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Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd
Self-Drive Battlefield Tours
TESTIMONIALS

2011

Email from John Morgan following Self-Drive tour March 2011

Dear James,

We arrived home last night following what for us had been a very special and enjoyable visit. Thank you for arranging everything (including the weather?). All of the arrangements were perfect including a very pleasant stay at the Hotel Basilique. You guide was extremely useful. I now have a much clearer understanding as to where my great uncle saw action and how that day fitted into the wider situation.

The beautiful weather and very quiet atmosphere due to the low numbers of visitors allowed us plenty of opportunities for quiet reflection in such beautiful surroundings.

Thanks again,

Best regards,

John

Email from Paul Judge following a Somme Self-Drive tour April 2011

Hello James 

In a word Fantastic!!! 

What a place. We had a really good time. The guides were brilliant and very informative and easy to follow. We managed about 80% of the itinerary as we only had about 3 days which was never going to be long enough to cover the amount of history in the area and do it justice (years at least required). The weather was fantastic and we could not believe that everywhere we went we had to ourselves, for example three of us had the whole of Beaumont Hamel to ourselves, The Ulster Tower and even the Thiepval Memorial not to mention the numerous cemeteries that we visited. As I said the whole thing was fantastic. The hotel was great and Albert itself was a lovely place to have as a base from which to tour the area. 

Many Thanks 

Paul, Tina, Rory.

Email from Daniel Bone and friends following a Somme Self-Drive tour April 2011

Dear James, 

Having just returned from France I feel I must drop you a line to thank you for a wonderfully organised trip.

From the very start our trip went smoothly and your kind addition of the Vimy Ridge info made our first day even more enjoyable.

On the main tour your instructions and back up information, (which at first glance looked a little involved!!), were spot on, giving precise directions and extremely relevant and interesting back up details. We would read these aloud as we approached, keeping 6 usually noisy men absolutely silent!!! The descriptions and quotes took the modern day countryside back to 1916 with often startling reality.  

We spent as long as we needed at each site, sometimes thinking we had spent too long, (i.e. The Newfoundland memorial) and still finished our tour at 4pm on the second day, simply perfect timing! 

My thanks must also go to the Canadian students who act as tour guides at the Canadian memorials, they were not only well informed but fluent, polite and extremely proud of their country's contribution to the conflict. A credit to their nation.  

I speak for all of our group when I say how much we learned and how we can now put perspective to the battle field and appreciate not only what a mammoth undertaking the Somme offensive was, but the reasons for the disastrous outcome. It is moving to see all the memorials to the French and Commonwealth troops, but also a little saddening to see the much more demure and understated German graveyards crammed with men who, similarly, had no personal grievance toward their opponent, but were simply political victims.  

Once again, thank you for guiding us through a highly informative and sobering tour. 

[...] 

Kindest regards from all of us, 

Daniel Bone.

Email from Mike KYLE following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2011 (received 14.6.11)

Hi James

I'm sorry that, what with work, family and other events on returning from our Battlefield Tours, I've not got round to thanking you for your help and support for our tour of France & Belgium on the w/e of 29 April.

[...]

Your comprehensive information was quite brilliant and we all had a wonderful and moving time.

The hotels were excellent. The only downside being that, in our booking the hotels with the biggest/safest car parking for the Rover, they were also the most expensive to eat in. In Ypres this was no problem as there are loads of restaurants to choose from but in Albert we only found the Basilique Hotel restaurant suited our needs (very well I might add !). Also, our visit to Talbot House on the Monday failed. Poperinghe is closed on a Monday !

However, the reason for the trip was contained in your guides, the detail and information of which was stunning. So thorough in fact that the resulting interest level became so high that to take full advantage, although we managed to fit in the planned (for personal reasons) visits to Vimy Ridge and Loos in between the Somme and Ypres areas, rather than hurry through your guide suggestions we missed about a third of both the Somme and Ypres "itineraries". We are, however, aiming to go back again as soon as we can to complete the areas we missed. Quite honestly, we spent so much time studying and walking your easy to follow comparison photo's/diagrams/maps and reading of the personalised experiences that I don't think we would have completed the full programme anyway !

