|British Sky Tours||
' Life is a journey, so I decided to travel first class,' Noel Coward.
*** SKY TOURS STORY ***
The Channel Island of Alderney and the 1066 Battlefield in Sussex
FROM PARACHUTES AND HUEYS TO THE MAYFAIR DOVE
Adrian Hill joined the paratroops at 17 and by 19 was an officer in the Royal Engineers. After the Army he served with Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service for almost 30 years. He jokes that he saw more wars and combat as a diplomat - India/Pakistan 1965, Cyprus and the Middle East 1966-1968, South Vietnam 1969-1971, Northern Ireland 1971-1974 and later South Korea. Following retirement he became an author, then Chief Executive of a major industry association and Member of the CBI Council, before he retired again and took the London Tourist Board examinations as a tour guide and later became a member of the Institute of Tourist Guiding. He is married with two grown children.
Adrian founded British Sky Tours after working as a guide for a private tour company with a Mayfair address in London. Although he learnt much, particularly from the most experienced guides, observing his fellow tour guides dressed like office clerks for escorting families on holiday outings left him as bemused as their clients, mostly American. More significant, at least two layers of middlemen were involved with every booking - the inevitable result, the overseas visitors forked out the tour's actual cost twice over. This didn't strike him as the proper way to greet valued tourists and determined Adrian to create his own, more prestigious tour operation. He began by taking overseas visitors from one end of the British Isles to the other, showing them places off the beaten track, such as the remote far north of Scotland.
Silbury Hill - largest pyramid north of Egypt and older than its sisters in Ghiza.
Where travel is concerned, nothing beats first hand experience. Adrian has sailed in Royal Navy frigates and Italian cruise liners, flown on every outfit from US Ranger helicopter gun-ships in Vietnam to the Royal Flight, and travelled by every means on land from ambassador's limousine to an Afghan pony. John Esmonde-White has served in Europe and all over the Gulf complete with Arab head gear as part of his uniform. He's sailed cruising yachts around Europe from Normandy to Cape Trafalgar off southern Spain - he was there for the 200th anniversary of Nelson's great victory. Both were experienced at making contacts and the diplomacy of building a team and network. Today all our visitors benefit.
APART FROM THE JOB - VIP VISITORS BY THE SCORE
When not serving in trouble spots Adrian planned and escorted royal visits overseas - Princess Ann's two weeks at the Seoul Olympic Games definitely the most memorable - visits by British Prime Ministers, countless visits by ministers, politicians, prominent businessmen, also film stars. Along the way he met his wife in Switzerland and was Director of the British Information Services across Canada for almost five years. He was part of the UK team for two G7 Summits. Despite a heavy workload in South Korea, other jobs came his way- such as arranging two tours by the Royal Opera House, another by the Royal Ballet, plus as Britain's Olympic Attaché all on the spot arrangements for Britain's 1988 Olympic Team at the Seoul Games, not to mention a great deal of the preparation for a media contingent stronger than the team. Adrian greatly enjoyed once again working with the US Army on security for the Olympic Games.
Today at British Sky Tours we provide our visitors with the same relaxed style of comfort and organisation enjoyed by the Royal Family when they travel. We treat you like royalty.
Spithead and Portsmouth Harbour
WHY SKY TOURS
The idea of a sky tour to the Normandy D Day landing grounds and assault beaches crystallised while flying on air rallies to the Channel Islands with an old friend from Army parachuting days.
Close friends since their time in Cyprus, Dick Nesbitt-Dufort, a helicopter pilot instructor, after leaving the Army became a flying champion, winning national events for precision flying. Adrian often flew with Dick on air rallies - a kind of reconnaissance test from small planes - hosted by flying clubs in the Channel Islands and France.
During these competitions they passed over many of the places shown on this website, looking for obscure objects on the ground while obeying a split second time-table. Thanks to Dick's airmanship they invariably finished with a high score - but also through employing the same techniques they had used on combat missions over such places as Borneo and Vietnam. Dick was generally regarded as among the best helicopter pilots of his generation in the Army Air Corps. He and Adrian were Army parachute instructors, therefore used to picking up landmarks and recognising ground features with the mark one eyeball rather than modern GPS systems.
