Serjeant William Anderson MM & Bar | 8th Royal Scots

To quote Andy, William “was at all the worst places at the worst times”.

We journeyed south to France where we were met at Etaples by Andy and his faithful motorbike, affectionately named BIM (please ask why, one of many good stories).

It was there Andy delved into the history and causes of WW1 and the role my Great Grandfather William Anderson played in it, he also introduced us to the vital work carried out by the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)  both before and after the conflict.

Over the next three days, Andy, much like Hansel and Gretel with the breadcrumbs, scattered bits of information about William, who was part of the British expeditionary force,  and survived the war, winning a Military Medal and Bar for his efforts, there was even talk among his peers that his actions were deserving of a Victoria Cross.

William Anderson was one of the lucky ones, to say he saw some action is an understatement and to quote Andy “he was at all the worst places at the worst times”.

Our journey took us through significant sites like Arras, Gommecourt, Thiepval and Lochnagar Crater and eventually culminating in a memorable stay at a Gite on The Somme Battlefield at Beaumont Hamel where Geoffrey Malins first captured British soldiers on film.

Andy’s meticulous attention to detail, profound knowledge, infectious enthusiasm, and above all, deep respect for his subject matter were evident throughout the entire trip, never running out of facts and stories. I can only imagine the countless hours of research and planning this must have involved.

Day two commenced with a poignant visit to Newfoundland Park, Beaumont Hamel, the site of the Monument to The 51st Highland Division, A very special place where my Great Grandfather would have seen action.

We visited numerous cemeteries, including German ones, to gain a global perspective on the scale of loss.  Andy humorously dubbed them “abc” or (another bloody cemetery) and the sheer scale of loss of life begins to sink in, whether it be rows and rows of immaculate white headstones or names of soldiers on memorial walls with no known graves, Andy would always have at least one story at each cemetery, each more poignant than the next, often leaving us with tears as we reflected on the lives lost.

Next we visited Caterpillar cemetery and High wood (a very eerie place) where William earned his 2nd Military Medal during The Battle of the Somme; we were able to stand on or near where he fought. We then visited a nearby cemetery and the resting place of an 18 year old fallen comrade of Williams also in 'D' Company. We were able to pay our respects and place a small wooden cross at his graveside (provided by Andy, he really does think of everything).

Each stop along the way Andy asks for feedback by way of Trip Advisor scores, each stand (in my opinion) has to be an impressive 5* or 10 out of 10.

The following day we arrived at what looked like an unremarkable ploughed field in the small village of Bois Grenier.  Andy had found the site of the actions leading to Williams 1st Military Medal and was able to unveil the story behind it, truly remarkable. We were then taken to nearby cemetery where we were shown the grave of the officer William and his comrade were trying to save and again we were humbled and able to show our respects.

In Ypres we were joined by my uncle Alexander (Williams Grandson) and his wife Janice. Our final evening was marked by a touching Last Post Ceremony where three generations of Williams’s family were able to participate, culminating in a heartfelt wreath-laying and citation reading by my uncle. What an honour it was for us, we were all overwhelmed with emotions and pride for William and all who  served in  WW1, I don’t mind saying tears were shed, what a privilege to be able to remember.

A good meal and lots of wine followed at a wonderful restaurant, again recommended by Andy.

As if that wasn’t enough we concluded our journey with breakfast at Talbot House where again Andy is a familiar face and known as “The General”. The story of Philip “Tubby” Clayton is inspiring and Talbot house is a special place to visit, they also serve a lovely cooked breakfast. 

If you are thinking of embarking on a battlefield tour I highly recommend you do it, you won’t be disappointed.

And as Andy wisely says “nobody ever wins a war”, a poignant reminder of the lasting impact of conflict..'



© The-Charabanc 2023 | Web advisory -

We need your consent to load the translations

We use a third-party service to translate the website content that may collect data about your activity. Please review the details in the privacy policy and accept the service to view the translations.