Major Projects

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 filmmaker and long-term colleague, Ross Barnwell, and 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 will be a replica of a First World War trench. 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. Once the First World War trench is completed, 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 since work began on the site in March 2021. “The Fronts of War” by writer and director Thomas Gardner, 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.” THE HAWTHORNE RIDGE CRATER PROJECT The explosion of the mine under Hawthorne Ridge was the very first action of the Battle of the Somme. It was recorded by Geoffrey Malins at 7.20am on 1 July 1916. The area was blown up a second time on 13 November when the 51st Highland Division captured the ridge and nearby village. Working with a team of international experts, as well as volunteers,  Andy will be conducting an extensive programme of research, within a defined boundary of the Beaumont-Hamel area,  to create an in-depth archive of material about the 1914-18 battlefield,  post-war reconstruction,  the impact on the area of the Second World War and subsequent military heritage tourism. To begin with,  the project will be examining the time period between the two explosions, looking at events from both sides of No Man’s Land, and giving a unique German perspective to our understanding of events. The first phase, focusing on the clearing of undergrowth, started in January 2018. With the approval of the French authorities the next step will be to widen the path from the main road to the site because one of the key targets of the project is to improve public access, as well as managing and protecting the site for future generations. Free public access to the site will be available at all times, as one of the conditions of the project. The Hawthorn Ridge Crater Association (HRCA), a charitable trust, has been set up to support and develop what is intended to be the most intensive study of any Great War battlefield to date. The association is a joint French-British collaboration which has arranged to lease the site from the owner, the local council, on a 99-year lease for a nominal one Euro fee. Based in France, it is supported by both Keele and Staffordshire Universities in the UK. Information panels will be installed on-site while information will be added to the website on an ongoing basis to create a virtual resource freely available to anyone.