Hi Clive and Jack [WFA Chairman's Tour expert guides],
I must apologise for taking so long to email to thank you both for another fantastic Chairman's Tour this year. Although we have been travelling the battlefields for many years now, no previous tour compares with the two Chairman's Tours we've been on with you, both in 2013 and again this year. To have a view from both sides of No Man's Land alters perceptions of the conflict and adds a whole new dimension both to our knowledge of the events of the Great War and of those who fought on both sides. I do hope we will be able to continue this annual pilgrimage which is so important to our remembering and so very much appreciated by all who are fortunate enough to secure a place on the tour. The opportunity afforded to participants to share their story is wonderful. To hear Paula read her poem to Great-Uncle Tom and to share Fae's research and her remembrance of her grandfather and be able to visit the place where he died was very moving. This has become a much over-used expression of late, but is so true of these visits.
As we stood beside the River Aisne at Venizel this year where Jack read the account from the German Regimental History and then be able to read the extract from the 2nd Essex War Diary which dovetailed exactly with the German account brought home to me just what can be achieved in recalling the events from one hundred years ago. Although much has been lost by way of archives both in Germany and at home, there is still a wealth of material out there and we are all indebted to you Jack for all your work on the German histories. This was an area which was very much a closed book to most of us before you began your writing.
The sense of cameraderie is excellent, although many of this year's group were previous pilgrims, those who were travelling for the first time were quick to share their knowledge and expertise with other participants. The knowledge of members of our Association never ceases to amaze me and all are willing to share and help others. Congratulations to you Clive for engendering this spirit on all of your tours and thanks to you both for being willing to always be "on duty" and answer endless questions over dinner even when you've been working hard all day.
Lastly please pass on our thanks to David, our driver this year, who couldn't do enough to help everyone and whose driving skills were second to none.
We will be booking our places for next year's tour shortly, and even though some of the ground to be covered already forms part of our Branch Tour with you in June, Clive, we want to travel again to experience Jack's input.
Our sincere thanks to you both again for an unforgettable four days.
With best wishes from Steve and I
WFA Essex Branch