Memories of Recent Bespoke Battlefield Tours

Mons Meander – 2018

Having a special passion for the enormous strategic gamble that was the German invasion of 1914, I bullied my MA colleagues into examining the largely-unvisited areas of the mobile fighting in 1914 and again in 1918.  

This allowed us to see the way warfare developed in the First World War – from almost Napoleonic tactics at Mons and Le Cateau, to the first, tentative steps towards all-arms warfare at Cambrai where infantry, artillery, tanks, aircraft and tactics combine to form an effective whole

Somme Stumble – 2017

Wipers Waddle was obviously a success because my MA group, with extra players, were back on the Western Front three months later.  Having ‘done’ Ypres, it seemed natural to ‘do’ The Somme.  

Despite some challenging weather, we thoroughly enjoyed our time getting to grips with 3, 7 and 47 Divisions and their medics’ experiences in this haunting landscape.  By now close friends, we vowed to continue our Alliterative Adventures.

Wipers Wander- 2017

I undertook an MA in Britain and the First World War at the University of Wolverhampton.  During this excellent course, I offered to run a tour to see the scene of our studies for my colleagues.  Five us (with my Dad keeping an eye on us) set off for Ypres.  

This was a very different from my previous tours: the depth and variety of my colleagues’ knowledge meant we could each present a Stand on our own pet projects – all I had to do was put these into some semblance of order and then herd the kittens once we got to Belgium.  

3 Squadron – The Great Retreat 100 Years On

My last post in the RAF was flying the Typhoons FGR4s of 3(Fighter) Squadron, so it was only natural I would develop an interest in the Squadron’s history.  My predecessors deployed to France in August 1914 – the world’s first over-water deployment of airpower – with the infant Royal Flying Corps.  The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War provided ideal context for a 3(F) Squadron  Staff Ride I led in August 2014. 

We retraced the RFC’s (and hence the BEF’s) footsteps during the Great Retreat from Mons to Paris, finding suitable locations for Stands on the development of airpower and paying respects to those who went before us.

Pilgrimage – Private Will Hart, Ypres 2011

The first ‘proper’ tour I led: taking my Dad to see the First World War battlefields.  As a focus, we tracked down his uncle, my great uncle, who served in the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment.  

He survived the Somme, but died on 9 October 1917 near Polygon Wood during the Third Battle of Ypres. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the awe-inspiring Tyne Cot Memorial.