“BBC Who Do You Think You Are”

I was flattered to be asked to provide expertise for the episode of Who Do You Think You Are for Richard Osman. This is an example of the kind of work I do for personalised pilgrimages. Its about interpreting the documentary evidence to uncover something about an individual. You can see the episode here

More about personalised Pilgrimages here

Introduction to Battlefield Guiding 9 – 10 July 2022


The course is an introduction to the skills of battlefield guiding. It is aimed at people considering developing their skills either as a volunteer or a professional or for a professional tour guide seeking to extend their expertise to cover battlefields. The course is based on the competences of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. (GBG) the trade body which assesses and awards its Badge to guides who demonstrate their competence through the Guild Validation programme. The course is intended to give students a start in developing the skills and competences to become battlefield guide.

What topics will we cover?

We will cover the following:-

  • An introduction to battlefield guiding
  • The military history, presentation and duty of care knowledge and skills expected of a competent guide.
  • Legal obligations
  • Working as a guide
  • Developing a personal learning programme towards the Guild Badge
  • Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Identify the obligations of the guide in providing a battlefield tour
  • State the key competences of the Guild of Battlefield Guides’ validation programme and the standards of competences needed
  • Carry out your own simple self assessment of personal training needs
  • Plan you own personal development programme towards achieving the standards expected of a competent guide

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is set at the level of an intelligent lay-person with an interest in military history. Participants will need to have a general knowledge of military history.



How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The instruction will be in the form of tutor presentations, class and group discussions, and interactive exercises. There will be homework and a practical assignment between the first and second day. Participants will be expected to prepare and deliver short presentations.

Testimonials

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Out door exercise looking at presenting memorials and buildings

“Excellent Course”

“Could not be improved”

“Practical focus, linked to personal opportunities and encouraged further study and involvement”

“ A good balance of relevant subjects”

“The content was wider and in greater depth than I had expected”

Summary feedback from students attending this course:-

100% : that the course would help them find work.

90% : That it gave them new knowledge and skills

90% : That it would help them to progress to the next stage.

90% : That it gave greater creative and intellectual fuilfilment

80% : increased self confidence.

Next Course?

The Devereux, 20 Devereux Court, Temple, London WC2R 3JJ (Provisional Venue)

10.00 – 17.30 on the weekend 9-10th July 2022. Newton Room above The Devereux, 20 Devereux Court, Temple, London WC2R 3JJ

Cost £150



frank@frankbaldwin.co.uk

Battlefield Guiding Summer School 2022

The aim of this summer school is to give students the knowledge, experience and tools to enable them to develop battlefield guiding competence to a standard where they could attempt the International Guild of Battlefield Guides Accreditation Programme. By the end of the course students will have undertaken several battlefield presentations under tour conditions, planned itineraries, developed customer service strategy for common tour problems and have an awareness of the legal and commercial issues facing guides.

  • Module 1 – Introduction to Battlefield Guiding. 9-10 July.
    This is an introduction to the theory and practice of battlefield guiding. It introduces the competence frameworks of the bodies accrediting guides. The course introduces the competences combining knowledge of military history, presentation skills, duty of customer care and business. It is available as a stand-alone module.
  • Module 2 – Distance Learning. 11 July-31 August.
    Progressive written assignments. On completion students will have familiarity with:-
    • The historical method and the historical, topographical, cultural aspects of battlefields.
    • Communication skills and style, what influences the receptivity of information effectively.
    • Motivation for battlefield travel, customer segmentation and behaviour.
    • Battlefield touring business and the commercial and legal aspects of battlefield travel.
    • Customer service skills appropriate to battlefield tour guiding and management.

  • Module 3 – Stand planning and delivery: 30-31 July.
    Opportunities to deliver presentations in rural environments, a museum and around monuments overt two days in South East England

  • Module 4 – On tour 27-28 August
    Two days in France or Belgium. Itinerary planning and execution, stand delivery. Opportunity to plan and deliver tour elements, and presentations overseas.

