Click here for our No Fuel Surcharge Guarantee - Lock in 22/23 season tour prices now! 

'Visits like this foster friendships and better understanding of what has to be done to achieve something’

318 (Sale) Squadron Air Training Corps Battlefield Trip

How often do your cadets visit the Battlefields?
We undertake visits to the battlefields every other year.  These used to be annual trips but several years ago we fostered an association of our ATC squadron number with that of a WW2 Squadron – a Polish unit from 1942 to 1946, named ‘ The City of Gdansk’ squadron so every other year I conduct visits to that marvellous city with our cadets.

Why do you arrange this trip?
Staff at squadron believe the visits to the Battlefields are essential for them to understand social history, history itself, but moreover the futility of war and its crushing affect on everyone but at the same time interspersing the sombre with humour

How do you pay for the trip each time?
Having acquired a general cost for travel we ask for deposits to be paid to secure places and then arrange bag packs in large retails stores to offset the cost.

How do you generate interest for the trip? Is it optional or compulsory?
Air cadets are taught history in lectures and then when time comes to initiate the logistics of an annual trip I do a presentation to cadets to garner interest and from those that elect to go I do another presentation to their parents so they understand why, where and what we are going to do.  Attendance is therefore purely voluntary.

How long have you been travelling with Anglia?
I have absolutely no idea but hazard a guess at 10 years

Why did you originally choose a tour operator to organise your trip and why choose Anglia?
Many years ago, these trips were organised by another squadron from Poynton in Cheshire.  We were asked to join in to make numbers up and as time progressed, I undertook the logistics of the trips so the choice was made by my predecessor.  Since then we have been remarkably impressed by Anglia as a company.

Do you follow the same itinerary every time?
No, variation and flexibility are the keys to success in these visits, however I like to include a parade at the Menin Gate whenever we are in the Ypres area.

How do Anglia help you in planning the trip? Do you already know where you want to go or do you take advice from Alison and your guide?
Generally, staff discuss where we would like to visit and then consult with Anglia as to how to achieve our aims, bearing in mind the above caveats but often listening to Alison’s incredible up to date knowledge of what is pertinent at the time.

 

What are your objectives when you set out on the trip? Is it bonding, learning something new…?
Generally, to impress on the cadets aspects of human history that would otherwise be forgotten especially amongst younger people.  I also believe that visits like this foster friendships and better understanding of what has to be done to achieve something.  Whether that be on a battlefield or by noting what efforts people put in to make sure these trips work effectively.

How does your guide help you on the trip – with both providing knowledge and the organisation of things?
We used to have Andy Cook who was, in our opinion, a hard act to follow, since then we have had a couple of guides and in 2017 Nick became our guide for a visit to the Somme.  A very impressive chap who related to the cadets instantly and by all accounts enjoyed himself.  I like to arrange an evening where guide meets cadets and when we did this last year, Nick brought a variety of ‘props’ which went down a bomb with the kids.  He listened to what we wanted to achieve and went away to construct a bespoke itinerary that suited all our needs.

Do you have cadets with family stories or are there local servicemen they want to trace?
On a number of occasions, stimulated by the request for them to research family histories, we have been able to provide a unique experience for a number of cadets and staff where they have been able to connect to a relative of the past.  Nick will often assist researching how a relative will probably have come to be interred on the Battlefields and that adds to the connection.  It is quite amazing to see nearly all these young people suddenly become connected to the past so much so that we instinctively give them space so they can personally immerse themselves and take it all in.

Did your guide help bring things to life?
Many requests requiring the power of imagination are asked of the cadets and staff by the guides, to garner appreciation of what it must have been like to have been in these parts of France and Belgium over 100 years ago.  Everyone accepts that cannot be fully achieved but it does allow for additional thinking and no more so than when a WW1 uniform (prop) will suddenly appear clothing a selected cadet. Very impressive, especially when the cadet is the same age as some of the young lads remaining there.

Which visits are the highlights and why?
This is the most difficult question, as everyone who travels on these visits would answer it differently.  For me it was a visit to the Accrington Pals memorial where standing in the remains of the trench, we were encouraged to imagine the morning of the 1st July 1916 as we stood with our mates, shoulder to shoulder, shuddering as we heard the icy blast of the tour guide’s whistle as we went over the top. Soul provoking.

Seeing our cadets standing, so proud at the Menin Gate, admired afterwards by thousands of appreciative spectators.

At the Menin Gate when the buglers had finished the last post someone started humming ‘Abide With Me’ immediately followed by the whole inside of the Menin Gate humming the tune. It was incredible.  Oh if only the names on the walls could appreciate the reverie.

The exhumed tank at Cambrai.  The bravery of men who travelled in those hulks.

Being moved to tears at poetry read so admirably on many occasions both by guides and cadets especially at the Devonshire Graves, followed by sandwiches and a return to living with cadets singing on a coach.

Coach drivers who tell us that ‘this was the best trip they have ever been on’.

Tour guides who clearly did not want to leave our small band of brothers even after only 4 days together.

Etc etc etc etc etc....

How was the service from Anglia Tours?
I’ll leave you to conclude this answer.

Do you get together after the trip to talk about what you covered?
After every visit, we have a cadet and then staff debriefs to cover best and worst bits.  The only negative we get is based on the desire for longer visits.

What’s the impact of the trip on your cadets? Does it change/reinforce their views on WW1?
Their understanding of it leads them to realise that WW2 was inevitable given the way the Armistice was handled.  On a lighter side we have cadets who have attended several times and even come back as adult Civilian Instructors and yes it does change some of their views and perceptions of WW1 or at least with some of them who come and chat to us during and after the visit.  We cannot hope to impress all 40 or so and so to know we have had an affect on several is enough for me to realise the visits have been worthwhile.