Why We Do What We Do
On the 19th – 21st March this year I was privileged to be asked by Anglia Tours to conduct a battlefield tour of Ypres and the Somme for a small family group. The lead passenger’s daughter had missed her school’s tour and they wanted her to benefit from seeing the ground as had her peers. The tour was fairly routine, but one of the passenger’s, her uncle Jeffrey, had brought along an old book which he thought I might find interesting. His grandfather had belonged to the Army Veterinary Corps in the Great War, charged with looking after horses and his book was a veritable mine of information regarding feeding, care, what sort of grasses were safe to eat, etc. However, tucked away in the rear flyleaf was an old watercolour panorama which his grandfather had painted whilst stationed in France. Out of interest Jeffrey showed me and asked me if it made any sense or was it a fantasy item. Ego compels me to say that I instantly recognized the ground but modesty obliges me to say that I was assisted by some random annotations ! It was a beautifully accurate rendition of the view from the Queen’s Nullah at Mametz, showing the ground over which the 38th Welch Div had attacked on the 7th of July 1916, and again more successfully on the 10th. I explained this to Jeffrey and then dropped the bombshell – I was going to take him there the following day !
It was a fine sunny day, if a tad chilly, and after having conducted the business of the day off we went to find the exact location, aided splendidly by trench maps and my invaluable “Linesman”. This proved remarkably easy and we went off exploring on foot to get the best view. It proved to be a very emotional experience with a few tears ( or was it the wind ?? ).
I think as guides we take this sort of thing as routine and lose sight of the impact it can make on people – On this occasion it was guiding gold, and yet another example of what you can achieve if you take a guided tour with people who know their craft. I certainly felt blessed that I had been able to help a complete stranger fulfil an ambition which he had clearly, by our conversations, never dreamt possible. In the words of Alain Chissel, our MD, it’s why we do what we do.
The family were extremely happy with their tour, all professing that they had not realised what they would get out of it, and all saying they will be back – job done!
Ed Church – Anglia Guide
As a co-founder of Anglia, Ed has worked for the company as a guide and Tour Leader for over 15 years. A keen amateur historian, he has long held an interest in military history and in particular the equipment and dress of WWI. Ed is able to impart his knowledge to young people and to help students understand how, when and why events happened.