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Private and personally arranged battlefield tours to the evocative WW1 Battlefields of The Somme
Jonathan Nicholls is a highly appraised, experienced guide and author of the acclaimed, ‘Cheerful Sacrifice: The Battle of Arras 1917’. He has been visiting and guiding tours to the Somme Battlefields since 1978, taking veteran soldiers of that terrible conflict on personal tours to their old action spots. The veterans have now faded away but he still relates their colourful stories of life in the British Army in 1914-18. He now plans and researches battlefield tours for families, organizations and professional travel companies. Jon is in continuous demand as an independent and vastly knowledgeable guide with personality.
Recent Battlefield Tours
In 2014 – 2015 Jon conducted private battlefield tours for Travel Editions (The Daily Telegraph & Guardian Newspaper Battlefield Tours) Battle Honours, The War Research Society and the Metropolitan Police.
It is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ to travel to the battlefields in a large coach with 50 other strangers. The alternative is a comfortable, tailor-made journey in the comfort of an air-conditioned 4×4 Landover (up to 4 persons & essential during the winter months) or a comfortable mini bus (up to 12 persons).
Jon can also undertake personal research into your soldier relative and take you to the place where they fell and now lie. This opportunity is not always available on a larger commercial tour, which understandably, concentrates and funnels its passengers to the popular spots such as the Thiepval Memorial and the Newfoundland Memorial Park. It is virtually impossible for a travel coach to access some of the more remote Somme cemeteries, (and there are many!) especially during the winter months.
Jon can pick you up and return you to your door (London & Home Counties) or simply meet you in France at Arras, Albert or Amiens, the three principal towns for visiting the Somme battlefields.
The Somme Battlefields in one day
This can easily be done by an early departure from the UK (7am) by Eurotunnel and return by 7pm at night. The Somme is a 90-minute drive from Calais. Pleasant picnic lunches can be organised or a more substantial lunch at a local restaurant or café.
For 1- 6 nights these can be arranged at a discount rate in the lovely town of Arras which, with its many restaurants and bars, is by far the best place to stay. Prices vary depending on the hotel.
The Battle of the Somme
The Battle of the Somme started for Britain on 1st July 1916 when a volunteer British Army attacked the German Lines on a 14-mile front in the region of the Somme. Over reliance on artillery support led to almost 60,000 British casualties on the first day. The ‘long procession of suffering & cruelty’ finally ground to a halt in mid-November 1916. It had cost the British Army over 400,000 casualties for an advance of 6 miles. The real tragedy of the Somme was that it was fought by an enthusiastic army of volunteers from all corners of the Commonwealth. German casualties were roughly the same. In spite of the terrible cost it was not in vain. Before the Somme the German Army had every chance of winning the war. At the end of the battle that chance had dwindled.
Australian and Canadian Battlefields
The Australian, New Zealand and Canadian forces fought gallantly on the Somme. Their casualties were huge and visiting their substantial cemeteries is a very moving experience. Jon has taken many Australian and Canadian Pilgrims to the Somme battlefields in recent months.
Ypres, Arras and more
Jon is well known for his expertise on the Arras battlefields. To find out more about him please visit Arras Battlefield Tours (testimonials). He has also been guiding tours to the Ypres Salient since 1980.
“Many thanks for a wonderful visit to the WW1 battlefields. You made it come so alive, even in the face of indescribable death! The cemeteries and memorials were fantastic and to be marvelled at for beauty and upkeep but it was your ability to transmit the real stories that you had been told by real veterans that made all the difference. We have come back with a better understanding of the horror and stupidity of it all. A visit on our own would have meant little.”
Professor Sir Alan Craft and Lady (Anne) Craft
“It was a truly wonderful experience to have Jon take us on a tour of the Somme Battlefields, Vimy Ridge and the cemeteries where my three great uncles are buried, which would have been very difficult to get to on our own. He also researched and provided information on the battles they were involved in and even brought remembrance crosses to place on the graves. Jon has a wealth of knowledge and is very passionate about what he does. He always ensured we were comfortable and took us to as many places of interest as possible, in addition to those on our list. He is a fantastic guide and we would highly recommend Jon to anyone interested in touring the battlefields of 1914-18.”
