Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd
Self-Drive Battlefield Tours


Email from John Brown following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2013

Dear James,

Just a quick note of thanks for organising a truly memorable week.  Everything - the tunnel crossings; the excellent accommodation; the quite superbly detailed documentation; even the weather - went smoothly from start to finish.  We were warmly welcomed at both our hotels (the Hotel Royal Picardie and the Ariane) and everyone we met at each spoke very highly of your tours.

It's difficult to select any particular favourite moments.  There were so many.  It was a stroke of genius to start the Somme leg of the tour at Newfoundland Park, one of the easier sites to interpret on the ground.  We were moved by the quiet solitude of the Accrington Pals memorial at Serre and the Welsh memorial at Mametz Wood.  The German cemeteries at Fricourt and Langemarck were altogether starker but equally moving.  April proved to be a good time to visit, as we had all but the most popular sites such as Thiepval and Tyne Cot entirely to ourselves and we only got rained on once!  We struck out on our own to visit the graves of family members buried in cemeteries that weren't on your itinerary and I'm glad we managed to do that: it made the whole experience so much richer to be able to combine a personal tribute with the bigger picture.  

In terms of museums, we kept the best till last.  We were beginning to suffer museum fatigue prior to our visit to "In Flanders Field" at Ypres, but it was superb and provided a great conclusion to the week.

Thanks again. 


David Brown

Email from John Berridge following a Somme Self-Drive tour April 2013

Hello both,

I wanted to drop you both a note to say thank you for helping us have such a very good visit to the Somme.

The background information and tour options were very clear and comprehensive, and the hotel in Albert, the Royal Picardie, was very comfortable. Our first day was guided by Andre who had put some effort into making the day as relevant to our family story as possible and I know that Genevra had also undertaken some research which proved invaluable. His knowledge and experience really helped our understanding of my uncle's story and he was very adaptable to what we wanted to do during the day - an excellent and sympathetic guide and I have written to him separately.

On the second day and using Andre's advice, the guides came into their own as we made our own way around. I think two full days was probably enough for us given our age profile (!) and we all came away with the range of emotions with which you will be familiar. It was very thought-provoking no matter how much you already know, sad, frustrating but deepened our understanding of what happened and how our relatives and young men of all nationalities had suffered. It is easy to get angry but feelings have to be channelled into looking at more constructive ways of building relationships, nation to nation.

So very many thanks for making it possible, keep up the good work.

best wishes,

John Berridge

Email from Linda Heppenstall following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2013

Hello James

Just to let you know we had a very successful trip last week to the Somme.  Everything went very well, the maps and routes were great and really helped us find our way around.  We visited places we would not have found without your help.  We did go to the smaller cemeteries and found them very moving, but when we got to the larger ones we did realise the enormity of the War.

We found my uncle’s name (Albert William Dovey) on the Thievpal Memorial.  We found the Hotel Basilique very easily and enjoyed our stay there.  It was a good base to tour round and the food was most enjoyable.

All in all  we were delighted with the arrangement and thank you very much for all the detailed information and attention to detail.

Linda Hepppenstall

Email from Gillian lacy following a Ypres Self-Drive tour May 2013

Dear James

We have now been home for a week and just wanted to thank you for your excellent service in organising our trip to Ypres.  Everything worked perfectly and your notes and directions were very clear.  The only small snag that we encountered was on entering Ypres following your directions we found that the Local Authority has in their wisdom decided to dig the road up so we were sent on a very circuitous diversion!  Anyway we found the Ariane eventually and spent a very comfortable 4 nights there.

Our tour with Genevra was excellent and as I had sent her some previous research she was able to take us to the spot where Richard’s Grandfather had fought and had been injured.  It was most poignant especially as right by the side of the lane was a newly discovered unexploded shell.  

We had taken a wreath with us and Genevra with her contacts arranged for Richard to lay it at the Menin Gate during the Last Post Ceremony.  Richard was asked to say the “Exhortation” which as you know is part of the Ceremony.  What an honour.  Richard was truly moved by the experience and  I don’t think either of us will ever forget those few minutes that evening.

