Archive for 2018


Following the success of the last three years of Bristol and West Country based battlefield tours organised with fellow historian, Clive Burlton, we are pleased to announce another trip for this coming autumn. This time our focus is not solely actions by units from the West Country but a look at associated stories of the postwar period of battlefield tourism and creation of Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries.

Once again we are travelling with our partners at Bakers Dolphin. The three night, four day tour will visit key sites associated with the West Country. Travelling by executive coach we will depart from Bristol on 27 September and travel to Arras, stopping at sites of interest en route. If time permits we will visit Fresnoy near Arras where the 12th Gloucesters (Bristol’s Own) fought with heavy losses in May 1917.

The next day will be spent on the 1916 Somme battlefield with a look at the Bristol Territorials at Hebuterne and a visit to key battlefield sites including the Thiepval Memorial. On our way down to the Somme we aim to stop at Mory Abbey Military Cemetery to hear a most moving story of a father’s love for his son.

On 29 September we will journey northward to the sacred Ypres salient , the wartime cauldron for so many of Britain’s soldiers. Whilst in Ypres we will attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate and walk in the footsteps of the 1st Somerset Light Infantry in December 1914 at Ploegsteert (known as Plugstreet to the Tommies). Other key sites around the salient will be explored. Throughout the trip we will be looking at the work of the war artists such as Nash, Levinson and Orpen.

As ever, our tour is based around the stories of relatives of those who join us. Please do send us details and we will endeavour to visit individual graves and battlefield sites.

Accommodation is based at the following 3-star hotels – Holiday Inn Express (Arras) and the Novotel (Ypres). Full details of cost, what is included and contact details to reserve a space can be found on the attached flyer.

We look forward to you joining us for another wonderful few days following in some Western Front Footsteps…

I recently spent a week at Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok giving talks and workshops to students. I last visited the school in 2013 and was heartened to view its continued growth and development over the past five years.

In the month prior to the armistice I worked in schools almost every day and have calculated that in that period I spoke to over 2,500 children. Most of these schools were local but I also spent two days at an international school in Toulouse. However, what I had planned for Shrewsbury was more ambitious.

History department – ready for Year 12 students and my talk on 1918

During my visit I spoke to children ranging in age from Year 6 to Year 13 (A-level). For Years 10 – 13 I was explaining how the Great War came to an end, the nature of open fighting on the Western Front and the deteriorating political and economic situation for the Central Powers. We also spent a lot of time focusing on the end of conflict and immediate post-war period during which soldiers were demobilised, returned home and picked up the pieces of their lives. Special focus was given to the psychological effect war had had on men and their reintegration back into civilian life. Whilst there was much focus on Britain I also spoke about the complex political and social feelings in Germany.

For 125 Year 9 students we had the ambitious plan of putting them into groups of six and letting them research the story of an individual soldier. I had chosen a dozen soldiers that I had previously researched, all of whom had a fascinating story. A number had been killed in the war or died of wounds whilst others had survived into old age. A couple were underage (which always strikes a chord with school children), some were officers, one was Canadian, one Australian and all but one had a surviving service or pension record from which interesting information could be gleaned.

Papers with individual soldier’s details ready for Year 9 research workshop

After a demonstration of researching a soldier from me the groups started work. It was a lively and fun workshop with much running around by me from table to table! Having conducted research for an hour each group was asked to present their findings to the room. Undoubtedly the workshop brought home the war’s personal nature against the horrific impersonal casualty figures.

I also had sessions with Year 9 English students looking at the wartime service of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, two of the most famous war poets, and how their wartime experiences shaped their writing. Much of this was based on my research and work for the BBC’s War of Words: Soldier Poets of the Somme. This was topped off with a creative writing class where students created their own war poetry.

I am looking forward to working with Shrewsbury International School again and would like to thank Stuart Howard (History) and Victoria Rotheram (English) for their assistance during my visit.

View down the Chao Phraya river with Shrewsbury International School in the foreground

Following the success of 2016’s ‘Bristol on the Western Front’ and last year’s ‘The West Country at War’ tour trip that I organised with fellow historian, Clive Burlton, we are pleased to announce another trip for this coming autumn.

Stops will cover actions by units from Wiltshire, Somerset and South Wales as well as Bristol.  The tour is named ‘Western Front Footsteps’.

Once again we are travelling with our partners at Bakers Dolphin. The three night, four day tour will visit key sites where soldiers from the West Country fought, earned bravery awards and lost their lives.

Menin Gate, Ypres

Travelling by executive coach we will depart from Bristol on 28 September and travel to Arras, stopping at sites of interest en route. The next day will be spent on the 1918 Somme battlefield on the centenary of the breaking of the Hindenburg Line – a momentous day that paved the way to allied victory. It is also the centenary of the last assault ever made by the 12th Gloucesters (Bristol’s Own) and we will walk their final attack. It will be special to visit this fascinating battlefield on such a poignant day.

On 30 September we will journey northward to the sacred Ypres salient , the wartime cauldron for so many of Britain’s soldiers. Whilst in Ypres we will attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate and visit the In Flanders Fields Museum in the Cloth Hall. Our time in Ypres will see us visiting sites around the salient including Ploegsteert (known as Plugstreet to the Tommies) to follow the 1st Somerset Light Infantry in December 1914, see where the Christmas Truce took place and visit the area in which Bristol’s Territorials first went into the trenches.

A key theme of this year’s tour will be looking into the wartime history of the Gibbs family from Tyntesfield (now a National Trust property) – their story is fascinating and heart-rending.

Ypres Cloth Hall – now the location for the In Flanders Fields Museum

Accommodation is based at the following 3-star hotels – Holiday Inn Express (Arras) and the Novotel (Ypres). Full details of cost, what is included and contact details to reserve a space can be found on the attached flyer.

We look forward to you joining us for another wonderful few days following in some Western Front Footsteps!