Rowland's Gill dad launches tours of battlefields app

NORTH East entrepreneur Mark Jackson is putting the Battle of the Somme in people’s pockets.

NORTH East entrepreneur Mark Jackson is putting the Battle of the Somme in people’s pockets.

The engineer and Territorial Army (TA) soldier has launched the world’s first battlefield tour app.

He was inspired to come up with the digital guide after visiting the battlefield with a group of TA trainees.

Pocket Tours aims to bring history to life, allowing users to view photographs, hear original sound clips and see film footage of some of the world’s most famous battles.

The application – for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch – also includes commentary from world-renowned historians on what happened, who was involved and how history was shaped.

Father-of-one Mark, who lives in Rowland’s Gill, Gateshead, says the Battle of the Somme app will allow users to explore famous sites from the comfort of their own armchair.

But if you happen to be visiting, the app will also give you a GPS guided tour of where key historic events actually took place.

“Imagine walking over the ground that shaped history alongside an expert who can explain the events as they unfolded,” said Mark, who has been in the TA for over 26 years.

“The GPS feature guides you from point to point using the knowledge of the historians to make sure you see things from the best vantage points.

“This makes a tour of the battlefields accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time.”

Mark, 45, formerly worked for Knowledge House at Northumbria University and is the chair of the North East Institution of Mechanical Engineers, so he’s no technology caveman.

But he’s new to history and says his passion for the past has been sparked by seeing events brought to life.

“I have never been interested in reading history books, but going to these places and seeing how close these guys were to each other, that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” he said.

Mark’s business partner Dr John Greenacre, a former Army helicopter pilot of 24 years’ experience, is a published historian and battlefield guide.

He said: “I am very enthusiastic about this application. It immerses you in the historical context to create an environment where you can really appreciate past events.”

The Battle of the Somme application explores the British Army’s major offensive on the Western Front in July 1916. The battle saw 57,470 casualties on the first day alone – the blackest day in history for the British Army.

The application guides users around the battlefield, visiting military cemeteries as well as museums and visitor centres.

In the cemeteries users are able to find the final resting place or commemoration of many of the men who died by searching by regiment.

For the moment only the Battle of the Somme is available, but Mark now plans to build similar Pocket Tour apps for the D-Day landings, the Battle of Waterloo, a Historic Discovery Tour of Scarborough and the chilling account of events that took place in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

He’s also in talks with local historians to launch an app exploring the Battle of Flodden, in time for the 500th anniversary next year, and a guide to Hadrian’s Wall.

A slice of all the profits from the technology will go to support the Army Benevolent Fund, the Soldiers’ Charity, which helps serving and veteran soldiers in the North East and beyond.

The application is available at http://tinyurl.com/battlefield-tour-somme

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