Intro: Several weeks ago the webmaster announced that the was sanctioned to organize and lead the World War One historical Association’s June 2017 Eight-day Battlefield Pilgrimage. A few days ago the webmaster received the email below. For the benefit of all who might be considering participation on this tour, the webmaster is publishing the question and his reply: Sorry for the self-promotion, but it is important that participants understand who the organizer and primary tour guide is.
Father and Son Exploring a German Semaphore Position in the Argonne
Q: “I may be interested in the tour of the Meuse Argonne. My great grandfather described the area in his book West of the Meuse. Can you tell me a little more about your experience leading tours. I’ve never been to Europe and I guess I’m a little nervous.”
A: Thanks for reaching out to me. I can give you a summary in writing, but I would also encourage you to call me sometime this weekend. My cell number is 908.451.0252.
I have been visiting the battlefields of WW1 since 1986 and have been focused on the Meuse-Argonne since 1994. In total, I have visited the battlefields 20 times since 1986. This includes my own personal visits (usually combined with a work weekend with the German Group Deutsches Erinnerungskommittee Argonnerwald, www.argonnerwald.de) and groups that I have led.
I have led groups of various sizes over the years. On the small side, I spent three days showing a friend the places where his (German) great uncle fought around Verdun. I also took Stephen Skinner, his mother and my father on a tour in 1993; and I took members of my reenacting regiment on a tour of the places the regiment fought. On a larger scale, I was one of the organizers of the first Western Front Association–USA Branch tour in 1998. I worked on the marketing of that tour with Tony & Teddy Noyes of Flanders Tours. In 2007 I designed and led the second half (6 days) of the WFA–USA Branch’s tour of the Meuse-Argonne. We had over 40 participants on this tour. I encourage you to read the comments in the attached flyer that I have received from several of the participants / organizers.
If you really want, I can put you in touch with the authors directly. I did not script or change any of their comments.
Can you be more specific on your fears of travelling to Europe? Are you concerned about terrorism; are you concerned about the cultural differences; or are you concerned that you’ll end up over there, the trip will fall apart, and you’ll be on your own to figure out what to do?
Regarding terrorism, please see the post on my blog site: http://meuse-argonne.com/?p=1509
Regarding cultural differences, please see this section of my blog site: http://meuse-argonne.com/?page_id=239
Regarding fears of the trip falling apart: I can only stress that I have been travelling to the region for years and that I have many friends and contacts over there. On the reenacting regiment trip, one of the participant’s wives developed a urinary tract infection and her health continued to deteriorate. I really was afraid that we would be spending hours (or more) visiting the hospital in Verdun. Mr. & Mme. Labrosse of the Hotel du Commerce in Aubreville (where I have been staying since 1997) called a local physician who made a house call to the hotel on Friday night. He wrote a prescription and called the nearest pharmacy. They opened on Friday night so we could pick up the prescription; and the patient improved significantly the next day. All of our fears and misconceptions about the French healthcare system immediately went away.
I think I bring a very unique set of skills to the trip: I understand the history; I understand the location and culture; and I have a significant number of contacts “over there.” And this has been built up over years of travel to the area. (I would add that Paul Guthrie and John Snow, who are working with me on this trip, are also very experienced in this.
So please, feel free to call me this weekend if you would like to talk further.
Two more points: I am planning on living in France for several months in 2017 as a tour guide. That is why I designed the above flyer. Also, here is a link to my CV: http://meuse-argonne.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/WW1-CV-for-Randal-S-Gaulke-Version-February-2016.pdf.
(Here is a link to the general battlefield tour flyer that I rewarded to the reader: randytourflyermarch2016)
Randal S. Gaulke