Next Open Day: 26-27 November . 10am – 4pm. Free of charge but donations welcome.
The First World War Trench
The Centre for Experimental Military Archaeology (CEMA) is possibly Andy’s most ambitious project yet.
“Experimental archaeology is a field of study which attempts to generate and test archaeological hypotheses, usually by replicating or approximating the feasibility of ancient cultures performing various tasks or feats,” explains Andy.
Working with business entrepreneur, Mark Ingarfield, Andy’s ultimate aim is to construct a range of replica historical sites to show what life was really like for the average person in days gone by. These will facilitate academic study, educational tours and provide working film sets for hire.
First up is the replica of a First World War trench which is now open for school groups and army visits, as well as groups such as scouts. Private groups can also request a tailor-made visit. Andy is a world-renowned expert on trench warfare. He first created a replica trench ten years ago when he was researching his book “24 Hour Trench”. This gave him the opportunity to discover real insights into the day-to-day life of the British Tommy – how he ate, moved about in the trenches, went to the toilet etc.
A replica WW2 Anderson shelter is now up and running to help illustrate CEMA’s World War Home Front talk.
The team hopes to progress to further reconstructions representing, for example, the Roman, Norman, English Civil War and Second World War periods.
The CEMA is based at the Kent Event Centre at Detling, near Maidstone. While most locals will already know the site was used as an airfield in both world wars, they may not be aware of its rich military history spanning more than 2000 years. An early study of the site by the CEMA team has uncovered evidence of a Roman watchtower, Saxon fortifications and a well-preserved Norman motte and bailey castle to the north of the site.
So far in 2022, 3500 school students have visited the site. The fee for half-day school visits is £12 per head for junior schools and £15 per head for secondary schools. (There is no charge for accompanying staff members). Please look on the website for a full explanation of optional talks/demonstrations available to school groups. Groups can have up to four talks during their visit on topics such as weapons, uniform, rations and medicine/first aid in the trenches
Forthcoming school visits: –
30 November – Highworth School
7 December – Tonbridge Grammar School
8 December – Saxon Way Junior School
9 December – Westlands School
18 and 24 January – Hall Mead School
8 February – St Augustine Academy
7 March – Blackheath High School
18 May – Barton Court Grammar School
3 and 4 July – Dartford Grammar School
12 July – Wye School
In the last twelve months more than 3000 soldiers have visited the trench. Fees for army groups will vary depending on numbers.
17 November – Anglia Tours Christmas Truce
24 November – Anglia Tours Christmas Truce
2 December – Anglia Tours Christmas Truce
THE TRENCH AS A LOCATION FOR FILMING
Interest in the trench for filmmaking purposes has already been high with three companies using it as a key location already, and a visit by Meridian TV, since work began on the site in March 2021. “The Fronts of War” by writer and director Thomas Gardner who is based at the University of Central Lancashire, is a short film telling the story of a lieutenant receiving a letter from his wife telling him about the birth of their child. Gardner was influenced by the Peter Jackson film, “They Shall Not Grow Old”, on which Andy worked, and wanted to make a film focusing on personal lives. Following submission to a number of UK film festivals, the final film will be hosted on the CEMA website after its release.
The trench will also be used as a principle location in the forthcoming Great War drama “Life Underground”, which focuses on the relationship between a lieutenant and a sergeant. Writer and director Peter Hogenson from the London Film School explained that the target audience for the film would be both “the LGBTQ community and those interested in military history and history as a whole.”
Executive producer Jaina Liu, said she had visited more than ten trenches during her search for the perfect location and found that those “at CEMA are by far the best.”
Booking the site for visits or for filming can be done on the centre’s website at https://cemahistory.org.
For filming, the trench can be hired for £450 for day one, £400 for each subsequent day plus a £225 fee for set-up etc. Andy also has a selection of military costumes for hire.
You can follow the team on CEMA’s social media platforms:-
YouTube: CEMA History
Key partners in the project can be contacted at:-
Andy Robertshaw – CEMA Historical Director
email@example.com (07768 065054)
Mark Ingarfield – CEMA Business Director
firstname.lastname@example.org (07799 677712)