Why I became a Commonwealth War Graves Guide: Hannah’s Story

Go behind the scenes of Commonwealth War Graves Guide life with Hannah Stone who shares her experiences from her time working in France this autumn.

Commonwealth War Graves Guides’ experience

Hannah shares her knowledge with her fellow Guides.

About Hannah

About Hannah

I’m Hannah Stone and I was a Commonwealth War Graves Guide in France working at Thiepval and the CWGC Experience in 2022.

I’m 24 and I am from Ellesmere Port, and I studied history at the University of Plymouth.

Now that my time as a guide is coming to an end, I’m hoping to go into teaching history at a secondary level, and to use what I have learnt as a guide to help students learn and connect with the soldiers who fought over 100 years ago.

Why Did Hannah Apply To be a Guide?

Being a guide is super exciting and a really rewarding experience, with one of the most impactful aspects being when you reunite visitors with their family members listed on the memorial.

You will have a range of reactions from tears, to an emotional disconnect and stiff upper lip, to happiness at finally being able to connect to a long-lost relative and everything in between.

Each visitor has a unique reaction to the site, one of the most memorable for me, being a group of visitors from the Canadian Military Police who had come to visit a former member who was commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Their visit coincided with a large group of other Canadian visitors who then watched and took part in the service they held for their former comrade, and it was extremely moving to witness.

Hannah and her colleagues sharing the stories of the fallen.

Along with interacting with visitors at Thiepval, giving tours is one of the best aspects of the role, you can go into depth on both the Battle of the Somme and the work of the CWGC.

Each tour is also unique as each visitor has a different interest and the focus in the site and this will be reflected in the questions that you are asked and change the direction of the tour.

While most of your time will be spent at Thiepval, you also will also be spending your time at the CWGC Experience. Working here gives you a chance to inform visitors of the work and history of the CWGC, and you’ll find giving tours here is really useful as you take bits from each tour and include them in the other.

Visitors at both Thiepval and the CWGC Experience will often approach you with a range of information on a family member they know served during the First World War, at first that may seem daunting, but you quickly learn new research skills and can find a soldier and information about him based on even limited information.

It always makes your role feel worthwhile when you can present visitors with an explanation of what happened to their relatives during the war, and this inspired me to look into my own family history in more detail.

While I knew I had an Uncle Sam who was killed in the Frist World War, I didn’t know much more than that, I used the research skills I had learnt looking into soldiers for visitors for my own family and was able to piece together Sam’s experiences during the war.

I found out that he fought nearby near the River Ancre close to Thiepval and found he had been buried near Ypres in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery.

I repeated the experience of many visitors to the war Memorial and went with my mother to be the first person from our family to visit his grave. I recommend any guide investigates their own family history in the war while they are over here as it is so rewarding.

Hannah’s top Guide tips

In addition to researching your family history here are some of my top tips:

The main thing is to enjoy your time here and make the most of it, your time as a guide will go super-fast, often more quickly than you’d like, so make sure you appreciate the time you do have, have fun, and you’ll learn a lot.

Want to become a Commonwealth War Graves Guide? Apply today

We are looking for some exceptional individuals to join us as Guides (formerly Interns) in 2023.

We are currently recruiting from across the UK, Belgium, and France for this unique opportunity. 

Discover more about the role below and follow this link to our Careers page for more information on how to apply.

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