What struck us all was, when studying the actual ground and the geography, how small an area it was - and all those lives. (I see on the news recently that tunnels have been found adjacent to the Serre battlefield - I guess not far from where we were walking !). Our final evening at the Menin Gate when they had a (bag)pipe band and two choirs really did make a hugely moving and inspirational finale.

All in all a fabulous experience. Thank you.

[...]

We passed your name on to a number of interested people we met over there and I will have no hesitation in recommending you to my friends/colleagues/interested parties.

Thank you for making our first visit to the battlefields such a marvellous experience. Roll on the next one !

Regards, Mike

Regards

Mike Kyle

Email from Ian Walker following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour June 2011

Dear James, 

I have just returned from a three (14-16 June) Day tour of the Somme and Ypres Salient Battlefields, and feel I must write and tell you how much your very detailed and professionally laid out information and direction itinerary packs ensured that my trip turned out to be the tremendous experience it ultimately became.  

You handled my initial inquiries in the utmost professional, courteous and friendly manner, and your advice was very much appreciated.

I stayed at Avril William's guest house on the Somme and the Albion Hotel in Ypres and found them both to be very welcoming, friendly and generous with advice and information (if anybody stays at Avril's and time allows ask her to show you the trenches at the back of her house, the cellar which was used as a dressing station/aid post during the battle and also her museum - all very interesting and a really moving experience). 

Highlights? Where do i start? Probably the gpval Wood (ask at the Ulster Towuided tour of the trenches in Thieer), and the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres - very moving. 

In summary the information/directions in both the packs is incredibly clear and very easy to understand and use, and i would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending your company to anybody planning a tour of these areas. 

Many Many Thanks  

Ian Walker

Email from Neil Laidlaw following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour June 2011

James,

Just to let you know I had a great time on the tour and the information you supplied was detailed, clear, concise, informative and provided great reading. The time I spent in France and Belgium really opened my eyes what the soldiers went through in WW1, especially my Great Grandfather.  Thank you again for organising my trip, everything went smoothly and the time went far too quickly.

Best wishes,

Neil Laidlaw

Email from Patrick Shepherd following a Ypres Self-Drive tour July 2011

Dear James, 

This is just to thank you and Genevra for organising and then Jacques for guiding us on what proved to be an exceptionally interesting three days. The arrangements worked perfectly and the hotel was very comfortable, we particularly enjoyed sampling the beer!  

Jacques was an excellent guide, his knowledge being encyclopaedic, he managed to give colour and interest everywhere he took us to. 

On our third day we were on our own, which we managed to fill comfortably, even getting over to the ww2 V2 site at Wizernes. 

Many thanks again and I'm sure that we will be back for a tour of the Somme. 

Kind regards 

Patrick.

Email from Mr & Mrs Simpson (Australia) following a Somme and Ypres Self-Drive tour September 2011

Hello James,

Just a note to say we are now back from our Somme and Ypres trip and want to thank you for the excellent experience we had! Lots of information and all beautifully paced - we covered a lot of ground without rushing through anything. A deeply moving and thoroughly enjoyable experience,

excellent work!

kind regards

Marjo and Graham Simpson

Email from Abby Oates following a Ypres and Somme Self-Drive tour September 2011

Dear James

My Dad and I just wanted to send you our thanks for a really excellent trip to Ypres and the Somme last week. Our 2 guides Iain and Jacques were both so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and really enabled us to gain a good understanding of the context and our relatives' experiences during WW1.  We have thanked them both very much.

The hotels also served us really well, and the documentation you provided was top notch.

