Stop Press : Next open days at the trench will be the 19th February, 10am – 3pm and 18th April, 10am – 3pm (Free of charge. Donations welcome)

Trench-building day: If you would like to volunteer to help and Andy and the team develop the trench, come along to the Kent County Showground site at Detling (ME14 3JF) the weekend of 2nd and 3rd of April.

The creation of 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 and army visits. 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.

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.

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

The fee for school visits is £10 per head for small groups (30 and under) and £15 per head for larger groups ( due to the need for more staff on site). Fees for army groups will vary depending on numbers.

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:-

Facebook: @cemahistory

Instagram: @cemahistory

YouTube: CEMA History

Key partners in the project can be contacted at:-

Andy Robertshaw – CEMA Historical Director

andy@cema.education (07768 065054)

Mark Ingarfield – CEMA Business Director

mark@cema.education (07799 677712)

Becky Parrock – Marketing Coordinator, Kent Event Centre

becky@kentshowground.co.uk (01622 633058)