Shannon and Troy Donovan
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
“In 2013, when we were planning a trip to the Somme and Arras battlefields, we began our search for a suitable tour or individual guide. The information on Jon’s website suggested an experience a little different from the standard tour and historical perspective …… and indeed so it turned out.” “Jon gave us an insight into the battlefields and their memorials that I think few others could match. While, from our reading, we had some background to the history of the Great War his insights into the terrain and many of the more human and emotional aspects relating to various individual sites really brought home some of the reality to us. His conversations with a wide variety of veterans of the conflict mean that he is one of the few people who can provide an insight that goes beyond books or an historical account. We would add that Jon is also a great companion to have during the more social side of any visit you may make.”
Professor Stephen J Cooper and friends
To the Somme battlefields… “Don and I can never thank you enough for the experience of travelling with you on a very personal journey. You certainly made our search come to life for us.The knowledge you shared, the stories you told and your ability to bring the whole picture of events to life impacted strongly on us. The kindness and consideration you showed as we located our family members and the little extras you did will never be forgotten. It was a trip of a lifetime and we would gladly recommend your tour to anyone on a Somme pilgrimage”
Lyn and Don Weldon
Wellington. New Zealand.
2015 Reviews for World War I Battlefield Tours with Travel Editions (Daily Telegraph Travel)
What the customers said about their guide, Jonathan Nicholls:
“We thought Jonathan Nicholls, the Tour Guide, brought the tour alive. Knowledgeable, humorous and well prepared”
Mr Ian Lymath who travelled on 01-Oct-2015
“Most interesting and rewarding experience. Were particularly impressed with Jonathan Nicholls and his knowledge of the subject, and also with Steve who handled the tour so well. We would certainly like to book a further tour with you perhaps next year”
Mr John Goulden who travelled on 01-Oct-2015
“Jon Nicholls was superb. His knowledge and enthusiasm made the tour the best we have had. We have bought his book!”
Mrs Kathleen Teale who travelled on 01-Oct-2015
“Jon Nicholls is an excellent guide. He can bring to life the horrors of the War by his many anecdotes gleaned from his many contacts with old soldiers.”
Mr Donald Shaw who travelled on 01-Oct-2015
“Jon Nicholls (expert guide) – brilliant Steve Hartnell ( tour organiser) fantastic These guys made our trip truly memorable – lovely, funny, kind and helpful. Fantastic”
Mr Martin Stephenson who travelled on 01-Oct-2015
“Travel problem on the way back with Eurostar was brilliantly dealt with by Karen and your office. Jonathan our tour guide, was just magnificent, even magic Thank you”
Sir Alan Craft who travelled on 25-Jun-2015
“Jon Nicholls, our tour expert, was a fountain of knowledge and pulled out all the stops for us – indefatigable.”
Mr John Boyes who travelled on 25-Jun-2015
“Our guide, Jonathan Nicholls, was excellent. His encyclopedic knowledge of the battles and the characters involved, both leaders and the led, brought home to my wife and me the horror and the bravery. The tour showed us how little we knew of this momentous period in our country’s history”
Review by Mr Colin Dight who travelled on 07-Aug-2015
“What made this trip was the Tour Guide, Jonathan Nicholls and his wealth of knowledge, being a military historian myself, I know the years of research required to make him into an ‘expert’ on WW1 battlefields/Cemeteries.
Mr Trevor Walhen who travelled on 28-Aug-2015
“Tour Guide. Well, where does one start? We have over many years visited the WW1 battle areas both independently and with an organized tour. All much to our benefit with added knowledge. This tour with Jonathan Nicholls surpassed all the expected. The humour, detailed knowledge and delivery was quite simply outstanding. Perhaps too detailed for some but if one really wanted to explore and obtain the necessary information Jonathan’s method was most welcome. Thank you Jonathan for a most memorable and rewarding experience”
Ms A Cunningham who travelled on 07-Aug-2015
These reviews and many more, can be seen on the Travel Editions website.