Their route out and home passed over the invasion beaches. One summer afternoon, flying along the Normandy coast, the idea came that many other people might enjoy the same spectacular flight. There followed a lot of research, diplomacy and organisation on both sides of the Channel.
Flying adds a spectacular dimension to any holiday exploring the British Isles, makes possible easy cross-Channel visits, even day tours to the Continent - and by employing their old military skills, particularly for panoramic viewing, brings alive battlefields and the sweep of Europe's history. The idea was to bring places such as the Normandy beaches within reach of a day tour from Central London. Moreover, seeing a historic site from the air, particularly a battlefield, adds another dimension and helps a visitor to understand far better what was involved when they explore on the ground.
There were other realms where he wanted British Sky Tours in a different league. Military history is probably more deeply understood and possibly better explained by those with an academic bent who have worn a uniform and experienced combat: presently Dick is reading for a degree in archaeology. Adrian is rare as a former British soldier who has been in combat with the US Army and the US Marine Corps and the South Vietnamese Airborne. Contrary to popular myth, Adrian reckons that by 1969 the American Army had become extremely competent at counter-insurgency and controlled the countryside in South Vietnam. He was there when the war crossed the borders of South Vietnam into Cambodia and Laos. Whatever one thinks about that strategy there is no question that South Vietnam became a much less dangerous country by 1970/1971 where you could travel safely from the Mekong Delta to the DMZ unless you deliberately chose to go into a war zone along the borders. John has served with Americans on NATO combined staffs. This helps when researching and explaining the D Day landings and battles of World War Two.
THAT SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
America and Britain may be staunch allies whose armed forces work together but those forces have different ways of doing similar jobs. This leads to debate sometimes! And the atmosphere in America's and Britain's armed forces although similar is not the same. You have to experience this at the sharp end to understand and explain these subtleties. Moreover, having joined the paratroops at 17 years old, not only was his first overseas exercise a night landing on Utah Beach, but his officers and NCOs included many veterans of Sicily, D Day, Arnhem and the Rhine Crossing. His first Royal Engineers squadron commander had been among the Argonaut - the original 500 trained as paratroops after Winston Churchill gave the order to raise an airborne force. Some, including his brigade commander, the legendary Johnnie Frost, had jumped at Bruneval and North Africa. The chaplin, Ron Cox, ministering to Adrian's squadron of Royal Engineers, had landed with the first wave of assault troops on Sword Beach on D Day. Adrian knew Field Marshal Montgomery, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lord Shimi Lovat who led the Commandos at Dieppe and on D Day, Admiral Teddy Gueritz, then a young Lieutenant Commander, who landed on Sword Beach to find his boss dead and himself instantly promoted to beachmaster - he stayed on the beach and under fire for another 19 days until severely wounded. General Tony Younger as a Major led 26 Assault Squadron RE - the specialised tanks that came ashore on D day - and on retirement became Director of the RUSI, as did Teddy Gueritz. Another veteran was Gordon Philo who jumped with the Parachute Regiment on the night. His memories were still fresh 25 years later when he served as Consul-General in Hanoi - Adrian was Vice-Consul in Saigon at the same time. While serving as Director of the British Information Services in Canada, Adrian became friends with Charles Lynch, one of the handful of Canadian war correspondents who landed with the assault troops on Juno Beach. Since starting British Sky Tours he has talked to veterans and returned with them to Normandy, including survivors of the Pegasus Bridge and the assault beaches.
Kismet - My wife and daughter, Regine and Margot with Charles Lynch's granddaughter, Jessica above the Lutschinen Falls near the Jungfrau in the Berner Oberland. Not only do Margot and Jessica share an office, but they share a job and a desk in Geneva University where both are working on Ph D's and Masters in Environmental Science. How about that for two kids who started life about 3 miles from each other in Ottawa.
The D Day veteran in John Esmonde-White's family was his own father who served in the Royal Artillery and won a Military Cross while commanding his battery. After the war, Denis Esmonde-White became Monty's military aid when the Field Marshal was Deputy Supreme Commander Europe for NATO. John has a wonderful collection of letters - the Field Marshal expected his MA to write to him every day when Monty was on holiday - and some of the early notes and proofs for Lord Montgomery's military history From Normandy to the Baltic. Denis Esmonde-White helped with the research and maps for the book which became the Field Marshal's memoirs of the campaign from D Day to the German surrender. A cousin of Denis won the VC flying a Swordfish biplane against the German battlecruisers making their 1942 dash through the Channel and Dover Strait. John has served in the UK including Northern Ireland, Germany and the Gulf and worked with the US Army on joint planning teams. He is married and has a grown up daughter.
