WWI

Hollywood Historical Adviser Constructs Replica WW1 Trenches In Kent

The 150m network of trenches are based upon those used in a Belgium woodland during the war.

A historical adviser to Hollywood directing royalty has built replica First World War trenches in what is a first of its kind for the UK. 

The trenches in Kent are hidden among trees and are based on a real system of trenches in Railway Wood near Ypres in Belgium.

Trench creator Andy Robertshaw has advised on films such as Sam Mendes' '1917' and Sir Peter Jackson's 'They Shall Not Grow Old' and his trenches are being used as a set for films based on the Great War, as well as educational purposes.

He believes the 150m network of trenches to be the most historically accurate in Britain, complete with a surface shelter, where officers could keep out of the rain, a firestep, for shooting at the enemy, and, of course, a latrine.

"Here we are trying to use all the techniques that they used on making them, no concessions other than modern health and safety, for obvious reasons," he said.

"So, the dugout won't be down 20 metres. We have to be sensible about what we can do.

"What we are doing here, really, is saying: 'Where would a soldier make his tea? Where would he shave? Where would he sleep?'," he added.

"The idea of sleeping sat in the corner here in the middle of February is not particularly appealing."

Mud In Replica Trench Built In Kent 22062021 CREDIT BFBS.PNG
The trenches may not have been built 20 metres down, but the mud underfoot gives a realistic feel.

The trenches have proved to be a big draw for school groups, re-enactment historians and film companies keen to use them for location work.

Mark Ingarfield, business director for the trenches, spoke about the plans to develop the site further, to "encompass all kinds of historical periods – Roman up to modern-day".

"Each year you'll probably get a big movie like Warhorse or 1917, but there's plenty of BBC-type documentaries and smaller productions that would love to come down here and use it. I think there's quite a few each that would use the site."

Actress and filmmaker Lucinda Turner is part of the first crew to film in the trenches – a short First World War movie –  and says the trenches evoked real emotions.

"It was quite emotional in a way, because you felt like we were really there, especially dressed up in all the kit and you had all the explosions going off," she said.

The trench system has been made and designed to follow both historical images and military books of how to build trenches in World War One.

Short film director Matthew Mcpherson said: "It's very cramped, it's very claustrophobic, but it's really helpful to have the 'world' there and we shoot within it.

"It's still tight and impractical when you're trying to achieve stuff with lots of people and tell a story, but that's the challenge and, therefore, the fun of doing it".