Major and Mrs Holt's
Battlefield Guide Books and Maps - Unique
Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide Books And Maps
Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide Books And Maps

Battlefield guide books and maps of the First & Second World Wars


THE AUTHORS

 

Tonie and Valmai Holt with some of their books

In Brief

Tonie and Valmai Holt have been writing since they were at school. Tonie Holt joined the British Army, graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and took a degree in Engineering. Valmai Holt studied at London University, graduated in French and Spanish and later taught History. They married in 1957. In the 1970s they founded Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Tours, the first organisation that offered such tours to the General Public. Later they re-organised and ran the Royal British Legion Pilgrimages. They are now full-time authors & have two children, Sian and Gareth, both of whom helped conduct battlefield tours and have two grandchildren, Jessica and Rebecca, both committed to the cause of Remembrance.

Tonie and Valmai with some of the 30 books that they have written

The Army

Following an army career of almost 20 years including graduation from the Army Staff College at Camberley and Technical Staff College at Shrivenham, Tonie Holt resigned his commission and he and Valmai became self-employed, starting a number of ventures. Writing continued.

The Beginning of Battlefield Tours

In 1977 one of their books, Till the Boys Come Home which looked at the First World War through its contemporary postcards, was highly praised by the London Times and was taken as a major choice by the Military Book Society.

Over lunch with the Managing Director of the Society the idea came up of running a tour for Society members to the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars and the Holts were appointed Military Consultants to the Society to carry out the idea. This the Holts did and so was born Major and Mrs Holts Battlefield Tours. At this time no other battlefield tour company existed, thus the Holts created a completely new industry with a company that went on to become the world leader in such travels, visiting countries as far afield as Viet Nam, the Falkland Islands, Egypt, India, China, Russia and the United States as well as sites all around Europe. They devised their own ‘time capsule’ method of presenting the battlefields with the imaginative use of sound recordings, contemporary material, poetry, letters, despatches etc. combined with solid research and extensive ‘recces’ on the ground. Thorough guide training was an important plank in their philosophy and the tours were renowned for their high standards of scholarship and comfort. En route to this development they were appointed Military Tours Consultants to British Airways as well as Military Consultants to the City of Portsmouth following their suggestion that a D Day Museum be established in the City.

The Royal British Legion

In the 1980s they were asked by the Royal British Legion to take over the running of Pilgrimages. This they did completely revising and updating the arrangements until the Pilgrimages were taken back under the Legion's wing when the Government re-instated financial help for family visits to loved-one's graves. In 1984, under the title "Reunion '84' they instigated and organised the first of the major re-unions associated with the events of D Day.

Battlefield Guide Books

At the beginning of the ‘90s the Holts sold their company in order to concentrate upon more writing and embarked upon a series of guide books that incorporated all that they had learned from conducting thousands of people around battlefields. This series, Major and Mrs Holts Battlefield Guide to …, incorporates detailed travel directions, military history and fascinating anecdotes collected over a quarter of a century. The books are designed as companions for travellers whether sitting at home or physically visiting the battlefields and are written from a male and female point of view, thus they are not all explosions and gun calibres but encompass the human element of war plus the literature and poetry too. The Holts, who share the writing of their books equally, do all their own research, an aspect which they particularly enjoy, spending many weeks on the ground as they prepare each new book.

Battlefield Maps

Uniquely the Holts also design and produce large scale battlefield maps to accompany the books. These maps accurately locate memorials, museums, cemeteries and places where particular actions took place. Printed in four colours there are colour-coded indexes making the maps easy to use and all the stops suggested in the guide books are given map references to the Holts’ map.

Established Battlefield Guide Books

The major 'single battlefield' guide books written so far are – Normandy D -Day Landing Beaches, Operation Market Garden, Arnhem, the Somme, Ypres and Gallipoli. The Somme and Ypres guide books are already in their sixth editons and are updated each time.
Recent Works
These include Major and Mrs Holt’s Concise Illustrated Guide to the Western Front in two parts – North and then South. North was published in 2003 and South in 2005 and between them they cover some 29 battles of the First World War. However many people asked for small volumes to use on short visits to the Somme and Ypres and in 2005 and 2006 Major and Mrs Holt's Pocket Guides to the Somme and to Ypres were published. In 2014 a much enlarged Western Front - North including GPS references for all locations was published and similarly their 'Defintive Guide to the Normandy D-Day Landing Beache's with some 500 described locations all with GPS was also published in 2014. Completing a trio of books for that year was an updated version of 'Till the Boys Come Home'.

Current Activities

At the moment they are working on the 7th edition of their guide book to the Somme and it will follow the others in that it too will include GPS references for all of the locations covered. All the books require a great deal of travelling and research on their part as they do not use researchers and also take their own photographs.
Some Other Qualifications and Experience
The Holts are Fellows of the Royal Society Of Arts, were long-time members of the Institute of Travel & Tourism, Members of the Kipling Society, have lectured extensively (e.g. at the National Army Museum, the V & A, the Cloth Hall in Ypres, the Historial at Péronne, numerous WFA Branches etc) and have often appeared on TV and radio talking about their books (such as their controversial book on John Kipling or the poetry of WW1) their unique collection of Bairnsfatherware and their tours. In recognition of their pioneer work in the field of battlefield guiding they have been created two of only four original Honorary Members of the Guild of Battlefield Guides (the late  David Chandler and Donald Featherstone being the other two). They are Honorary Citizens of Slidell, New Orleans (for their work in tourism in the area) and of Comines-Warneton, Belgium (for their work in honouring Bruce Bairnsfather). They were appointed members of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels by the State Governor of Louisiana and were made Aide de Camps to Congressman Robert E Livingston in recognition of their studies of US operations in Normandy in WW2. Most of all they are proud grandparents. They write their books because they feel that the memories of what happened and the markers on the battlefields need to be remembered and that determination was generously recognised by the Departement of the Somme who in 2014 presented each of them them with the Somme Centenary Medal - they were the only British awards, the others went to two French one German and one American recipients.


Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide Books And Maps