Sunday, 29 January 2012

Battlefield tourism

The rise of personal visitors to the battlefields of the Great War in the post-war world is a phenomenon of mass tourism; with numerous visitors to the Ypres Salient, French Flanders and the downland of Artois and Picardy, easily accessible by steamer and road or rail from Britain. Ex-soldiers advertised their services as guides, and larger companies, such as Thomas Cook and America Express ran tours. It was not long before specialist guidebooks started to appear, those produced by the Michelin Company being most celebrated. Contemporary Ward Lock, Baedecker and Blue guides all make reference to the battlefields, with pointers of where to stay and what to see. Maps and guides to the ‘Western battlefields’ like the one illustrated proliferated; many were carried by the families of those who fell. Each one has a poignant tale, no doubt.

Peter Doyle is an author and military historian; details of some of his work can be found on his website Peter Doyle Military History.

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