Skylark Battlefield Tours

Skylark Battlefield Tours has been providing bespoke tours of the Great War battlefields of France and Belgium since 1998 and with just a few tours left on the books beyond the 100 year anniversary of the Armistice, it is now time to take my demobilisation papers. No further tours will be offered.

A rough estimate of 15,000 people have been taken to France and Belgium over the years, groups and individuals from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, Germany, USA, Japan, China and India.

All followed in the footsteps of a diverse mix of regiments and battalions with each tour blending a unique personal intimacy of military, social and family history.

To recount them all here is impossible, however, there is one experience I will always remember, in the silence that followed a reading of poetry at the author’s grave on the Somme in France, a skylark rose in full song above our heads and a distant village bell began to toll. From behind me a voice whispered, ‘How did you arrange that!’

Artefact based history days for museum education services, schools and colleges all over the country will also now cease after reaching an estimated 55,800 students and adults. Content centred on the everyday life of the soldier on the Western Front with additional specialist subjects including the development of artillery, gas and battlefield communications. A separate presentation told the story of the medical services and advances in surgery and care of the wounded.

What next?

What began as a hobby in the 1970s to become a part time job in the 80s and full time since

the 90s now changes direction on semi-retirement to further research and involvement in local

history projects.

Before and after

Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network featuring material from the project

Janie Lightfoot Textiles London

Janie Lightfoot

Ely Museum, The Old Gaol, Market Street

Ely Museum


Andrew Spooner

My current project is creating a database of the inhabitants of Chatteris, Cambridgeshire in 1939. Preparations for war and the receiving of evacuees produced a complete survey of the town and surrounding fen with each property listed with the name of the main occupant, number of habitable rooms, number of present occupants and potential space for evacuated children, adults and others.

The Billeting Officer retained his receipt books with names of those caring for evacuees, the payments made to host families and, most importantly, the names of evacuees.

The data will eventually become available at Chatteris Museum during 2019 to mark the 80th anniversary

There will be a link with further information soon

I recently assisted in a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project to create a digital memorial to lost on the Somme with the 11th (Cambridgeshire) Battalion Suffolk Regiment.

‘Sons of Cambridgeshire’ concentrated on those serving with the Battalion on July 1st 1916. Originally devised by Gordon Phillips, Nicky Stockman and managed by Joanne Gray on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council the project involved communities and individuals from all parts of the county.

An unexpected outcome was being made aware of the condition of the King’s Colour presented to the Battalion in 1919. It had been laid up in Ely cathedral but had been removed from its current position and was in real danger of rapidly deteriorating beyond any future care.

Within the HLF funding for the original project was money to have the colour cleaned, stabilised and framed. I submitted a report and sought permission from the Ministry of Defence.

Permission granted, Jessica Burgess of Janie Lightfoot Textiles in London undertook the work to clean and stabilise the Colour to an exceptional standard.

The Colour was formally handed over to Ely Museum on the 15 July 2018.