Thank you once again

With very kind regards

Gillian Lacey

Email from Michael Crisp following a Somme & Ypres Self-Drive tour May 2013

Dear James

Just to let you know we had an amazing tour of the WW1 Battlefields and commentary thanks so much to  your comprehensive guide.

Kind regards

Michael Crisp  

Email from Tim and Richard Green following a Somme Self-Drive tour June 2013

Dear James 

I just wanted to tell you how much Richard and I enjoyed our trip to the Somme. Everything worked out brilliantly, including the weather.

Deborah was most hospitable at the Hotel Royal, including rolling out a breakfast spread after the hotel breakfast deadline – we slept late having arrived from Paris in the small hours.

Avril Williams gave us a great tea, later than her deadline when she learned that we had supposed her to be “closed” having found no one about at “tea time”. We also visited the Blighty Café. 

A highlight was a visit to the Thiepval memorial at sundown and having the place to ourselves; you may imagine the atmosphere! I attach a photograph taken by Richard with his iphone, which superimposed the shafts of sunlight as a backdrop to the view through the arch. I think it reflects what you seek to achieve in your tours. 

Best regards 

Tim Green  

Email from Susan Werbe following a Somme Self-Drive tour May 2013

Dear James,

As you know from Linda, we had an extraordinarily powerful and moving trip to France.  We couldn’t have asked for a better guide than Andre.  He brought a depth of information as well as a great sensitivity for and interest in the material he shared with us.   I especially appreciated the time he took to research both Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg prior to meeting us.  Saturday’s experience will long remain in my memory.

James – as I wrote in my first email to you, Jacqueline Winspear’s [acclaimed author] enthusiastic endorsement of you and your work convinced me that you would put together a Somme trip that would serve as a valuable resource for my work with The Great War Dance Project.  The trip far exceeded my expectations.  I will look forward to recommending Somme Battlefield Tours Ltd in the future. 

Best wishes,


Email from Glennis Manning following a Ypres Self-Drive tour April 2013

Dear James, 

We have recently returned from the above tour and would like to say how much we enjoyed it. Your detailed instructions for getting to the Eurotunnel and then Ypres were extremely clear and useful.  


Email from Kirsty Wilson following a Ypres Self-Drive tour July 2013

Dear James

Just returning from my trip to Belgium and France and I wanted to say thank you for the materials and organisation. It all worked very smoothly and I thought the hotel was very friendly and helpful.

All the best


Email from Trudi Belcher and family following a Ypres Self-Drive tour July 2013

Dear James,

 I thought I would drop you a line to say a huge Thank you for your magnificent planning and booking of our recent trip to Ypres, to visit the Battlefields.

All three generations of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the Self-Drive trip. The priority booking on the ferry worked really well and made the whole travelling experience more relaxed. The Ariane hotel was more than we could have hoped for, a quiet, family run, friendly and  immaculately clean with good food.  The town of Ypres was so pretty and lovely to explore and was an excellent base.

Your amazing directions to all locations was a true stress reliever for the driver and passengers – no arguments at all and we didn’t have to refer to the large map once!

The two booklets were packed full of information which helped us to visualise and get a real feel for  the area during the War. The photos, references and personal  records brought it to life for us. The whole experience was emotional, fascinating, shocking, comforting and thought provoking for all of us. My husband especially,  has now tracked down some of your book recommendations and is still enlightening us with facts.

Overall, your meticulous planning, advice and arrangements made our trip a great success – Thank you.

Many ,many thanks to you

From Ric, Trudi, Billy, Ian and Sheila Belcher

Email from Dr Osmond Jones following a Somme and Ypres Self-Drive tour July 2013

Dear James

I wanted to let you know what a wonderful tour we had of the Somme and Ypres. The arrangements you made were absolutely first class and could not be faulted. The addition of John Anderson as a private guide for a day was perfect for us as he found the exact spot where my wife's great uncle fell on the first day of the Somme battle at 7.30 in the morning as the battle began.