The course tutor is Frank Baldwin MBA, Accredited Guide badge No 8. Frank Baldwin guided his first battlefield tour in 1989 and was accredited as a badged member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides in 2003. He served as the education member on the council of the Guild of Battlefield Guides for three years.  He has been running guide training courses since 2013 for City Lit Adult Education College, Liberation Route Europe and the public.

b

The fee for the course is £1,200, which includes travel and accommodation for the tour in module 4.  Module 1 is available as a single module for £150. For more information or to book, contact Frank Baldwin, frank@frankbaldwin.co.uk +44 781 317 9668. Website  https://www.baldwinbattlefieldtours.com/battlefield-guide-training/

Frank D Baldwin

Battles and Stories from the American Civil WarPOSTED ON

Frank D Baldwin

Frank D Baldwin is not related to me. But, I am rather proud of my namesake. He is one of only 19 US soldiers to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice.

His first award was for gallantry at the battle of Peachtree Creek near Atlanta Georgia. He was a Captain and commanded Company D of the 19th Michigan Regiment.  The citation reads that he  “Led his company in a counter-charge at Peach Tree Creek, Ga., 12 July 1864, under a galling fire ahead of his own men, and singly entered the enemy’s line, capturing and bringing back 2 commissioned officers, fully armed, besides a guidon of a Georgia regiment.”  

If you would like to find out more about theBattle of Peach Tree Creek there is a good article here.

This battlefield is now almost entirely obliterated by the suburb of Buckhead. However there are memorials and a trail in Tanyard Park. If you would like to visit the battlefield, there is a guide here.  

As a First Lieutenant, 5th U.S. Infantry. At McClellan’s Creek, Texas on 8th , November 1874. Frank D Baldwin  “Rescued, with 2 companies, 2 white girls by a voluntary attack upon Indians whose superior numbers and strong position would have warranted delay for reinforcements, but which delay would have permitted the Indians to escape and kill their captives. There is more on this action here.

McClellan’s Creek, is in Grey County, Texas. The battlefield is near McClellan Creek National Grassland.

Army Staff Ride 2018

CATEGORY: CASE STUDIES

Case studies of some of my tours
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It was a pleasure and a privilege to take part as a historian on the Operation Reflect Staff ride in 2018.  This was the last of the staff rides organised by the British Army as part of its reflections on the centenary of the First World War.   It was fascinating to see what lessons from 1918 might be relevant to 2018 and where the insights gained might help the modern army face future challenges. 

I had been a historian for the staff rides in 2015 and 2016, which looked at the lessons from the Somme. This time we looked at the operations of  the year from November 1917 to November 1918, from Cambrai to Sedan.  After the rumble of British tanks, the first sessions looked at the Germans from their counter attack at Cambrai in November 1917 through the spring offensives to the Aisne.  Then the French in adversity on the Chemin des Dames to the counter offensive in July – the turning point of the war. Then a British section from Le Hamel to Breaching the Hindenburg Line at Riqueval. The finale was the advance of the AEF from Vaquois to Sedan. Dotted around were a couple of TEWTS posiitoning participants as  divisional commanders in a hypothetical war against an aggressor over the same terrain. 

There is a difference between serving as a battlefield guide for a battlefield tour and a battlefield historian supporting a battlefield study or staff ride. 

The South Asian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-1918

CATEGORY: BANGLADESH

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This tour follows the story of some of the many thousands of soldiers from south Asia who served in France and Belgium in the Great War. In October 1914 an army corps of 20,000 soldiers from the Indian sub continent landed to fight for the British on the Western Front. Over 8,000 did not go back and are buried or commemorated in Britain, Belgium and France.

