Opportunity Knocks… Again! From blogging to the small screen.

I’ve found that blogging has opened no end of doors for me whether it be writing books and articles, my tour company or being invited onto the radio or television however I must admit that I wasn’t expecting what happened last Friday morning when I routinely checked my email as I do working from home, almost on a minute by minute basis.

There was an email from a gentleman working in a senior position at the Commonwealth War Graves Committee who had seen my various blog posts about my relation Reuel Dunn who fought the Red Baron in WW1.

My Lest We Forget WW1 concise history book promo video

I immediately gave him a call as he seemed a nice chap and was very interested in Reuel and what I had done.  We talked for nearly half an hour though it could have been much more if we both didn’t have urgent work to attend to.

It was explained to me that the CWGC who oversee all such military cemeteries were already aware of Reuel and it being almost the 100th anniversary of his fateful encounter with Baron Von Richthofen, they wanted to raise public awareness of the larger battle that he was just a small part of and there are few more famous names in history than the Red Baron to do so.     As a non-profit making organisation, they also wanted a way to demonstrate how the general public can use their website and other services to track down family members, often with only the most brief of details which is of course exactly what I had done.

It transpired that the CWGC might like to meet me in March and making film me in some way to mark the event and kill two birds with one stone.

This sounded tremendously excited as I was wondering how I myself might mark the 100th anniversary on this blog and in the real world and there were various possibilities muted including filming at my house, local museums or even going over to the Western Front to make a short documentary film there.

My In The Footsteps of Heroes book promo video

We ended the call and I tried to give the distinct impression that I was very flexible and enthusiastic to do anything before spending much of the day thinking about what might transpire.

Another surprise email or two later that night and Saturday night and I found myself being invited to France on Sunday.  It all sounded a bit mad to be honest which Tim at the CWGC admitted himself.  To go to Lille with just a few hours notice and meet someone I didn’t know at a place I had never been to and with no return ticket to do…. who knows what?

I always say how I am up for adventure and whatever opportunity comes my way so at 7am on Sunday morning, I made my way first to London and then onwards to northern France.  It was all a little surreal and it made me think of Lawrence of Arabia going off to meet an unknown contact in the desert somewhere, to do… who knows what?

img_4406

A classic car outside a deserted early morning St. Pancras Station in London.

My contact was a little late due to prior filming commitments but after wandering around the heavily armed precincts of Lille station, we met up and immediately hit it off.  Minutes later we were driving down towards Arras.   Tim was even more fantastic than I thought and with a life time in the media and history/politics was a very interesting colleague but I’d like to think that I had made an impression of my own.16831992_776900329129961_3613566377135056495_n.jpg

We went to a number of places that I had been to 3 years earlier as well as a few that were new to me.  I have a feeling that they only expected me to say a few words but typically of me, I threw myself wholeheartedly into it all and rather than giving 10 second takes, ended up chatting for 3 or 4 minutes at a time about everything and anything.  At one point I found myself driving along and talking to the camera in the front seat, explaining where we were going and why as if I were a professional presenter or documentary maker.  I guess conducting all my tours and chatting away has given me an unusual skill-set!

Your rather youthful looking 43-year-old blogger... if I might say so myself.

Your rather youthful looking 43-year-old blogger… if I might say so myself.

We kind of winged the whole day and did various takes as not only will the video be on the official CWGC website but it is hoped we might even make BBC news!   It was quite an amazing day and Tim himself said it was an adventure and a crazily fantastic day.  I remember laughing a lot and making Tim laugh too, even at the grave of Reuel and I’m sure after 100 years, he must have had fun too if he was watching.

We progressed to various little-known places through little more than my memory and vague hunches which incredibly paid off well and allow me to keep up my tradition of never getting lost with my homing pigeon like sense of direction.

 

16831965_776900409129953_7733042630257756130_n

I look after one of the cameras as all the gear is unloaded from the car.

 

At one cemetery we went to, we visited the grave of a flyer named Charles who had witnessed Reuel and his plane.  Sadly Charles too died 3 weeks later at the tail end of what is known as Bloody April.  Tim had done some research on that day and it was really interesting to learn a little more of what happened.  That cemetery was interesting too for it had French civilians, French and North African troops, British and Commonwealth and also several Germans buried there too and all under the shadow of a volcano like slag-heap, one of many that litter that corner of France.

Fighter pilot Charles F. De Berigny of the Royal Flying Corps who claims he shot up the plane of the Red Baron upon the plane of my relation Reuel Dunn crash land near Givenchy-En-Gohelle. Charles was sadly killed in action 3 weeks later.

Fighter pilot Charles F. De Berigny of the Royal Flying Corps who claims he shot up the plane of the Red Baron upon the plane of my relation Reuel Dunn crash land near Givenchy-En-Gohelle. Charles was sadly killed in action 3 weeks later.

