Home > Battlefields Tours, Edmund Blunden, Fall In Ghosts, First World War Poets, Isaac Rosenberg, War Poetry > Fall In, Ghosts Battlefields Tour 22nd -25th October 2011: Feedback and Discussion

Fall In, Ghosts Battlefields Tour 22nd -25th October 2011: Feedback and Discussion

This new post is intended especially for those who attended the ‘Fall In, Ghosts’ Battlefields Tour in October 2011. Participants in the tour and others are invited to post accounts of their experience or join the discussion by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ at the foot of this page to publish your contribution to the blog. The blog uses WordPress software, which allows the use of Twitter, Facebook or WordPress IDs and passwords to post messages here,  if you already have one of these. If preferred, please e-mail any comments or photos or images as attachments to ghosts@warpoets.org for publication here.

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  2. Linda Hart
    30 January 2012 at 12:15pm

    Letters from a French soldier, 1914-18
    For anyone who reads French, and wants to learn about the war from the perspective of a French soldier, I can highly recommend a new book titled “Lettres de la ‘der des der'”. This expression came into use at the end of the First World war, as an abbreviation of “dernière des dernières guerres”– literally the last of the last wars but we would say in English “the war to end all wars”.
    The book’s editor, Catherine Labaume-Howard, found 300 of her grandfather’s letters in 1986, in an old potato bag, when a family home was sold. Their author, Pierre Suberviolle, was from Montauban, in the south of France. He joined the army on 7 August 1914, without his father’s permission, when he is only 17. He wrote to his family regularly during the next 51 months. Mobilized as a car and truck driver, he fought on the western and northern fronts of France. Soldiers normally did not say exactly where there letters were from, but Pierre was definitely at Dijon, Villers-Cotteret, Vitry and Soissons in the first months of the war. At Ypres he experienced the early use of mustard gas. He was then sent to the Greece, Salonika, Macedonia and Albania for 18 months. When he was sent back to France, he was trained for tank warfare and sent to Belgium were he was wounded and lost an eye one month before the war ended.
    One hundred fifty letters were selected to create the book. Pierre writes such with such fluency, in such a straightforward style, that even though my French is only “intermediate” I can understand him — if not every single adjective and adverb, certainly the sense of what he is saying. The war is the one permanent feature of these letters, and the book makes a contribution to understanding the life of the ordinary poilu during this period. But we also get a realistic picture of French provincial middle-class at the beginning of the 20th century. An English reader will probably note Pierre’s deeply affectionate and emotional tone, compared to the more still-upper-lip approach of British soldiers. He writes poetically of nature (as many British soldiers did), and he has a nice sense of humour.
    The book, published in paperback by La Louve Editions, is very generously illustrated, with many photos taken on or near the front line by the author himself. These have never before been published. There are also maps used by Pierre, picture postcards of places he visited, and even rare documents such as an official note warning the soldiers in Greece to beware of “The mosquito: that is your enemy!!!”

    Lettres de la “der des der” by Catherine Labaume-Howard, La Louve Editions, 2011. For further information or to purchase a copy see http://www.lalouve-editions.fr or http://www.amazon.fr

  3. 15 January 2012 at 6:59pm

    Fall In, Ghosts tour leader Andy Thompson has collected comments and reflections on the recent battlefields tour and these are published below and on the WPA’s website (as a PDF copy) for all to see. Read Bel Mooney’s excellent reflections on the Tour at the foot of this post too. Add your own comments to these posts if you wish, by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ at the foot of this string of contributions.



    N.B. Evaluation forms were sent to all 40 participants and 32 responded by commenting on the headings listed. Individual comments are quoted. Those without quotation marks are the views of more than one.

    1. The Hotel
    What went well:

    • Fit for purpose
    • Breakfast good (if somewhat chaotic)
    • Staff friendly
    • Good location
    • Comfortable

    Better still if:

    • More time between end of day and dinner
    • Allow more time to see Arras
    • WiFi ‘patchy’

    2. Dinner arrangements
    • Dinner arrangements rated ‘excellent’ by all
    • All enjoyed the opportunity of dining together
    • Pre-dinner presentations well received and thought to ‘add value’
    • Good menu choice
    • Good that different venues were used
    • Excellent service for vegetarians

    • Cellar too noisy

    3 Lunch

    I didn’t ask for a response about lunch but many commented that the arrangements worked well. It was quick, adequate and saved valuable time.