Indian Soldiers landing in Marseilles France

The itinerary is in two parts. One is for the UK and requires a UK Visa. The second is for France and Belgium, and requires a Schengen Visa. It is possible to see a lot with a tour which just visits Belgium and France. Both parts of these tours could be combined with a visit to other cultural sites

Day 1 – London

Focus on the background to the Indian Army and the Great War

  • National Army Museum – The British Army, India and the Indian Army
  • Imperial War Museum – The Great War and India’s role in it
  • Indian Army Memorial – Green Park
  • Potential for cultural event with an appropriate London Community

Day 2 The Indian Army in Britain

Ambulances and Indian soldiers at the Brighton Pavilion Hospital
  • Brighton Pavilion – the Indian Army Hospital in the Great War. 14,000 wounded Indian soldiers passed through the hospitals in Brighton
  • Patcham Down Chattri Memorial
  • Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Indian Army Memorial Room
  • Brookwood Commonwealth War Cemetery, the resting place of the Muslim Indian Army soldiers who died in the UK

Three days – Belgium and France

Day one – The Indian Army at Ypres.

  • Flanders Fields Museum. Orientation to the Western front
  • The story of the Indian Army in the 1st Battle of Ypres in 1914. Stories of Indian soldiers who distinguished themselves including Khudadad Khan VC and Subedar Thakur Singh MC
2nd Rajput Regiment in Flanders1914-15
  • Preserved Trenches on Messines Ridge, close to where the young Adolf Hitler fought
  • The Indian army at the 2nd Battle of Ypres and the first use of poison gas. Story of Mir Dast VC
  • Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate and opportunity to lay a wreath at this ceremony

Day two – Neuve Chapelle and Loos

Indian Army memorial to the Missing Neuve Chappelle

• The Battle of Neuve Chapelle
• The Battle of Loos and the role of the Indian Corps. the story of Kulbir Thapa VC
• Zelobes Indian Cemetery
• Indian Army memorial and memorial to the Missing Neuve Chapelle

Day Three – The Indian Army Cavalry at Somme, Arras and Cambrai

Indian Cavalry somewhere on the Western Front
  • Technology and the Great War – The Historial Museum of the Great War (1914-1918) Peronne.
  • Thiepval memorial
  • The Indian Cavalry on the Somme, the charge of the Deccan Horse horses versus machine guns.
  • The Indian cavalry at Arras
  • Cambrai – The Indian Cavalry and Army and Tanks

“One dead for every kilometre home”
Anonymous comment in the visitors book, Neuve Chapelle, Indian Army Memorial France

What is New on the Old Front Line?

TAG: FLANDERS

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Just back from a well organised familiarisation tour to Flanders and the Somme organised and hosted by Tourism Ieper.  You might think that a year after the end of the centenary of the First World War that no one would be investing in developing First World War heritage.  But that is far from the case.  We saw a slew of new projects that enhance the experience for visitors.

View over the Passchendaele Battlefield
There is a panorama in each direction to aid orientation

It isn’t often that you see something on a tour around a familiar area that makes you change the way you plan a visit.  The high point (literally) of my trip was the visit to the Church Tower at Zonnebeke, which is open to the public. The website says it is free of charge, but you need a ticket from the Passchendaele Museum to operate the turnstile.  This offers an outstanding view of the Ypres Salient and is a good option to start a tour of the area.  Only worth doing if visibility is over two miles/ three km as there are 200 stairs to climb.

A fine collection of exhibits that would be improved with some explanation in the new app.

The Museé Somme Albert has a very fine and large collection of exhibits. A little unfashionably for modern museums these are mostly on display. An app is being written to allow visitors to find out more about the objects.  It is planned that visitors can download the app on smartphones.

Reconstructed trenches and panorama board on the site of Idiot Trench, illustrating why Hooge means “Heights”

I hadn’t visited the Hooge Crater Museum  for several years.  The owners have developed the museum to make it a one stop shop for visiting schools.  There are trenches demonstrating British and German trench designs on the site of the German 1916 front line and a good view over Ieper.  There is a gallery focused on medical services and a private room for a group. We were well looked after with a specimen student lunch (plus beer!)

