It is hard to imagine the unimaginable events that past generations went through. Members of our own families caught up in conflicts and placed in situations we hope are never repeated. We look at those family members and wonder what would we have done faced with those situations. Would we have been as brave? Would we have the stamina and courage to see things through? Would we have coped? It turns our thoughts and fascinations to discover more about their history, their stories, their struggles, their romances and their comrades in conflict.
Like me, many of the people I meet on my tours are searching for such understanding. They want to discover for themselves and see first hand where relatives and friends fought alongside each other. They want to hear the stories that go in to the detail of the actual battles and skirmishes that took place. They want to reach out and touch history to get a stronger connection with their past.
Like many, my interest in the Second World War started in childhood. As a small boy, I would sit and listen to true stories told by my grandparents, parents and uncles. They sounded exciting and terrifying at the same time. I would look up to my family as I sat there and still do today. I am a Scot. Born in Paisley, Scotland, but raised in Dunfermline, made famous as the burial place of Robert de Bruce. The Scots are a proud and patriotic race, and for hundreds of years have been at the forefront of the British army.
My uncle, Alexander Tomlinson, served with The Black Watch, Scotland’s oldest Regiment, from 1942 onwards. Fighting through North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, France and Belgium, the Black Watch were the first British soldiers to cross the Rhine, where my uncle was badly wounded and then spent over 2 years In hospital. He was one of the lucky ones. My uncle George Turnbull, served with the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy from where I now lead D-Day Landing Tours. He was killed on D-Day morning and is buried at Ranville cemetery, Bayeux. I am saddened by the fact that I never got the chance to meet him at an age where I could hear first hand what he had been through.
Other members of my family were also involved in the war effort outside of Europe. My Uncle Bob was captured by the Japanese in 1942. He was one of the very lucky survivors and was liberated in 1945. Closer to home, my grandfather Thomas was decorated by King George. He received the MBE, for his actions as a Fire Officer during WW11.
Normandy and the history of the D-Day Landings is my passion and I was able to move to Normandy in 2004 with my wife Michelle and my two sons to set up D-Day Landing Tours. Since those early days, we have given tours to four star generals, ex-combatants who actually fought on the landing beaches and the many generations of relatives and friends who feel a deep connection with these significant moments in history.
I am deeply grateful to my family and clients who allow me to share my passion with them and very proud of the feedback we receive.