I first visited the Somme and Ypres battlefields back in 1966 when I was just eighteen. I was returning from a holiday in France, and by chance found myself to be driving through somewhere called Picardy and the Somme.
I remember stopping to see a truly massive memorial which dominated the skyline -
As my then knowledge of the Great War was fairly sketchy I found difficulty, like so many casual visitors to the battlefield today, in transforming the landscape in my minds eye back to how it must have looked in 1916. I wanted to know exactly where the front line trenches were, and where exactly the many individual actions took place. More than anything I felt a need to understand what it must have been like for those who were there. What was the reality of trench warfare?
My ‘journey’ in answering these, and many other questions, has captivated my interest ever since that first visit. I must stress that I have never been one to collect military memorabilia, or have any great interest in the tactical aspects of warfare or militarism. My interest is solely from a social / humanitarian perspective, and the consequences of warfare, coupled with a perhaps somewhat naïve belief that understanding humankind's potential to indulge in such conflicts is perhaps one way of preventing a repetition.
The more I learnt about what these men endured, the more I thought that if I had been there, I would (at the very least) have hoped that future generations would take just one day or so out of their lives to try to understand what I, and countless others were experiencing. I doubt if I would have been one of those whose bravery would be remembered. Most likely I would have been just a typical nineteen year old from a town or village somewhere “back home”, almost paralysed with fear, a fear that would most likely come to an end on the hell they called the ‘Western Front’.
Since that first visit I have pursued a career in the police service (Superintendent, Dorset Police) as well as raising a family. Throughout this time my interest in the First World War, and the Somme, Ypres and Verdun Battles in particular, has continued. Over the past forty odd years I have returned to the battlefields countless times. I have also undertaken numerous private conducted tours to both the Somme, Ypres and Verdun battlefields whilst serving as a police officer, a background which served me well when I decided to establish my company after I retired in 1996.
I took the plunge and formed Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd, more as a way of sharing my interest with others as opposed to running the venture as a hard-
In 2009 we decided to focus all our energies to providing self-
Organising our tours is has always been a labour of love with each conducted or self-
Well I think that’s just about enough
waffle about us. Once again, thank you very much
for visiting our web site.
Any comments or suggestions
would be most welcome.
James Power is an Associate Member of the
Guild of Battlefield Guides
and Western Front Association