There is a new museum dedicated to aerial warfare over Flanders and the great French air ace George Guynemer.  This is the Guynemer Pavillion Polecapelle

Yper Museum – model of the historic city

Yper Museum. The Yper Museum is situated at the other end of the Cloth Hall from the In Flanders Fields Museum. In Flanders Fields tells the story of Ieper in four years of war.  The Yper Museum tells the story of Ieper for the other 2,000 years of its history.  How the city grew and shrank with the wool trade, the sieges by the English and French.  Well supported by interactive exhibits, it is a reminder that the area is more than just a battlefield.

One nice feature of familiarisation tours is that they provide an opportunity for cafes and restaurants to show what they can do. The Depot did a great three course supper and Poppies Hostel at Albert and roof top terrace bar at the St. Bernardus Brewery Watou did a great buffet.  I hadn’t been to the brewery before. The view from the rooftop was also very worthwhile offering a panorama of the area west of Poperinge.

Another recent development is the local wine industry. Heuvelland is one of five Belgian regions recognised by a AOP Quality label.  The region claims to be the most northern wine growing region in mainland Europe.

Stefaan Vanderstreate on stage at the Clothe Hall gala singing and playing the guitar

This is the latest of a series of tours for representatives of the British travel trade.  The driving force has been the hotel businesses led by Stefaan Vanderstreate, the Ieper based entrepreneur who runs The Menin Gate accommodation business in Ieper and set up the Poppies hostel in Albert.  These are particularly well-run familiarisation tours.

Why did France collapse so quickly in 1940

Hitler and entourage  in Paris June 1940 

The collapse of France and the Low Countries in 1940 was one of the most dramatic and unexpected events in the Second World War. France was the world’s leading military power. Its ally Britain was the world’s leading naval power. Both had stronger economies than Germany, and could draw the resources of the world’s largest empires.  Yet, in a short campaign the Germans defeated France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. There have been arguments about why ever since. Here are some of the arguments and where to go to gain insights into the campaign. https://www.youtube.com/embed/djCaIuSyNSo?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&cc_lang_pref=&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=1&rel=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=1&

1.   Blitzkrieg

Had the Germans invented a new form of warfare?  Tanks supported by dive bombers cutting a path through defences weakened by fifth columnists and parachutists. This term was coined by the media, not the Germans. It was more a description of the results of the battle rather than a deliberate tactic. However, the German invasion of the Netherlands was preceded by an advance guard dressed as Dutch policemen and audacious airborne landings seizing the ground for the panzers. The end of hostilities was marked by the bombing of Rotterdam.

The Belgian fortress at Eban Emael near Maastricht was captured by glider borne German troops

The bombing of Rotterdam was reported by the world media as “Nazi frightfulness”, the airborne landings cost the Germans aircraft and men in what was really just a feint.  There is still much that can be seen in the Rotterdam area.  

2.   Poor French Generalship

One of the briefing maps in the Fort Des Dunes,
Leffrinckoucke

The first historian to write objectively about the Fall of France was a medieval historian called Marc Bloch, who served as a staff officer in the French First Army 1940 and was evacuated through Dunkirk.  He wrote his book “Strange Victory” in September 1940 while in hiding. It would only be published in 1947, two years after his execution in June 1944 as a member of the resistance. His thesis was that the French generals had not noticed that the rhythm of modern warfare had changed its tempo and were incapable of thinking in terms of a new war. The  German triumph was a triumph of intellect.  There were many shortcomings in French generalship.   The French Army was poorly prepared and under trained for modern war.  The French “Methodical  Battle” assumed that warfare had not changed significantly since 1918 and operated at a pedestrian pace.  The Plan D strategy  was predictable and left the allied armies unbalanced and without a reserve. Bloch’s own observations left him very critical of the General he served under, and of the French state.  There is no French national museum of the Second World War. However, the Fort des Dunes near Dunkerque has a good audio visual display about the course of the 1940 campaign, in a location that is also a reminder of the gallant defence by the many French soldiers who fought bravely despite the disadvantages.     