WE'RE ALWAYS LEARNING
Nowadays professional battlefield guides spend a great deal of time on research. Speaking French opens up two thousand years of history in Normandy. Speaking German helps with understanding the pivotal decisions and crucial events on D Day and other historic moments. Battlefield archaeology plays an increasingly important role in discovering what really happened, particularly for an event long ago when the written records are sparse or suspect as propaganda afterwards as with the Battle of Hastings.
FAMILY AND GROUP TOURS
British Sky Tours began by taking small parties to see the D Day landing grounds and beaches. Our parties have been families, veterans and their loved ones, academics and military history groups, company management on educational and reward tours. During recent years we have taken overseas visitors from Lands End in Cornwall to Cape Wrath on the northern tip of Scotland, from Bayeux to Bern, from Agincourt to Blenheim. German families particularly enjoy exploring the magnificent Rosamunde Pilcher country around the far tip of Cornwall.
Though our guides are second-to-none for experience and knowledge, ours are not passive tours where the guide lectures and the visitors listen, rather highly stimulating and entertaining days. Very quickly the day becomes an enjoyable, thought-provoking conversation which flies, drives and walks in between meals! These mobile conversations sometimes run for a few days without anyone growing bored. Our longest so far has lasted nearly three weeks. And the same visitors came back for another two weeks the following year! We've been operating for ten years now and work hard at improving and broadening our touring repertoire.
We also put a great deal of background information on our website. The reason is simple - the more our visitors know before a tour, the more they get out of a tour on the day. We don't want to spend your valuable time simply explaining what happened - although obviously we do - rather we want you to go home understanding why it happened and what great events mean for us today.
PILOTS AND PLANES
We started off by flying with Synergy Aviation as our air partners, a private charter company founded by a senior training Captain on retirement from British Airways with very competent young pilots and an excellent safety record. Synergy Aviation showed from the start why they have such an enviable reputation. Since then we've also teamed up with the Mayfair Dove company owned by Bill Pritchard, yes, a former senior training captain with British Airways. Bill and his co-pilot Dave Frost, also a former BA training captain, have logged no less than five years in the sky at the controls of air liners, mostly jumbo jets and a large proportion of those hours spent teaching BA captains the routes all over the World. The Mayfair Dove herself is a very elegant and graceful aircraft, formerly with the Royal Flight and thus fitted out for flying the Queen and other members of the Royal family when she served with the RAF. So you're in very safe hands.
OUR CONTINENTAL FRIENDS
Our partners on the Continent are all chosen through personal contacts in the countries where we tour and we have very good relations with the airport managers at the places we visit on the Continent. We only suggest hotels that we know are really special. Adrian is presently based in Bern, Switzerland's fairytale capital, researching tours of the surrounding countryside including the Alps and neighbouring parts of France and Germany. We enjoy the good fortune to have Barry Hyatt CTC as our representative in the United States.
LOTS OF CHOICE Greenwich Royal Observatory and Herstmonceux Castle
We can take you sky touring for a single day although we recommend spending longer on a sky tour, at least two days, better more. We can arrange a week, more if you wish, where you enjoy two or three of our tours organised as a logical sequence. Start with 1066 through the Battle of Britain and round off a unique week with the D Day sites and Normandy. Please feel welcome to ask for quotes - your ideas or ours. And because you're spending more than a day in our hands, we offer special rates. The overnight costs - including the aircraft and guide - work out at much less than you might imagine.
Our network of retired diplomats, naval, military and air force officers is second-to-none. Give us enough warning - direct or through Barry Hyatt our USA representative - and we can make most holiday wishes, certainly in Europe, come to pass.
BECOME A BETTER MANAGER
A thought for those in the commercial world. Apart from stress free air travel around the British Isles and Europe - there are numerous lessons from military history for any profession.
American companies regard our D Day air tours as a very effective form of management training.
We exchange links with kindred spirits, most recently with the Society for Military History in the United States of America.