I would recommend the hotel arrangements as they were ideal [Hotel Royal Picardie Somme, and Albion Hotel, Ypres].

Anyone taking in your tour will I'm sure be 100% satisfied.    

Yours Sincerely

Dr Osmond Jones

 Email from Pippa Curtis  following a Ypres Self-Drive tour July 2013

Dear James,

A rather belated email I'm afraid, to let you know that we had the most wonderful time in France, (and Belgium!) back in July, courtesy of your superb organised self drive tour.

Everything went really well and all your detailed maps, instructions, photographs of junctions etc, made it a doddle, even for inexperienced visitors to France like us!!

You asked for any helpful feedback so here are a few things that might be useful for the future: 

The Euro-Chunnel did use number plate recognition - very easy.

Sunday night in Albert is not a good time to try and find a place to eat! The Italian Pizzeria and Hotel de la Paix were both shut, and the Corner Pub was therefore overflowing with customers. Fortunately we found a recently opened creperie (Aux 2 Saisons).

Ocean Villas [Avril Williams] was a top stopping off point. But worth warning potential customers that the whole baguette is HUGE! Genuinely a WHOLE French baguette, at least 18". (But you probably already know this?!) *You warned me that two days for each leg of the tour was the minimum time required and you were right! We barely touched the Ypres tour in any depth (I'll explain why later) and in neither places did we have time to do any of the extra stuff like museums. I think this might be worth flagging up.

Ypres was expensive. But best value item on the hotel tea menu (!) was the mini pudding selection at  6.5 Euros, YUMMY! We also stopped at a fairly ordinary looking place on the main road in Poelkapelle, but which to our surprise, actually produced an excellent baguette for a very reasonable price.

The Menin Gate was rammed, if you want a front row spot you need to be there at least 35 minutes beforehand. In our opinion it was underwhelming as there were too many people there and it had an over commercialised feel.

Ypres is already gearing up for the centenary commemorations with new museums getting ready to open and B and Bs sprouting up in anticipation of increasing visitors. We were pleased to have made our visit before it becomes flooded with tourists. next year and particularly in 1917. And we MUCH preferred the quiet, less commercialised area of the Somme.

For those of your clients who have the time, a visit to Vimy Ridge whilst en route from the Somme to Ypres, is well worth the short detour. Your enclosed map of France made it very easy to accomplish. This was one of the reasons why we didn't have so much time in Ypres. The other was because we also made a non scheduled visit to Geluveld, as the park at the end of our road here in Worcester is called Gheluvelt Park and was built in memory of, and as a commemoration to, the soldiers from the Worcestershire Regiments who fought at the battle. To be frank, the detour was barely worth it and it took us ages to find the monument dedicated to The Worcestershires but we got there in the end!

St George's Church in Ypres was a real high point for us, as moving as any of the cemeteries

Recommend that clients DO get round to looking up any relatives' war grave details before they tour. Apart from researching my Great Uncle, we didn't leave ourselves enough time to do this and regretted it. It was only whilst studying names at Tyne Cot that Tim recalled various long lost cousins that he would have liked to have researched.

Hope some of this might prove helpful. It was a wonderful trip and made so much more worthwhile by your guides, for which once again, many thanks.

Best wishes


Email from Tony Barrow  following a Ypres Self-Drive tour August 2013  


Straight to the point, what a absolutely fab package!

We got back from our self drive on the 19th and couldn't fault the package you put together.

The directions were spot on, we never got lost or took a wrong turn once!

Some of the locations were totally overwhelming and so peaceful, plus knowing that we would've never seen these on coach tour made it all the better.  We only saw 2 coaches at Hill60 and Essex cemetery, nowhere off the beaten track so to speak.  As our Kuga 4x4 was covered in Somme dust, fantastic! We didn't want to wash it off and only sacrificed the dust when we returned home haha.  

If we were to do it again it would be self drive again plus a couple of bicycles to get even deeper into the locations, and get some more exercise.  