3.   Rotten Fabric of the Third Republic


. “Better Hitler than Blum”  
The Jewish socialist Léon Blum, three times prime minister of France was a hate figure for the right. 

Bloch was not alone in thinking that France as a country was ill prepared for a second war against German.  British generals such as Brooke and Spears commented at the time about the mood in France.  American Journalist William L Shirer reported from the German side.  His book on the Collapse of the Third Republic  is a very readable account from 1870.  Alister Horne’s To Lose a Battle describes France’s unstable democracy. 

There isn’t a museum of 1930s France and the debacle of 1940 is not a matter for celebration.  However there are sections in several museums about the events of the eras.  The Memorial at Caen played a rather haunting recording , made by the Germans in secret, of the French delegation discussing the 1940 armistice terms with their government in Bordeaux.   

4.   The Germans had better tanks?

France 1940 room Le Musée des Blindés de Saumur

One of the early myths of the 1940 campaign was that the Germans had more and better tanks.  In fact the allies had more tanks, which were generally more heavily armed and armoured than  German tanks.  However, German tanks had much better radios and were better supported by other troops and maintenance services.  One French tank may have been a match for a single German tank, but the Germans hunted in packs.  The best place to see 1940 French  armour is the French Musee des Blindees Army Tank museum at Saumur. The nearby battlefield site of the doomed defence of the Loire bridges is a reminder of the gallantry shown by many French troops, often overlooked in accounts of the campaign.      The largest tank battle was between  Gembloux and Hannut in Begium where the tanks of the French Cavalry corps took on two panzer divisions.  

5.   Fifth Columns and Frightfulness?

Although the SS perpetrated most of the war crimes in 1940, the German Army was also capable of barbarity. Between 25 and 28th May soldiers from the German 225th Division executed between 85 and 170 Belgian civilians in the village  of Vinkt after using them as human shields. 

The invasion was accompanied by a mass flight of Belgian and French civilians who clogged the roads.  There were instances where German troops executed prisoners of war and civilians. The extreme right and left factions in Europe in the 1930s led to suspicion of Nazi sympathisers and fears of fifth columnists and spies.  Apart from a handful of troops that crossed the border in Dutch police uniforms there were no fifth columnists. However,  fears of fifth columnists and spies hampered the allies armies and fleeing refugees clogged the roads. British and French authorities treated civilians with suspicion and there are well documented cases of summary execution of Belgian and French civilians.   There are no memorials to the dozens, if not hundreds, who perished at the hands of nervous soldiers.  

6.  The British were to Blame? 

Winston Churchill, General Gamelin and General Lord Gort in France during the Second World War. Date: 1940

The British often see the Fall of France as merely as the overture to the national myth of Battle of Britain.  But would there have been any need for the Battle of Britain if the British had done more to win the battle for France?  The British took the lead in both appeasement at Munich and in declaring war in 1939.  Britain had the stronger economy and should have been an equal partner. Yet much of British re-armament was directed to defending Britain from air attack and the supposed deterrent of its strategic bomber force.  The excellent British integrated air defence system did not extend to its French Ally.  The British neglected their land forces and had no provision for expeditionary force until February 1939. The French had hoped that the country which claimed to invent the tank and pioneered mechanised forces would provide a professional mobile corps. Instead it produced a partially trained and ill-equipped conscript force. The British government were keen to deny Dutch airfields to the Germans and enthusiastic supporters of the  “Breda Extension” to the deployment plan  which committed the French strategic reserves to an ill-fated dash to the Netherlands.  Despite Gort’s status as the commander of an allied contingent he seems to have made little effort to influence overall strategy. Nor did British commanders, with some notable exceptions make any better use of the Phoney war than the French to prepare their soldiers for the type of war the Germans would wage. There is no single place to explore British culpability, except perhaps, the Arras area.  Heavily fought over in the First war, the city was the site of GHQ in 1939-40.  The Press were established in the Hôtel de l’Univers where General Mason-Macfarland, the head of the intelligence branch  on 13th May gave the extraordinary  briefing that he doubted that “Ever the British Army been placed in a graver position that that which the governments of the last twenty years placed it”   Perhaps the visitor should follow with a critical eye the famous Arras counter attack from Vimy ridge and compare  British capability and conduct at Arras and Cambrai in two world wars.