French military graves from WW1 in the foreground with 2 Algerian or Moroccan graves on the right next to the local communal cemetery under the shadow of a large heap of waste materials.

French military graves from WW1 in the foreground with 2 Algerian or Moroccan graves on the right next to the local communal cemetery under the shadow of a large heap of waste materials.

At one point we attracted a local family who if my French understood correctly, took part in the new war film Dunkirk and who gave me warm and possibly slightly inebriated hugs as a thank-you to Reuel, Charles and no doubt over a million others.

Driving to the battle site of April 2nd 1917.  A good a place as any to perfect my talk-to camera when driving on the wrong side of the road approach to filming!

Driving to the battle site of April 2nd 1917. A good a place as any to perfect my talk-to camera when driving on the wrong side of the road approach to filming!

 

This grave is of an unfortunate German soldier in a British cemetery who sadly died 6 weeks after the end of the war, likely due from a serious injury or possibly disease.

This grave is of an unfortunate German soldier in a British cemetery who sadly died 6 weeks after the end of the war, likely due from a serious injury or possibly disease.

 

Rather frozen, hungry, and quite needing the toilet, we made our way back to Calais where we were to drive onto the train under the sea before driving back along to London.   There were 2-hour delays at passport control but funnily, considering what I wrote a few days, the time just flew as we chatted and laughed the night away and funnily enough Lawrence of Arabia came up in conversation several times.

It will take a few weeks to edit the film and there is a good possibility we will do something else before April but it is a reminder of what can happen if you can get your blog in front of the right people at the right time.  I was just glad to go back to Reuel on this special year and talk about something I know a little about with some passion.  I’ve been told that I will be able to use the finished film too so hopefully you will see it here on the 2nd April 2017.

Driving in the train that will take us under the English Channel

Driving in the train that will take us under the English Channel

 

Below is a brief video diary of my day out filming in France.

Advertisements

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in history, Travel, WW1 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Opportunity Knocks… Again! From blogging to the small screen.

  1. Thanks for this timely and inspiring look at serendipity concerning WW1. My grandfather John J Carew from Medford Massachusetts served there and it has always touched my life. I was given a pointed helmet that he brought home with him. I believe it to be Prussian. You have inspired me to find out all I can about the sacrifice made by all these who served and changed the world.
    Peace Ken

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you manage to find out some information about his time there. I have quite a few posts on my blog about that war and of course my WW1 book Lest We Forget.

      I’ve just added a short video diary of the day to the bottom of the paste which I hope you will enjoy.

      That is incredible about the helmet, it must be quite valuable today. I have a few articles myself but not one of those.

      Many thanks for your comment Ken.

      Like

  2. Steven that’s amazing and a lovely experience

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mel & Suan says:

    Wow this is indeed wonderful! Yes you really never know what doors will open!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing, you seem to live a charmed life. I look forward to seeing the video sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, as the film titles goes it is certainly a Life Less Ordinary but then I really didn’t like the mundane and unfulfilling school-work life of the first 39 years. This one is much more unpredictable for good and bad but I am enjoying the ride!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Malla Duncan says:

    What an amazing opportunity! That’s fantastic. I always admire your passion for history – and especially the so often forgotten sacrifices of the two World Wars. Excellent stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Malla. We are doing a second shoot on Thursday though sadly much more local. I mapped out a new walking tour today and did a video too of various places including the National Firefighters Memorial and hope to do a blog post soon. An amazing walk which ties in WW2, Braveheart, Lenin and Stalin, the Crusaders, Dickens, Samuel Johnson and Sweeney Todd. Even I was a bit shocked at all that in 2 miles.

      I do mean to write a WW2 book one day, maybe in time for 2019.

      Like

  6. Boyer Writes says:

    I am so excited for your opportunity. As you have now become aware, I believe that as we stretch to meet life, God opens doors that we never believed possible. As you talked about going to meet someone…somewhere…who knows?…it brought back my thoughts of going by myself to Ukraine to teach in Donetsk Christian University (now occupied by the Russian sympathizers in a war zone). It is a bit scary, but in the long run, a great adventure. I’ll look forward to seeing more about this new endeavor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank-you. I firmly believe in not wasting any opportunity. Normally if something is a bit scary, it is commensurate to the reward and satisfaction upon doing so. I thought to myself that there were chances I’d be robbed or that it was all an elaborate hoax but then I would just come home again so I’d only lose a little money and a day of my life. As it happens it was one of the best days I can remember for years and we are set for more filming tomorrow!

      Like

  7. jml297 says:

    What a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to commemorate your family’s part in such a momentous event. Thank you for sharing your journey with your readers 😊.

    Like

  8. Pingback: My Film With The CWGC For The 100th Anniversary of Reuel Dunn & The Red Baron | Stephen Liddell

A blog is nothing with out feedback, please give me some!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s