Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
Major and Mrs. Holt's Concise
Guide to the Western Front -North (vol one), South (vol
by Major Holt, Pen & Sword, 2004, 2006
Reviewed by George Geib
Tourism, aided by easy Chunnel access, has
made World War One's Western Front a significant British tourist
destination. The battlefields, cemeteries, and memorials of the
Great War are a busy place.
While it always helps to know Flemish or French, neither are
necessary to visit Ieper (French Ypres, British slang Wipers),
Vimy, or the Somme where English is the second language. If you're
planning such a trip, you'll quickly encounter Tonie and Valmai
Holt. The Holts have driven all the fields, and provide detailed
maps and directions to take you on the roads and tracks that cross
them. (They assume you brought your car from Britain, and provide
all their distances in miles rather than kilometers.)
They miss very little. Tiny cemeteries, roadside shrines, wall
plaques, and local amenities are all here (and keep in mind there
are well over 100 cemeteries maintained just by the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission.). Be aware that their guides can send you to
some moving experiences that are off the main paths: their advice
at the Somme took us to the Devonshire Trench Cemetery and the 38th
(Welsh) Division Memorial. Surprisingly few sites retain the "feel"
of the trenches (the Holts will steer you to them), and cemeteries
and memorials far outnumber museums.
The Holts admire valor and sacrifice, and they will tell you why
those sites deserve respect. Two weeks and nearly a thousand
kilometers of driving last summer from Ieper to St. Mihiel with the
Holts convinced me they are the guides of choice. Take them with
you when you go back to the Front.
- George Geib is a professor of history at Butler