Once again thank you for a brill package tour, and the hotels were spot on for location.


Tony Barrow

Email from Jane McLeod  following a Somme Self-Drive tour August 2013

Dear James

We were delighted with the tour guide thanks.

A most enjoyable weekend and very educational. My husband, father and Uncle all loved the richness of your narrative and we managed to cover everything in two intensive but very enjoyable days.  Your guides brought a beautiful level of story to my husband’s own knowledge and gave color for the rest of the party. I was designated driver which was actually a role that was easy and charming in such beautiful countryside.

We were only a little disappointed that you did not mention the small Gordon Highlander graveyard’s history just along the road from the beautiful Devonshire memorial. (think I have right names). I particularly found the New Found land Memorial very emotive and was stunned by the grandeur of the South African Memorial.  We also enjoyed a small foray into the woods beside the Welsh Memorial in a beautifully warm few days.

One small suggestion: You need to revisit and widen your suggestions for finding places open to dine at lunch/evenings during August tours. (we appreciate France essentially closes at this time…. But it was very difficult to find anything worthwhile to be honest – a lot of driving around in unknown towns and villages with little success as shops etc were also not open to ask anyone….

Hotel was very charming and we did have a nice meal here – we were the only ones in the dining room. I had one small complaint regarding the very old/poor supporting mattress in our room and we were transferred for the second night to something substantially better.

Kind regards  - with our appreciation for all your diligent efforts and a very profound experience.

Jane McLeod

Email from Debbi & Don Peden (Australia) following a Somme and Villers Bretonneux Self-Drive tour July 2013

Dear James

We have been back in Australia a number of weeks now but I have been meaning to write and thank you so very much for the wonderful self-guided tour of the Somme region and Villers-Brettonneux. My husband and I found the whole experience both inspiring and sad: sad because of the loss of so much life but inspired by their bravery. And also we were so inspired by the breadth and depth of valid information that created such a rare and wonderful opportunity for us.

I now have rich memories of a grandfather I never knew who lost his arm and received other serious wounds in the battle at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. Your information helped to put it all in perspective for us.

The accommodation at Peronne [hotel St Claude] was also wonderful and the people very helpful and kind.

Many thanks James: I will highly recommend your services to others.

With warmest regards,

Debbie & Don Peden



Email from Terry Hill (Perth, Australia) following a Somme and Ypres Self-Drive tour

October 2013

Hi James,


I have just returned from Europe after a holiday that included a four day trip to the WW1 Battlefields. I would just like to thank you for the excellent self-drive package that you provided. It was perfect for my needs i.e. kept me away from the tour busses and allowed me to return to some of the sites for another look. I was also able to pack a lot into the available time by starting early, brief lunches and not getting lost!

All in all it was a very thought provoking trip and it has whetted my appetite to go back again.

Once again thank you for a great product.

Best regards

Terry Hill 

Email from Barry Coward following a Somme Self-Drive tour September 2013


Thank you for all the arrangements for our trip to the Somme last week and for the very comprehensive information you provided. We had an absorbing and thought provoking three days, and our day with Richard Porter was particularly informative. We were able to see the ground over which medals were won, and visit the graves of two ancestors. Richard was an excellent guide and the day exceeded all our expectations. The weather was dry if cold and the crowds minimal, which made visits to places like Mametz Wood and Delville Wood particularly quiet and evocative.

Many thanks again.

Best wishes

Barry & Chris Coward

Email from Bob & Diane Stewart following a Somme a Self-Drive tour October 2013

Dear James,

I am sorry we have not got back to you sooner! 

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Albert, visiting not only the Somme, Arras and Vimy Ridge. 

On the first day we met up with Ken Lees, battlefield guide. He took us to where both Diane's great uncles are buried, the areas where they probably were when they died. We also went the area where my great uncle died, near the old Hindenberg Line. 

It was a really useful day, we covered more ground and learnt much more than if we had done it in a group or on our own. 

We would very much recommend Ken to you for any future tours where a guide is requested. We found him very pleasant and knowledgeable.  Nothing was too much trouble. He had clearly thought out a day tailor-made to our wishes. 

