was beautifully quiet and full of wildlife. On   the   way   back   to   Calais   we   went   into   Merville   and   found the   grave   of   my   Great-uncle,   William   John   Bleddyn.   This   was very   emotional   for   me   as   I   have   carried   out   much   research on him and have his medals and his photo. Both   Sue   and   I   are   very   grateful   for   your   help   and   guidance and   organizing   of   the   trip.   We   enjoyed   the   trip   enormously and      we   came   back   on   a   high,   despite   the   awful   news   of Grenfell Tower! I   am   continuing   to   read   your   books   and   can   still   picture   the battlefields in my mind. Thank you very much. I   have   one   question   –   do   you   know   if   the   various   regiments or   the   Imperial   War   Museum   know   the   names   of   all   the   men who   fought   in   the   War.   I   know   only   70%   of   the   actual records   of   the   men   (not   the   officers)   were   destroyed   in WWII   but   I   wondered   if   anyone   has   the   names   of   all   those who fought. With best wishes, Ann Korta Dear James , We   wanted   to   let   you   know   we   had   a   fantastic   time   recently staying   at   the   lovely   Ariane   hotel   and   Ypres.   Your   attention to   detail   is   amazing   ,   however   we   did   manage   to   get   lost   a few   times   ,   nothing   to   do   with   your   instructions   ,   just   us going   off   piste   !   I   discovered   Belgium   beer   ,   we   brought some home with us, and some chocolates . My   parents   thoroughly   enjoyed   the   trip   especially   my   Dad