An Anglian Journey – A female perspective on Battlefield Guiding
I was always interested in history whilst I was at school. In fact, it was the subject to which I was most attracted. This interest quickly turned towards one particular aspect – modern military history. I have been interested in military history since the age of 13 when my dad handed me the book of Band of Brothers and I read it in less than a day. After that, I wanted to read as many books on military history as I could get my hands on! It was then that I discovered the First World War and the literature surrounding it and from then on, I was hooked. I read all the poetry and fiction work – including Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong – and was moving on to the academic literature when the opportunity to go on a battlefield tour as part of my History GCSE came up – and I simply had to take it.
That trip – in the middle of one of the bleakest Februarys I’ve ever experienced out on the Battlefields (last few weeks not withstanding!) – only developed my passion for the First World War and the place it has in the history of the Modern World. Not long after that, A-Levels followed and so did my three years of study at University. As I was completing my degree in History and War Studies, I struggled with the thoughts that were surrounding me about how I would continue to explore my passion for military history but move on to the next stage of my life successfully.
It was then that I discovered battlefield guiding as a career. I had been researching careers in history and my search was proving unsuccessful. I stumbled across a website that provided courses for prospective guides and I got myself booked on them as fast as I could. It was on those courses that I realised just how different I was from the rest who were also participating. I was a 22 year old female, fresh out of university. Most of the others were retired ex-Police/Military/teachers who were all male. As you can imagine, I stood out like a sore thumb. Regardless, the courses were extremely helpful and with the advice and mentoring of the person running them, I was successful in getting an interview with Anglia where I met the lovely Alison and Ian in the office. There was then a process that I had to follow in order to show myself as good enough to be on Anglia’s books.
Eventually, I proved myself to those around me and I became a member of the guiding team. I undertook my first tour in March 2017 and have found myself in a wealth of different situations ever since. I have experienced beaming sunshine and torrential rain. I have learned to adapt along the way. I have garnered new and exciting information from my fellow guides. Indeed, I have even gained many friends along the way. I love every single day that I am out on the battlefields guiding and I know that this will be my future. I am incredibly proud of myself for managing to break the mould of what it means to be a battlefield guide and am incredibly thankful to Anglia Tours for allowing me the opportunity to do that by taking me on as a guide. I hope that I will show the young people that we take on tours, particularly young women, that anything is possible if you work hard enough.
Some might say that I was born too late. Why? Because 100 years ago I believe I would have been involved in the Suffrage movement. Akin to those women who shared a goal to achieve political, economic, and social equality for women from all backgrounds, through both actions and words; I believe that my actions in taking the leap of faith to become a young female battlefield tour guide is as ground-breaking as the activities of my forebears. I can say without doubt that I have been greatly inspired by the plight of the suffragettes and the suffragists who have empowered all women to achieve their full potential – in the capacity that they wish to do so. Indeed, they have inspired me to embrace my womanhood and to not let my gender hold me back in what I wish to achieve and accomplish.
As we still strive for equality, 100 years later, I feel that at least, in my own small world, I am treated equally by my peers within, what is predominantly, a male orientated profession and I feel I am not presumptuous in saying that I have gained their respect. I am treated as their equal. Even though I am younger and of a different gender, this has not prevented me from showing that I am just as capable at being a battlefield tour guide. Thus, proving that, in the encouraging words of the headmistress of my former secondary school ‘I am a (St Paul’s) girl, there is nothing that I cannot achieve.’