7.  Command of the Air?

The idea of stuka dive bombers as flying artillery to support Panzers is an iconic image of the 1940 campaign. It is true that German air superiority played a big part in demoralising the allies, but the German air force wasn’t really dedicated to supporting the ground armies. The Luftwaffe  made some important interventions at key moments, but German success was as much a consequence of allied inefficiency and poor long term planning. The Armee d’lAir and RAF fought hard and with stunning bravery – and the campaign cost the Luftwaffe dearly. 

The Dewoitine D.520 was one of the latest French fighters.  This aircraft can be seen at the  Musée de l’air et de l’espace at Le Borget, Paris

Unlike many British or American warbirds, few French aircraft from 1940 survived the war.   The Musée de l’Air et de l’EspaceLe Bourget Airport, near Paris, has examples of two of the more advanced French fighters the Ms406 and Dewotine 520.  The aerial battlefields over Sedan and the doomed RAF mission to the Bridge at Maastricht are possibly the best places to contemplate the air battles. 

8.   Intelligence failure?

The silhouette of an Me108  aircraft is the monument at the crash site of the courier aircraft at Maasmechelen, near Vucht, Limberg Belgium 

The failure of the Allied intelligence services to identify the timing and direction of the German attack is on a par with Pearl Harbour.  Despite indications of troop movements and bridging,  the Germans achieved surprise, and allied reconnaissance aircraft failed to notice columns of German armour heading into the Ardennes.  As all too often in history those in charge tended to ignore information that contradicted expectations and plans.  Nor did the allies understand and react to the evidence of German capabilities despite the evidence from the Polish campaign. 

The  intelligence picture was complicated by attempts by the German resistance to Hitler warning the allies of planned dates for the invasion  which were then postponed, and the accidental release of an early draft of the German plans when a courier landed by accident in Belgium. 

9.    Then Failed Alliance?

The 1940 campaign pitted the Germans against a coalition of Britain, France and the neutral counties invaded by the Germans. Despite the successful coalition of 1914-18 the Allied coalition of 1939-40 failed spectacularly.

Hotel Le Sauvage Cassel  

Although appeasement may have given time to re-arm, it sacrificed credibility among potential allies.  1940 might have turned out differently if Belgium had remained in alliance with France and Britain. Nor did the British and French invest in the liaison organisation that evolved between 1914 and 1918.   The story of 1940 is of a coalition unravelling with each party distrusting the other.  One place to explore this is in the historic Hotel du Sauvage in Cassel where some of the more contentious inter allied discussions took place concerning the evacuations at Dunkirk.    

10. Operational Genius, a Cunning plan and Luck?

In  his semi official history of the 1940 campaign The Blitzkrieg Legend 
the German military historian Karl Heinz Frieser,  debunked many of the myths about the campaign.   The campaign succeeded well beyond German expectations. That it did was a result of some original thinking by progressive German officers in the face of deep scepticism by others, rank disobedience by relatively junior panzer commanders such as Guderian, effective doctrine that enabled the Germans to operate much more quickly than the French and a slice of luck.   There is a lot to see in the land campaign, from the moves through the Ardennes, the assault crossings of the River Meuse on a fifty mile front and the advance across northern France.   


Marfee heights overlooking Sedan, the vital ground for the Meuse crossing

How to Find out More

Contact us for a discussion about the battles and battlefields of the 1940 campaign. 

How did the Allies evacuate so many soldiers at Dunkirk under the German threat??

