How I became a battlefield tour guide…

I am incredibly lucky in the fact that I get to do something that I love as a job. I am a battlefield tour guide for Anglia Tours, and I spend my time doing what I am most passionate about, talking about the First World War. When I tell people that I am a battlefield tour guide, usually the first thing that is said is ‘Ooh how interesting!’ quickly followed by ‘how did you manage to get into something like that?!’

My guiding journey began whilst I was still at university, with the recommendation of completing some courses coming from my lecturer. These courses were run by Mike Peters (@TGTandV for those on Twitter – or click here for the website). These courses have been designed by Mike in order to provide prospective battlefield guides with the practical knowledge they need to carry out battlefield tours. It was on these courses that the concept of being a battlefield guide was firmed up in my mind. Mike’s courses were thorough and offered lots of opportunities to actually present stands – something I had not done up until that point – and receive advice and suggestions from other aspiring tour guides about our style of presenting. These courses were invaluable to my development as a battlefield guide and I can say with complete confidence that I would not be where I am today without Mike, his courses and his recommendation to me of Anglia Tours – click here for the Anglia website.

Presenting the Battle of Flers-Courcelette at the New Zealand Memorial (Oct 2015)

My involvement with Anglia began in January 2016, when I started the process to join the company as a battlefield guide. There were many stages that I had to undergo in order for the company to see if you were ready to go on the books as a guide. I remember taking part in a 3-day assessment where we had to prepare stands and present them to the group. This was my first true test of guiding and I think this definitely showed. I had no real experience of much other than education. Whereas the other prospective guides had life experience, being ex-military, ex-police or ex-teachers, I had still been at university less than 9 months earlier. They were used to presenting to groups; the closest I had gotten to speaking to large groups was a presentation or two whilst at university or school. With hindsight, I have realised that I wasn’t sufficiently prepared, and I needed more time to develop as a guide, and more time to experience being in a world that did not have the safety net of education anymore. Eventually, I proved myself to the company; that I was good enough to be considered an Anglia guide and in March 2017, I undertook my first tour for the company. I must put in a massive thanks here to Alain Chissel aka The Boss! He took a chance on me where others had not, and I am very grateful to him for providing me with the opportunity to do something that I love and hold very dear.

Standing to attention at the Staffordshire Regiment Museum (June 2017)

Getting to this point was a very long journey for me and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, particularly my husband and my mom. Practically, they ferried me around the country so that I wouldn’t miss out on key opportunities, have helped me sort out the practical elements to my guiding and have been ready to assist in any other way. Emotionally, they have supported me through the highs and lows of the process – of which there have been many! The support and love that I have received from them has been of such importance to me, and I owe so much of my success to them. Thank you all so much.

Since then, I have been on a whirlwind of a journey. I guide general First World War tours, Surgery and Treatment tours, UK based First World War tours and will hopefully one day soon guide Development of Warfare tours. I have guided schools from different parts of the country, different educational backgrounds, mixed gender and single sex schools. No two tours are the same, even with repeat customers. My time as a guide has taught me to expect the unexpected, to roll with the punches. You can have a tour that goes as seamlessly as possible from start to finish one week, and the next, a tour where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done for the world. I feel so lucky and privileged that I get to go to some of my most favourite places in the world for my job and speak about the subject that I am most passionate about. I have made great friendships with my colleagues, who all mean the world to me and have become like family – I have a lot of ‘Anglia dads’ and even an ‘Anglia sister’! 

The Anglia sisters! (July 2019)

It’s true that I don’t fit with what you might automatically think of when the words ‘battlefield tour guide’ are mentioned. Yes, I like to traipse around muddy fields and discuss the whys and wherefores of the First World War at length, but I also like to spend my time watching Disney films. I tend to bring down the age average amongst my guiding colleagues by a bit and am one of a few female guides, although fantastically there are increasing numbers which is cause for celebration! I am generally closer in age to the students than the people I guide with and I get allocated lots of tours with girl’s schools, unsurprisingly! However, I like to think that my unique combination of being young and female enables me to bring a different dimension to battlefield guiding. I hope that I can be a positive influence on the students I guide, particularly the young women and show them that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and persevere!

‘Til next time!

Beth

13 thoughts on “How I became a battlefield tour guide…

  1. Nice one Beth! So thankful of how you welcomed me into the Anglia fold and the unbreakable ‘Anglia sister’ bond that we have! Xx

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  2. It’s always been a pleasure to to be your ‘tour bus’ driver. You’re an inspiration to all. I’m so proud that you’ve achieved your goal. Mom x

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  3. Love this. What a great read abs hopefully you’ll inspire someone else to follow their dream. Well done Bethany.

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  4. That was Really interesting to read Beth. Well done, you should be proud of yourself! I know we are very proud of you.

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