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Denman College Visit to the WW1 Battlefields

Denman WI College took an educational trip to the WW1 Battlefields with Anglia Tours in July. We spoke to Tracy Strain, Volunteer Manager, who hosted the trip that attracted members from all around the UK…

My Dad used to take me to the Battlefields years ago so I had some knowledge of the sites we would visit. This time my role wasn’t necessarily as an observer but to support everyone on the trip and to make sure everything ran smoothly.

Our experience began the night before departure when we met at the centre so that everybody could meet each other and we could cover all the domestic arrangements regarding hotels and coaching etc. Our guide for the trip Simon Gregor, delivered a lecture to set the scene and give an overview on what we would be doing which a great insight to the subject. The whole evening put everyone at ease.

Our itinerary covered so much of the First World War and we visited key sites in chronological order. Anglia arranged headsets for the group, which really helped as people could go around some of these large sites at their own pace but still keep up with Simon’s fantastic commentary.

There were so many highlights on our trip, but on the last afternoon at Vimy Ridge, we laid a wreath which was extremely moving. Simon read the letter from mother to son entitled ‘To My Unknown Warrior’.  After this the whole group sang Jerusalem and there was not a dry eye in the house.

We also had some lovely evenings in the restaurants when we got to know each other. People started the trip on their own but in the end they weren’t alone.

A number of people undertook pilgrimages on the trip to visit sites where relatives have fought and where they are buried. They took flowers or crosses and they would have a few moments alone to pay their respects. Simon helped with fitting this in to the itinerary and would fill us in on the action that took place around that site, so we had the story to go with the individual relatives.

We visited the Battlefields in the middle of a heatwave and it really made us appreciate some extreme conditions that soldiers were exposed to. We drank so much water! The heat really did bond everyone.

Our guide Simon’s style is so knowledgeable, clear and interesting. Everyone was so impressed. He absolutely helped to bring the subject to life. I have a real interest in this subject and I have done more than 20 tours to the Battlefields before, but on this one but I learnt entirely new things and looked at the period and the sites in different ways.

Everyone stayed at Denman the evening we got back and I went in to see them all in the morning. Simon was still there and we were able to tie up any loose ends and answer any outstanding questions from the trip. Everyone gave Simon and me a gift and a thank you card, which was lovely.

We are now looking at our next historical trip. Ideally, we would like to follow European history in chronological order so Berlin would be the obvious choice to follow the story on from the Battlefields.

The service from Anglia was first class. Working with the company for the first time, I found everything very smooth and very good. Everything just joined up well together, even down to the little things like collecting sandwiches from the bakery. I am a bit of a detail person and I thought the organisation was brilliant.

“A brilliant tour. Simon was so knowledgeable and able to explain clearly. He was thoughtful, making sure we were in shade whenever possible. He kept to time and we were able to achieve much more in a few days than I would have expected.”

“Just an unbelievable experience. I had been to the Western Front before, but I learnt lots of new details, visited some different sights as well as ‘old’ ones, all moving.”

Take a look at Denman’s itinerary for their trip.