Thank you once again, 

Bob and Diane Stewart

Email from Joey Gough following a Somme and Ypres (Ieper) Self-Drive tour October 2013

Hello James,

We're just back from our trip to Denmark via The Somme and Ieper.  It all went according to plan.

I'm trying to find the right words here, because "enjoyed" doesn't have regard to the serious and sobering aspect of such a visit...especially a first one. But at the same time, I can't say we didn't enjoy it. Let's say it was enjoyable but not cheerful! It was certainly educational, and we're both glad we did it, and did it the way we did it. We'd have been very frustrated by a bus tour. That's just not our scene.

Some notes and highlights

We visited all three of the graves of family and friends in The Somme area, at La Neuville, Five Points and Level Crossing Cemeteries. We were impressed and moved by the quality of maintenance of the cemeteries.

At Avril's we met up with a specialist, Steve Roberts. (He was there supervising some archeology students who were investigating whether there might be a "lost" cellar under a floor in the accommodation building. Avril wants to concrete it. They concluded that there is nothing under the floor)  He was very informative on a host of subjects. eg, My grandfather's service record would not have been lost in WW II bombing because although he started as army, he retired as RAF, so the records will be intact. He's already turned up further info at Kew. (16 Sqn, and the post war report by the pilot of their being brought down)

When we were at Newfoundland Park, the sun light at the 51st Div memorial invited a particular photo. I've attached it.  You're welcome to use it if you wish.

At the German cemetery at Fricourt, one of the two wreaths was from the British Legion! I gather that that probably means that someone buried there was a member. How would that have happened? Interesting.

The ceremony at The Menin Gate was wonderful. An ordinary Monday evening, and there were over 300 there.

Your directions were detailed, comprehensive, and took some absorbing! We read each volume before touring the area, and re-read as we went around. (several typos in the Ieper directions volume...all minor...generally distances and left/right)

Because you can't go logically round a route and forward in time together, it sometimes is difficult to get your mind round how adjacent events fit together. So the section covering the advance on Paschendale was a "stand out" good way to do it. I do realise that trying to "get your mind round it" in a day and half at each area was an unrealistic expectation on my part!

So.  It was a great trip.  Thanks very much.


Joey Gough

Email from Richard Chandler following a Somme Self-Drive tour December 2013 - by bike!

Dear James,

Just to say thank you for making what can only be described as a unique and brilliant guide.

I own a map publishing business and as a cartographer I appreciate just how accurate, concise and detailed your work is.

I took the gamble of going two weeks before Christmas and doing the whole Somme Route using my Brompton Folding Bicycle. The gamble with the weather paid off and I was blessed with cold bright days and hardly a soul about. I even had the hot spots of Lochnagar, Thiepval and Newfoundland Park to myself.

However I reckon that even in the summer your guide would take the user to quiet places the other guides or books don’t.

Apart from the brilliant present day and trench maps, photos (then and now) and interesting history described for each section I was impressed by the top quality paper and laminated covers. Essential if the weather was not good and I am sure it could be used many times and still be presentable. There is nothing worse than buying a lovely map then finding after a small amount of use the paper creases or tears as the printer has used cheap paper. Yours I can see is printed on the best! The graphics work is of the highest quality, clear and easy to follow. I liked the convenient A4 Size format that fitted into the shower proof case provided which was ideal for use on the bike or walking around the sites.

IMPORTANT. To fully appreciate the wealth of information available in the guide I would recommend the user to study the whole guide before going so that when one is actually there one doesn’t need to read everything again and can then concentrate on looking and feeling the places the guide has taken you to.

2 weeks ago I didn’t know where in France The Battle of The Somme took place. Now after reading and using your guide in the field I feel I know the place inside out!

Not once did I look at a landscape and wonder what something was as it was all described in well written and perfect detail.

Thank you so much for making my trip so fulfilling.

A fantastic piece of work!

Richard Chandler

Cartographer, Fir Tree Maps.

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