Paul Reed: Making Last Heroes of the Somme

Aside from working as Head Battlefield Guide for Leger Holidays I have also been involved as an advisor and contributor to television documentaries for the past fifteen years.

I work regularly with former BBC Producer John Hayes Fisher, and together we have made documentaries like Last Day of WW1 with Michael Palin, Dig WW2 with Dan Snow and WW1 Tunnels of Death about battlefield archaeology in Flanders.

The crew on location

My job as part of this is make sure the history is right, find John some good locations to film, some interesting stories to tell, and source interesting contributors to work with. John then does the hard work of turning it all into a television programme, and we are also lucky to work with first class crews who also help make that possible; the hard work and professionalism of cameramen and sound crews are often overlooked.

Filming graves on the Somme

The current project, which will be broadcast at 7pm on Channel 4 on 13th November, is entitled Last Heroes of the Somme. Much of the TV coverage of Somme100 this year focussed on the beginning of the battle and 1st July, when so many died. But we thought it would be interesting to look at the end of the battle in November 1916 especially as Remembrance Sunday fell on the centenary of the Battle of the Ancre.
We spent the first few months of working on the programme out on the battlefields; walking and driving around the area associated with the attack on 13th November; from Serre in the north to near Thiepval in the south. This gave some ideas of how it would be filmed and also valuable time to think about potential stories, which soon lead us to contact our extensive network of WW1 experts.

Filming at Theipval

We knew tanks had been used in the battle and thanks to WW1 Tank expert Stephen Pope we were able to trace the story of a tank that helped save the day at St Pierre Divion on 13th November, and find a relative of one of the crew who died. Using modern mapping technology, we were even able to work out where the tank had come to grief having broken through the German trenches.

Martin Miles whose ancestor died with the tanks in 1916

Back in the 1990s I had carried out a lot of research on the Hull Pals, and following some trips back to the city we quickly realised that their attack at Serre on 13th November 1916 had been as deadly for them as for the Accrington, Barnsley, Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield lads on the same spot on 1st July. Incredibly we found 100-year-old Muriel in Hull, whose father had died at Serre in that very attack; one of the last handful of children whose father had died in the Great War. Her part of the story is very moving indeed.

Filming the graves on the Somme

We filmed the programme in some of the hottest weather this summer but it made the Somme battlefields look stunning, and the drone footage we took as part of the filming certainly does some justice to how the battlefields look today. It was good to work with so many old friends on the project too, such as contributors and researchers like Professor Peter Doyle and Rob Schaefer (who guides our Fritz and Tommy tours). I was also able to bring in the Stockdale family from Kent; Frank Stockdale is a former tank driver who I have known for many years and his great uncle was killed in the 13th November 1916 battle at Hamel. He brought his young family over and as part of the film we were able to shed new light on what had actually happened to him; showing that we still really do have new things to learn about the Great War.

The Stockdale family at Theipval

Making television programmes is not as easy as it may appear to some (just like battlefield guiding!), but in Last Heroes of the Somme I hope we have done justice to the often-forgotten end of the Battle of the Somme and shown that you can make a family history programme involving ordinary people without having to use celebrities; after all the Great War was in essence about ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances, and honouring that legacy is as important on the screen as when we do it on battlefield tours.


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Paul Reed, our Head Battlefield Guide, will publish regular blogs including personal stories, new tour updates and plenty of interesting and factual information about the Battlefields of Europe and beyond. Sign up below and receive email alerts keeping you up to date with Paul’s blogs.


5 of the Best Firework Displays around the World

Fireworks, love them or hate them, they’re going to be a big part of this weekend as the country gets together to celebrate Bonfire Night.

But when done properly, firework displays can be pretty spectacular. Lighting up the night’s sky in a kaleidoscope of colours, creating some of the most entertaining shows on earth.
So, as many places across the UK set the sparks going and host their own bonfires, if you’ve decided to keep snug and stay indoors, why not read about some of our favourite firework displays from around the world?


As one of the first countries in the world to welcome in the New Year, you can be sure to count on Australia to see it in with a bang.
And one of the most iconic sights of New Year’s Eve is seeing the Sydney Harbour lit up with a dazzling display of pyrotechnics, right as we wake up on NYE itself.
We might not be there for the fireworks, but if you’re thinking ahead to welcome in 2018 in style, we’re heading off on our inaugural tour of Oz in February on our Discover Australia tour.


Now, what’s better than tying in an impressive firework display with the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo?
Following the incredible performances, put on by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth, international bands and display teams, weather permitting, each show concludes with one spectacular firework show. Designed to get the maximum impact from within the stands, if you’re heading to the Tattoo itself, you’ll be in prime position to catch the fireworks in all their glory!
And, that’s what we call going out with a bang.


Bastille Day is not only France’s national holiday, it’s also the biggest party of the year! Celebrating the day in which the Bastille prison was stormed, helping to spark the French Revolution.
The 14th of July sees Paris light up from with spectacular display direct from the Eiffel tower! The iconic monument comes alive as multi-coloured fireworks burst from the structure in all directions. You can be sure the Parisians know how to put on a show and this is one that won’t disappoint.
The firework display itself lasts around 35 minutes, and for a free show, that’s pretty impressive.

Rhine in Flames

The biggest event on the middle Rhine. On five incredible nights throughout the summer, the Rhine Valley comes alive, and it’s a real firecracker.
The sky above the glittering waterways of the River Rhine are illuminated by a medley of colours. And what better way to enjoy it than being in the thick of the action?
Join our 4-day Rhine in Flames Festival tour and watch the procession of boats glide through the valley as the sky lights up in a spectacular show. We’ve got you covered from all angles.

Disneyland Paris

Of course, when it comes to magnificent firework displays, we can’t forget the magic kingdom. One of the most iconic firework displays in the world that takes place every night as part of the Dreams parade and it’s something both kids and adults can enjoy.
It’s said that Disneyland (although focused American counterpart) spend around $50,000 on fireworks every night! And, we’d expect our closest neighbour to spend in the same region. Now, that’s A LOT of fireworks to enjoy.
And, to go one step beyond, Disneyland even put on an extra special display for Mickey’s Magical Bonfire and Fireworks Spectacular, they say it’s a place where dreams come true, and if you dream of picture-perfect firework displays, this is certainly the place to be.
Do you have a favourite firework display? Let us know in the comments.