A First-Rate Delivery From Anglia Tours – Q&A with 22 Signal Regiment Battlefield Study to Waterloo and Ypres
We spoke to Major Richard Day of 22 Signal Regiment in Stafford after his Battlefield Study to Waterloo and Ypres. This was Richard’s first time as tour planner for the Regiment and here are his highlights and recommendations.
Why do you arrange this trip?
Battlefield Studies are something that most Regiments do annually. They are one of the things we do to develop ourselves academically and professionally. Battlefield studies enable us to learn from the past by studying contemporary areas through the lens of an historic battle. One way we do this is to look at how a campaign was executed and how we might have done it in the modern day using modern principles. Ultimately it is about learning lessons from history, so we don’t make the same mistakes again. They are generally a very popular activity and whilst the learning and development is the most important thing, we try to make them as fun and interesting as possible.
How do you generate interest for the trip? Is it optional or compulsory?
For this regiment it was not necessary to make the study compulsory. As there weren’t enough spaces for everyone, filling the seats wasn’t a problem. However, if there are people we specifically want to develop then they will be told to go.
How did you hear about Anglia and why did you choose them?
My commanding officer recommended them. He had been on an Anglia delivered battlefield study before and said it was very good. My original plan was to organise all the real-life support (i.e. transport, accommodation, food etc) myself, as this is what many regiments choose to do. However, I decided to speak to Anglia to make sure I had investigated very option. Their quote turned out to be really good value for money, so I decided to go for it. The other reason I chose Anglia Tours was that they will customise the delivery to your requirements, as opposed to making you choose from a limited number of options. I knew what I wanted to do both academically and historically, I just wanted someone else to do all the hard work! Anglia listened to what I wanted to do and designed a package to suit.
Do you follow the same itinerary every time?
It changes each year. The only thing that stays the same for this regiment is the duration – 1 working week. We try to go to different battlefields, with different areas of doctrine and focus on different groups of people from the unit. Different people attend each year, so one year it will be junior soldiers, then another year it will be more senior personnel. This allows us to tailor the development to the people more effectively.
How did Anglia help you in planning the trip? Do you already know where you want to go or do you take advice from Alison and your guide?
Alison planned all the transport, accommodation and feeding, with a few criteria given by me, such as having a conference room to use in the evening. Anglia also provided a battlefield guide/historian, who, in our case, was Lt Col (Retd) Andrew Duff. Col Andrew helped me design the itinerary and advised on which locations and aspects of each battle best suited our study objectives. He knows the battlefields inside and out and where to visit, where to have lunch and where to go if it’s raining and so on. He was invaluable to the planning.
We also provided our own academic from the National Army Museum. Anglia seamlessly worked him into the plan and Col Andrew fully deconflicted the delivery with him. The three of us met at the museum to plan the tour and Col Andrew came all the way to Stafford to support our pre-study day. He met most of the people going and he got a feel for the type of people he was dealing with.
Did you have any other objectives when you set out on the trip
In addition to professional development we also wanted to do some team building, which we did by working in syndicates. The study was also a great opportunity for the Commanding Officer to see his people working together in a different environment.
How does your guide help you on the trip – with both providing knowledge and the organisation of things?
Speaking practically, he ran the trip and was our tour manager. However, he also helped us in other ways beyond talking history. Col Andrew spent many years in the army and that experience is invaluable. He understands how we were thinking and how we analyse problems. He passed this experience on to us throughout the tour.
Which visits are the highlights and why?
Everyone was chuffed to bits with the tour and the Commanding Officer was really pleased. Many people have told me that it was the best battlefield tour they have been on. Peoples highlights varied. For some it was the quality of hotel, especially in Ypres, others the museums and for many it was visiting the commonwealth war cemeteries.
We opted to just watch the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, rather than participate. We laid a wreath at Tyne Cot, during a more private act of remembrance.
How was the service from Anglia Tours?
Absolutely first rate. Whenever I emailed Alison if she wasn’t back to me within the hour, it would be the next day. Col Andrew and I shared hundreds of emails over the course of the 4 months in planning this trip. Anglia tours were excellent.
The tour was really good value for money. You can save money by doing it all yourself, however, that method has hidden costs. Organising a battlefield study from scratch takes many hours of planning and research by a team of people from the regiment. All these people have other things to be getting on with. Using Anglia meant that I needed the bare minimum of support from the wider regiment to plan and execute the study, enabling everyone else to focus on their day-jobs. As such, spending the extra little bit, and I mean only a little bit, on using Anglia delivers lots of savings.
It also helps that Alison understands the budgetary constraints for conducting battlefield studies that are laid down in army policy. It ensures that her quotes are always affordable. In fact, she probably understands the process of application and funding better than most people in the army.
What’s the impact of the trip on your regiment?
I still hear people talking about the trip and what they learned. Many have a renewed interest in WW1. A couple of Gurkhas in the regiment now hope to plan a trip that will have an Indian army focus. I think a lot of this enthusiasm comes from the way Col Andrew and our academic delivered the history; they got people interested. Many are already asking about next year’s tour and I don’t know of anyone who didn’t learn something from the study.