TAG: 1940

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In May 1940 the Germans decisively defeated the Franco-British armies and their Belgian and Dutch allies.  By the 15th the French high command admitted that they had lost the battle. By 20th May  German Panzers had reached the coast, splitting the allied armies in Belgium from France.  On 22nd May German armour was poised to capture the ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk.  Yet two weeks later around  325,000 troops got away from encirclement by an enemy with air superiority.  How did so the British and 125,000 Frenchmen get away? Where can you find the evidence today?

The French

The French fought with greater skill, determination and courage than is given credit by Anglo-Saxon accounts. Although French senior leadership was weak and indecisive, many British accounts  mention small groups of  Frenchmen and tanks turning up at the right moment to save the day. The Germans spent time reducing the pocket of French troops around Lille.  The French army also were the rearguard for Dunkirk.   

Fort des Dunes, at Leffrinckoucke was the command post of the French 12th motorised infantry division and defended until after the end of the evacuations. The fort is a museum with probably the best exhibition on the part played by French troops in 1940.

The British rearguard actions

The British fought several rearguard actions to protect the flanks of the corridor through which troops withdrew to Dunkirk. 

  •  Mount Cassel, the highest point south of Dunkirk, was held by a British brigade which was sacrificed to deny this key ground to the Germans.
  • The town of Hazebrouck and the villages of Wormhout, Hondeghem were all held by British troops who put up a stubborn resistance.
  •   The first world war battlefields of Ieper and Messines were part of the BEF’s defences. 
  • K Battery RHA at Hondeghem, one of the  actions on the flank of the BEF’s route to Dunkerque
  • The stubborn defence of Wormhoult was followed by a massacre of British prisoners
  • Cassel after the battle
  • The hilltop town of Cassel dominated the southern approach to Dunkerque
  • Cassel town square bordered by restaurants and tea rooms 

The German Halt Order

The German high command ordered its Panzer divisions to halt on the 23rd May, and only released them three days later.  The Bundeswehr historian Frieser identified nine different explanations for the Halt Order.  The order did not originate with Hitler, but with some German officers concerned about the threat to their flanks. Higher command disagreed about the riskiness of the panzer advance. Hitler sided with the risk averse and the Panzers were halted.  The British Official history denies that this was a significant factor.

The threat to the German advance appeared more real on the maps in Hitler’s HQ in the western border of Germany, than to the tactical commanders in France.   The key decisions were taken in Hitler’s command bunker, which still exists as a ruin, but is on private land.

  • Hitler at the Felsennest (Rocky Crag)
  • The Felsennest – in the Munster Eifel forest
  • There are ruins on private land
  • Hitler with his Generals May 1940

The Air War

The apparent success of the Luftwaffe masked the heavy losses suffered by the German air force during the three week campaign. Many German aircraft were still based in Germany. By the time that the Germans reached the channel coast, the Germans were further way from their bases than the  RAF based in Britain.  There are few traces of the air war over Dunkirk, except for the graves of the airmen lost in the battle.

  • RAF Graves in Dunkerque area
  • German bombers like there like these JU88s were still based in Germany
  • Coastal Command aircraft like these Lockheed Hudsons flew over Dunkerque
  • The Spitfire first saw combat over Dunkerque
  • The Ju87 Stuka posed the main threat to ships

The Arras Counter Attack

On 21st May the Allies mounted a counter attack south from Arras. This was the only attack mounted from the main allied armies north of the German penetration.  Although British histories focus on the role of British troops, French armour also played an important part in the battle.

The battle took place over the 1915-17 battlefields of Artois among the cemeteries and memorials from that conflict.  There are few memorials from 1940 apart from the war graves.  There is a memorial to the Royal Tank Regiment in Arras and a second at Beaurains with a tank track theme. The graves of three men in Wailly communal cemetery are a reminder of the attack famously halted by Rommel in person. Two are British and one French.   

