Taking people on battlefield tours is enormously rewarding; to help a modern-day generation ‘contact’ a distant relative who fought in a past conflict, is still the highlight of many a battlefield tour. It allows you to reach out and ‘touch’ a piece of family history and answers many questions. I had such a moment recently with a group of Harley Davidson motorcycle riders on The Somme Battlefield.
David Sherlock was on his first battlefield tour and his first visit to The Somme battlefield in Northern France. Prior to leaving he contacted me about his wife’s Grandfather, Private George Webster a stretcher bearer and gave me extracts from his diary.
‘After wanting to visit the area for some time, to my surprise, my Harley Davidson bike club, the Hatters, were organising a battlefield tour to The Somme, the very place Susan’s Grandfather served’ said David ‘Sadly, Susan could not make the tour but was happy for me to go’
After ‘following’ Private George Webster across the battlefield, David further added. ‘Susan’s Grandfather kept a diary of his life in the trenches, and when I provided Matt with some of his entries, I was amazed at what he managed to discover, and how he wove Grandfather’s story into our Somme battlefield tour … our tour was astonishingly moving and it gave me the feeling of being part of it; but also an understanding of the extraordinary bravery our lads showed in the trenches and on the battlefields and I will certainly now read Grandfathers diary in a different light.
In a fitting tribute, the group had a short two-minute silence as David put a poppy cross into the field which Grandfather crossed early in the battle of The Somme in 1916.
After returning home to England David added. ‘I feel our battlefield tour was so exceptional that I will be contacting you soon to arrange a return tour for my wife and myself. It is essential that Susan experiences a battlefield tour with you, and fully understands the story of her family. We will be accompanied by Private George Webster’s great-granddaughter, Jennifer Rae.
I look forward to taking David, Susan and Jennifer Rae back to The Somme and to be standing on the spot where a courageous stretcher bearer served bravely for his values, King and country.