With very best wishes

Abby Oates

Email from Mr T Hallett following a Somme Self-Drive tour September 2011

Dear James

Just a quick email to say that my father and I had an excellent trip to the Somme.  Everything was superbly organised and convenient - in fact, we arrived early at Dover and got on the 0815 ferry, so effectively had almost a full day on our first day

Having had the coach party experience when I was 18, I must say that the freedom/solitude of your self-guided tour was much appreciated.  Lots of memories spring to mind.  In particular, on a rather solemn day, we found the sunken lane near to Beaumont-Hamel and read Andrew Motion's poem, "The Death of Harry Patch" - I will send that to you in case you haven't read it - which was a very moving experience indeed in that setting.  Especially as the lane (and White City behind it) of course can be easily identified in Malins' film on 1 July 1916 - in particular that still frame of the Lancs Fusiliers waiting to go over from the sunken lane shortly before Zero is a rather haunting image that still sticks in my mind.  I also found La Boiselle/Ovilliers to be a really stark visual reminder of the huge task - and ground to cover - that the troops faced.  The trench maps were fantastic and actually without those (as with coach parties) it is rather difficult to make out what went on.  

Pleased to report that the hotel we stayed in (Royal Picardie) was good - we actually ate in town (at the other hotel, the Basillica, I think) in the square each night - the food was superb.  Was pleased to meet Avril Williams and her rather large black cat, as we enjoyed a lunch there in the sun one day.  I shall definitely return I think to Albert as there is no doubt more to see and take from the experience.

I'll send through some photos when I get the chance as I think you mentioned that these might be useful.

All in all it was a trip that will stay in my memory for some time, and I am indeed currently reading a number of interesting books on the Somme as a direct influence of the tour.

Kind regards

Tom

Email from Vernon Everitt following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour September 2011

Dear James,

I have only now found the time to let you know that my Father and I had a memorable trip in September.  

The weather was perfect for all our exploration with your excellent guides, the hotels were great (particularly the Ariane) and the whole package could not have been better.

We visited Grevillers where my Father's Great Uncle James is buried.  An idyllic setting which was so peaceful it seemed like someone had decided that the violence and horror these men had seen had to be put right somehow.  We stayed 4 hours with James and even had lunch and a small beverage with him.  It was hard to leave.  And I'm sure there is still a lot of ground we have yet to cover, particularly in the Somme area, despite having very full days.  You were right that the time just seems to ebb away.

Thank you for your guidance in putting this all together - neither of us will forget the trip and it was every bit as moving and fascinating as you said it would be.

Kind regards,

Vernon

Email from Philip Edmeades following a Ypres Self-Drive tour September 2011

Dear James

many thanks. We had an excellent trip - with very pleasant (if not authentic) weather. All worked out well with the hotel, visits and our general education about the battles of Ypres. 

best wishes

Philip

Email from Denise Hunt  following a Somme Self-Drive tour October 2011

Dear James,

Just a note to say thank you once again for a superbly organised trip. 

We attended the 45minute Armistice ceremony at Thiepval which was very moving, they had a Police band and small parade, made all the more moving and atmospheric by the very misty weather.

The sombre mood was relaxed by singing La Marseilles at the end, in French, thankfully with  words on the hymn sheet provided, not that we managed to stay in line with the music but it was fun trying! 

We also found my great grandfathers grave which was emotional, as my friend said the sheer volume of graves and deaths is staggering so to find one to whom you can relate is really quite something. 

Mr Stanley had never been to France before and remains in a state of awe at the whole Somme experience and I know will be wanting to return, as will we. 

The hotel was super, the owners and their family were welcoming, friendly and very helpful.

We ate there on 2 nights, food was excellent, and on the other night in the brassiere next door, where the food and service were good also.

The 2 nearest Tabacs were very welcoming the Highlander and the one opposite next to the Basilica.

So we had a super time and thank you once again for the impressive organisation, everything went according to plan.

Look forward to the next time.

Denise Hunt

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