  • Grave of  Lieutenant Roy 
  • Rommel’s view of the battlefield
  • RTR Memorial Arras
  • RTR Memorial Beurains
  • Rommel’s situation map 

The Royal Navy

The evacuation at Dunkirk could not have taken place without the brilliant and courageous operations of the Royal Navy, expertly commanded by Admiral Bertram Ramsey.  Ramsey was appointed to plan the naval and  masterminded the operation from what had been the dynamo room  in the fortress under Dover castle, and gave it’s name to operation Dynamo.

Operation Dynamo was planned and commanded from the tunnels under Dover Castle, managed by English Heritage and open to the public. This shows the Anti Aircraft Operations Room in Hellfire Corner.

Perfidious Albion – British Determination

There was some truth in the image of British troops denying escape for the French rearguard

After the failure of the Arras Counter attack, the British were single minded about evacuating the maximum number of British Troops. The French might have thought that the withdrawal to the coast was to form a defensive bastion. The British did not disabuse them of this until later. Alexander, the British commander on the ground, ignored a directive from Churchill that the British should provide half of the rear guard. There is truth in the claims the British extracted the maximum number of British troops at the expense of the French who were left on the beaches. The memorials to the French rear guard at Bray Dunes is a reminder of this.

The memorial to the 12th (Motorised) Infantry Division at Bray Dunes is a reminder that the French were left to conduct the rearguard alone.

Fortunes of War

Luck played a significant part.

  • The poorly planned and executed Arras counter attack hit the passing 7th Panzer Division at its weakest spot. Erwin Rommel the German divisional commander defeated the attack brilliantly, but  exaggerated the size of the force he faced, which lead to a scare in the Germans HQ and the armour being halted. 
  • The weather was kind to the Allies.. Rain in late May hampered the Germans, while the sea was never too rough to prevent an evacuation.  Three days of gales of the sort that delayed D Day would have left much of the British Expeditionary Force on the beaches.

Introduction to Battlefield Guiding 27-28 November 2021

 BY FRANKBALDWIN


The course is an introduction to the skills of battlefield guiding. It is aimed at people considering developing their skills either as a volunteer or a professional or for a professional tour guide seeking to extend their expertise to cover battlefields. The course is based on the competences of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. (GBG) the trade body which assesses and awards its Badge to guides who demonstrate their competence through the Guild Validation programme. The course is intended to give students a start in developing the skills and competences to become battlefield guide.

What topics will we cover?

We will cover the following:-

  • An introduction to battlefield guiding
  • The military history, presentation and duty of care knowledge and skills expected of a competent guide.
  • Legal obligations
  • Working as a guide
  • Developing a personal learning programme towards the Guild Badge
  • Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Identify the obligations of the guide in providing a battlefield tour
  • State the key competences of the Guild of Battlefield Guides’ validation programme and the standards of competences needed
  • Carry out your own simple self assessment of personal training needs
  • Plan you own personal development programme towards achieving the standards expected of a competent guide

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is set at the level of an intelligent lay-person with an interest in military history. Participants will need to have a general knowledge of military history.



How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The instruction will be in the form of tutor presentations, class and group discussions, and interactive exercises. There will be homework and a practical assignment between the first and second day. Participants will be expected to prepare and deliver short presentations.

Testimonials

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Out door exercise looking at presenting memorials and buildings

“Excellent Course”

“Could not be improved”

“Practical focus, linked to personal opportunities and encouraged further study and involvement”

“ A good balance of relevant subjects”

“The content was wider and in greater depth than I had expected”

Summary feedback from students attending this course:-

100% : that the course would help them find work.

90% : That it gave them new knowledge and skills

90% : That it would help them to progress to the next stage.

90% : That it gave greater creative and intellectual fuilfilment

80% : increased self confidence.

Next Course?

The Devereux, 20 Devereux Court, Temple, London WC2R 3JJGet Directions

10.00 – 17.30 on the weekend 27-28th November 2021. Newton Room above The Devereux, 20 Devereux Court, Temple, London WC2R 3JJ

Cost £150



frank@frankbaldwin.co.uk