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As the centenary of the end First World War approaches, people across the nation will embark on solemn commemorations to ensure the greatest sacrifice of a generation is never forgotten.

One man, in a field near Canterbury, has devised what may prove to be the most unique project among them, after building a full-scale trench network to allow the public to experience life on the Western Front.

Andy Robertshaw, a military historian who specialises in the First World War, has spent 18 months and around £8,000 transforming a one-acre plot of Kent farmland into a realistic recreation of British and German trenches.


First World War history buff builds his own trenches and invites people to live like soldiers


A history boffin has spent £8,000 building a full-sized WWI trench network in a field in Kent Credit: Carl Fox/Caters News Agency

Hannah Furness, Arts Correspondent
Yohannes Lowe
4 September 2018
The Telegaph

As the centenary of the end First World War approaches, people across the nation will embark on solemn commemorations to ensure the greatest sacrifice of a generation is never forgotten.

One man, in a field near Canterbury, has devised what may prove to be the most unique project among them, after building a full-scale trench network to allow the public to experience life on the Western Front.

Andy Robertshaw, a military historian who specialises in the First World War, has spent 18 months and around £8,000 transforming a one-acre plot of Kent farmland into a realistic recreation of British and German trenches.

He now plans to invite members of the public to spend 48 hours on site, giving them a small insight into the reality of conditions faced by young soldiers.

While they will not face the horrors of war or the unfathomable conditions which led so famously to trench foot and other diseases, Mr Robertshaw said the exercise would allow interested members of the public to learn what it was like “90 per cent of the time for World War One soldiers”.


The dad-of-one now wants members of the public to live on the front line for 48 hours to experience first reality of life as a Tommy Credit: Carl Fox/Caters News Agency

The 61-year-old recruited ten volunteers to create the trench network, complete with firing bays, an aid post, an engineer's store, a dugout, lavatories, kitchen and a railway

He based the design on the British ‘Marlborough Street trench’, originally near to Hawthorne Ridge, a fortified German position which was blown up by Allied tunnellers in July 1916.

With chalk-based ground and a thin layer of top soil, he said the geology was “very similar” to that of the Somme, allowing him to complete the deeply personal project in honour of his grandfather, John Andrew Robertshaw of the East Yorkshire Regiment, who fought in the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Arras.

The British trench can sleep up to 30 people while the German trench, which is smaller, can sleep 10. The network spans around 200 ft by 660ft.


Andy Robertshaw, a historian and Great War expert, has spent 18 months building the British and German trenches at a farm near Canterbury Credit: Carl Fox/Caters News Agency

Mr Robertshaw is a former curator of the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, author of several books on the First World War, lecturer and historical consultant for films including War Horse.

He said he is keen to emphasise that the trench is not a war memorial to the soldiers who died in "the war to end all wars" but is instead a memorial of how they lived.

"Our trench network shows what life was like 90 per cent of the time for World War One soldiers,” he said.

"They only spent five days at a time in trenches like mine before swapping with other soldiers - it wasn't always going 'over the top' like you see in films.

"My ambition is for it to become a permanent site for people who can't go to France and Belgium to go to.

"There are no well-constructed trenches in the UK, France and Belgium at all really, so we hope that this can fill the void.


The 61-year-old now hopes the massive one-acre network which is complete with shooting bays, an aid post, an engineers store, a dugout, kitchen and even a railway can be a permanent exhibit Credit: Carl Fox/Caters News Agency

"We're going to launch a 48-hour trench experience in the autumn, where people can arrive, get into uniform and have a 'bootcamp' style introduction in the experience of a Great War soldier.

"They'd then go into a night-time routine of working, resting and guarding the trench before having an inspection and breakfast the following morning. It'd be an introduction to life in a trench done in real time.

"I wanted to do day-to-day life rather than combat to show the mundane, humdrum normality that was the experience for so many people's great grandfathers and other relatives."

Saying there were “not many” concessions to health and safety, with real barbed wire, Mr Robertshaw emphasised that anyone hoping to spend 48 hours there would have to undergo a weekend of training and preparation.

He hopes the project will also serve as “experiential archaeology”, allowing him to observe the effects of the weather on trenches built using techniques that have now disappeared.

The 48-hour trench experience will launch in March 2019 to volunteers, who must sign a declaration form confirming they understand the risk.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/201...like-soldiers/