Adaptable Travel Battlefield Tours - A Guides Perspective

ww1 battlefields tours from a guide perspective steve smith
November 6, 2022

The following guide is a perspective written by Steve Smith, Adaptable Travel WW1 Battlefields guide.

Introduction to Steve Smith, Battlefields Guide

steve smith guiding students on a school trip to belgium to explore the battlefield sites

I have been working as a battlefield guide for Adaptable Travel since 2010 and I have not contributed a blog to them since 2019.  So, seeing as we are now offering battlefield tours again, I thought it might be an idea to update you about where we are with that aspect of the tours we offer.

People often ask me what’s it like to be a battlefield guide and why do I do it. Secondly, I also get asked why do I guide for Adaptable Travel. So, I thought I’d answer those questions and also write about why you should consider booking a school battlefield tour with them.

I have been a badged battlefield guide with the Guild of Battlefield Guides since 2004. Since then, I have led adult and school tours, guiding groups of up to 71 and the smallest group was a historian and me where we looked at all aspects of the Western Front. With that in mind, I can state I have led tours looking at all the countries who fought in the Great War and, in particular, have written a book on the subject where I looked at the Norfolk Regiment on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918.

Here I walked the ground looking at all the areas where the five battalions that served in France and Flanders fought. So, that, mixed with guiding groups from Ypres to Verdun, has allowed me to become an extremely well-travelled battlefield guide!

However, with that said, being a battlefield guide is not just about having knowledge of a subject. There is far more to it than that. Certainly, being a guide for Adaptable Travel starts way before you would even set foot on a site you might visit.

Before Organising a Belgium Battlefields School Trip

ww1 graves in belgium with sunlight shining on graves

Prior to that, if you are the lead teacher for the group, I would correspond with you to see what you might like to see based on how many days we are out there for. I would want to know if there is anything I need to be aware of, that can be something simple like do any of the student have any dietary needs to more complicated things such as are there any medical issues I need to be aware of.

In today’s society there are a number of things I need to think about, for instance, I am a vegan, believe it or not, that can be a difficulty in France and Belgium, but with me knowing how things like that work out on the continent, I can help with that. It’s those little things, I feel, that I can do for you to make your life easier if you are taking a group of students over there.

Other things to consider are how much free time do you want? Do you want to visit any museums? Is there a theme to the tour, or does it follow a GCSE topic? All of these things I can accommodate for you on a tour.

So, as a team, I will help you with that and then with Kerry our Senior Operations Co-Ordinator we will put together and itinerary and book everything up for you.

Support On Tour

ww1 battlefield guide, steve smith, talking to students at the menin gate in ypres on a battlefields school trip

Once on the tour I am not just there to guide you to the battlefields. I am your tour manager, your navigator, your advisor and problem solver should an issue arise. Tours rarely come up against problems, but if they do, I am there to help. Those problems can be as simple as helping you to get to a supermarket to get more water for your students, or to help you find a dentist if a student gets toothache. Some guides may disagree with that sort of thing, but I am a retired police officer so a big part of my life saw me dealing with issues that needed solving. Therefore, as an Adaptable Travel guide, I am not just going to sit back and let you get on with it. That’s not in our ethos as a tour company.

I will work with you to ensure that your battlefield tour goes as smoothly as possible thereby allowing you to enjoy the tour and know that your students are getting the best out of the experience. As teachers have often remarked in the past, I allow them to concentrate on the students knowing that everything else is covered by me.


So, to conclude, let’s answer those questions.

What’s it like to be a battlefield guide?

Quite simply, it’s amazing. I get to do something I love and that’s also a passion of mine. My profession allows me to visit sites I used to read about as a kid and allows me to walk what is effectively hallowed ground to me.

Why do I do it?

I guide because I want to impart my knowledge of a subject I love with others. But I also do it to dispel myths about the Great War. A historian once said,

‘…let’s get it right for history’s sake’ and that’s exactly what I try and do on a battlefield tour.

I also do it to keep the memory of my Great Grandfather, Private G/5203, Frank Smith who served in both the 7th and 8th Battalion the Buffs (East Kent Regiment) in the Great War between 1915 and 1918 and who paid the ultimate sacrifice in March 1918.

Why do I guide for Adaptable Travel?

Because they are the best tour company I have worked with and they have been so supportive and appreciative of me over the years. I cannot stress enough that if you’re thinking of taking a school group on a battlefield tour that you’ll get a platinum service from them from start to finish, as well as the services of a top rate battlefield guide!

You can find out more more information about our Battlefields school trips here.