    4 The programme
    • “Couldn’t have been better”
    • “Excellent – very good indeed”
    • “Unforgettable”
    • “Hugely educational”
    • “Diverse, full and lots of opportunities to meet interesting people”
    • Time well used
    • Well organised
    • Reading on site particularly powerful
    • “Brilliant”

    • Maybe do less in more depth
    • No opportunity to walk the battlefield
    • Last day didn’t draw together the first three – too rushed
    • Day 4 needed more on Rosenberg
    • Too much Blunden
    • Too much Rosenberg
    • Could have used UTW as more of a road map

    5 Value for money

    • “Excellent VfM”
    • Most thought it good value and appreciated most things being inclusive
    • “No nasty surprises”
    • “Worth every penny”
    • “Outstanding”

    • Single room supplement high
    • “Reasonable” (single traveller)

    6 Organisation
    • “Outstanding”
    • “Planning was terrific”
    • “Superb”

    • More time in Arras
    • More time to meet the French
    • Coach pick up some way from the tube station
    • Earlier start to each day would have allowed more time in Arras & for reflection
    • Email contact list should have been circulate

    7 Presentations
    • “Hugely educational”
    • “Readings were wonderful”
    • “Absolutely matchless”
    • “Brought History alive and made it so vivid!”
    • “I really appreciated the enthusiasm and commitment of all those involved”
    • “It was obvious that much hard work had gone into the planning”
    • “Varied”
    • “Enlightening”
    • “Close to perfection”
    • “It was really excellent that so many group members took part”

    • “Some readings too long”
    • “Would have liked more”
    • “Too much on the war itself which reduced time on the topic”
    • “Too little emphasis on the poets themselves”
    • “Too many ends left untied”
    • “Not always easy to hear some of the readers”

    8 Most memorable aspects of the tour
    • “The human appeal of both the writers”
    • “Visiting many out of the way places!
    • “Bernard reading Break of Day….” at his uncle’s grave
    • “Tracing the trenches on the Thiepval Ridge”
    • “Bernard demonstrating the Lee Enfield to a young audience”
    • “The final pre-dinner discussion”
    • “Michael Longley reading so wonderfully”
    • “The contribution of so many in the group”
    • “The mixture of the history and the poetry”

    9 Least memorable aspect of the tour
    • “Not all readings were easy to follow”
    • “Stupid coffee machine in the hotel”
    • “Not all the presentations seemed relevant”
    • “Not enough time for quiet and reflection!
    • “No opportunity to walk the line”
    • “I would like to have worked in smaller groups at times!

  4. 26 November 2011 at 7:59pm

    Here’s some further information from Bel about the tour that was published in the Daily Mail:

    A debt we owe to our heroes

    Some of you may have read my tribute to my grandfather, Bill Mooney (Mail, 7.11.11). I described a moving trip to the Somme with the War Poets Association – and I’ve been asked for more details. Our coach trip to Arras was organised by Eyewitness Tours, but also check out the War Research Society’s Battlefield Tours. If you want to go under your own steam, then http://www.hellotommy.co.uk gives excellent guidance. Do it. You won’t regret it.

    Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

    Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk.

    A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

    Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

    Our tour was led by Andy Thompson, who runs his small company with his wife Sue. A history teacher for 38 years, Andy displayed knowledge, passion for his subject and good humour in equal measure. He was brilliant.

    Also on our trip was Andrew Spooner, a burly former firefighter, who runs his own battlefield visits, Skylark Tours, mainly for schools. He began researching 25 years ago, and what he doesn’t know about the battlefields isn’t worth knowing. But he’d joined our tour because he wanted to increase his knowledge of the WW1 poetry he loves.

    There were just over 40 people on our coach, each with a private passion, for poetry, for history, or simply for doing something different. One man, David (a retired surveyer), had come on his own because he just wanted to find out new things.

    We ate together for three nights, sharing conversation and laughter. And you know, when people write in because they’re lonely, this is the kind of activity I mean, when I suggest finding a new interest. I wish they’d stop yearning for passion in a lover and start discovering new interests – passions even – in the larger world.

    Interest, enthusiasm, discovery, knowledge, challenge, companionship… these are the relevant words here. Never, ever think you can’t find the energy. Why, I’ve now joined the War Poets Association, setting off on a fresh quest of my own.

    You see, the carved names of all the young men who lost their lives in WW1 make you reflect how little time they had. That’s why none of us have the right to be bored or lazy. Always remember – we owe it to them to live.

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