‘… the atmosphere that was created was very moving’ – comment by a year 9 pupil after a trip to the Somme, July 2016
The Hundredth Anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Givenchy – when the 55th (West Lancashire) Division fought off a massive German attack – will occur on 9th April 2018. It will be a good moment to visit the ground upon which so many soldiers from the North-West of England fought and are commemorated.
We will explore the landscape by either minibus or small coach (depending upon numbers) and on foot, taking in remnants of the battlefield and the many associated memorials and cemeteries. Real soldiers’ stories will be woven into our visits, giving many opportunities for discussion, reflection and commemoration.
This event is held every year in the village of Wray in the Lune Valley. It is an extremely well organised and jolly occasion which attracts visitors from all over the region. Local people show a great deal of creativity and humour by erecting scarecrows, which represent the year’s chosen theme, outside their houses. I did not produce a scarecrow, but placed a small exhibition on the festival field during the final Sunday and Monday of the event. My aim was to share my artefacts and research with the public in order to stimulate interest in and conversations about the Great War and to publicise my military and genealogical research services. Continue reading →
I was asked by former colleagues at school to accompany them on their annual trip to Normandy, the main purpose of which was to immerse the pupils in the French language and French Culture. Amongst other things, they were encouraged to order things in French at the market in Trouville Sur Mer and goats’cheeses from a nearby farm. The children were also taken to see the Bayeux Tapestry and on a visit to Paris. I was particularly interested in the sites relating to the D-Day Invasion of 6th June 1944 and to the subsequent Battle for Normandy.
The biggest attraction at Trouville Market was the stall selling ‘Fondantes Aux Pommes’, which are a local delicacy and yes indeed, I can recommend them. Continue reading →
During the weekend of 1st and 2nd October 2016, the autumnal sun shone warmly and brightly on Wennington Green in the Lune Valley not far from Kirkby Lonsdale. In order to show the world my collection of replica and authentic Great War artifacts and to advertise the services I can provide, I organised a living history event. My wife Anne, despite having hardly any interest in history whatsoever and certainly not being attracted by the Great War, offered to take charge of the catering. She found authentic recipes and baked trench cake, soda bread and anzac and hard tack biscuits (with a bit of added butter in order to make them slightly more edible). She also offered tea, coffee, bacon sandwiches, bully beef, brown sauce and baked potatoes. My sister Alison came up from Wirral with her homemade trench cake and Lesley and Bernard Simon paid a visit and donated another trench cake and extra anzac biscuits. I provided the plum and apple jam, made with apples from our own tree. Our neighbour, Bruce, donated firewood and looked after the stove and my daughter Eleri, granddaughter Evie, son-in-law Nick, son Samuel and his girlfriend Lauren also helped. Eleri and Evie are responsible for the excellent photographs.
It being the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, I was eager to take a party of my year 9 and 10 pupils on a memorable journey to the battlefields. I was determined that our field trip would be individual, unique, memorable and meaningful for my pupils, especially so as it was to be the last battlefield tour I would lead as a full-time history teacher, because I was due to retire at the end of the year. I planned it well in advance and at the end of May, during the school half term holiday, took my wife on a four-day trip to the province of Picardy in Northern France in order to reconnoitre the walking routes. We stayed in the picturesque village of Heilly and enjoyed the local gastronomy and countryside as much as the battlefield visits. It was the wettest May and early June in France for many a year and my belief that it never rains all day was proved to be ill-founded. However, I am a great believer in persisting with one’s plans to walk the Western Front despite the weather, as I think we should sometimes be made to feel uncomfortable in order to feel a bit more more empathy for the soldiers who served in those conditions during the Great War. The following images were taken during that preliminary visit.
The Golden Virgin in Albert, close to where we stayed.
This website is designed to tell you about the services I am offering as a self-employed historian with the business name North West History. Each one of my services is explained on a separate page, access to which is gained via the links on the menu at the top of the screen. This, the blog part of the website, will contain posts which talk about some of my activities, keeping you up to date with developments and demonstrating the sort of things I can do for you. Continue reading →