WHEN Lydia Phillip decided to trace the footsteps of her great uncle, who was killed on the Somme in 1916, she did not expect her new found interest in war history to spark a business venture.
Five years on, and Mrs Phillip has set up Pocket Locations, which specialises in writing historical iPhone travel applications that take the user right to the heart of the First and Second World War battlefields of Europe.
The company, of which Mrs Phillip is the director and owner, published its first app, named “D-Day and Normandy”, late last year. The software device details 40 locations that tell the story of D-Day and the start of the Battle of Normandy.
Since then, it has been downloaded around the world, with a large proportion of the requests coming from American market, said Mrs Phillip.
Other hot spots have been the UK, Netherlands, France and Canada, she said. Mrs Phillip, 45, who was born in Skipton and now lives near Grassington in North Yorkshire, said the plan is to produce a second app, “Somme and Flanders”, in April.
She explained: “My Great Uncle was called John Hartley and he was killed on the Somme in 1916 at the age of 21.”
He was the son of the founder of family business, John Hartley, a mill producing wool and wool blend fabrics.
Mrs Phillip, who herself worked in the family firm for some time, explained: “He was one of the men who would have taken it over but he was killed on the Somme.”
A few years ago, Mrs Phillip, who also previously ran her own interior design business, decided to take her children, Edward and Harriet, now 13 and 10, to see her great uncle’s grave in France and trace the journey he took.
She said she wanted to “give them a sense of what it meant to fight in the First World War”, adding: “They were mesmerised and I was incredibly moved.”
It transpired that Sergeant John Hartley – a member of the 10th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) – had died at a village called Le Sars.
Although Mrs Phillip had always had a passion for history, it was the realms of social history she had explored previously. Her visit to her great uncle’s grave led to her developing a particular interest in war history.
Mrs Phillip said: “I soon realised that with technology very much part of our everyday lives there was a gap in the market for an iPhone and iPad app which guided the user through the main points of interest in these battle areas, a simple, easy to use, personal tour guide.
“There are hundreds of reference books but nothing that gives a concise overview and makes following your own travel plan uncomplicated.”
Last spring, Mrs Phillip started work to establish Pocket Locations, planning to develop a series of such historical travel apps.
These each offer detailed background information about the build-up to an event, photographs of the location today and, wherever possible, images during or after the military action that made somewhere so well known.
Each app will include a minimum of 40 locations, with the GPS position highlighted and shown on the map in the form of a pin.
Pocket Locations contacted an app development company, which manufactured the product.
Mrs Phillip said: “I have two people doing a lot of research for me. We’ve got information from visits and if you see the amount of books we have it’s amazing.
“We’ve been out and spoken to veterans as well and taken their stories.”
She added: “The app has already been very well received. It has been given a five star rating on iTunes and the reviews have been spectacular. We made sure it was absolutely bang on before it went to market.”
The “D-Day and Normandy” app, which costs £2.99, is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and can be found through the iTunes website.
Children help test product
LYDIA Phillip took her children, Edward and Harriet, out to Normandy last October to test Pocket Locations’ “D-Day and Normandy” application.
Mrs Phillip said: “A poignant moment was when we took them to American Cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer .
It’s vast and absolutely huge and we stood there, it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and there was row upon row of white graves. My daughter turned to me and asked: “Did all these people die mummy?
“I said: Yes they did darling.”
Mrs Phillip said: “It is quite moving to see it first hand. It’s something all kids should be aware of really.
“They loved having the information at their finger tips and learnt so much more at each location.