Heerr Flick & Helga

Thousands of military history fans poured into the picturesque grounds of the historic Cressing Temple Barns near Braintree in Essex, for the annual Temple At War military & vintage show.

The site was packed with living history displays made by specialists in every period from World War Two to the Cold War, and beyond.

Guests were treated to vintage teas and 40s & 50s music and dance, the festival goers were undaunted by a cold and blowy Saturday, and basked in heat on the Sunday. Meanwhile, a highlight was the appearance of "Herr Flick and Helga" from 'Allo 'Allo - the well-loved sitcom set in WW2 France.

Actors Richard Gibson and Kim Hartman performed a sketch and signed autographs for the long queues of avid fans - two days running.

They clearly still love the characters they played together for eight series - and Kim, who went on to appear in the ninth and final season too, said:

"It does seem to be very much part of the English culture now, doesn't it? It was so beautifully written and had so many characters in it that that everyone could like."

In conversation with Liz Mullen of Forces Radio BFBS, Richard said that the programme had never intended to make light of war itself, just the way it was portrayed on screen at the time and said:

"The idea originally was to make fun of all the cliches in war films. But making fun of Nazis isn't a bad thing, is it? Making them look ridiculous."

Kim added: "Yes we had great fun doing that."

Anti-Fly Squad exhibit
James Nobbs and his Anti_Fly Squad exhibit

Meanwhile, visitors could experience sitting in numerous military vehicles, speaking with enactors in uniform, getting to watch a live battle and some particularly quirky exhibits - such as the Anti-Fly Squad whose job it was to spray the swarms of flies in the North African desert near Al Alamein. However, they had to give it up as an impossible job after just four months.

This display had been painstakingly constructed by James Nobbs of The Long & The Short & The Tall, He spent his winter evenings sticking 1,000 fake flies to the display manikin, so to be ready in time for the show.

After a long day in the heat and flies falling from the manikin he had prepared, James said:

"I might have to try some other glue. I've just realised they're dropping off like flies at the moment."

As for the winners of Best In Show 2019, there were no flies on them.

The Firebase mounted a large display covering very thing from military memories to music during  the Cold War years of 1966 - 1970.

"There's something for everybody at Temple At War," said founder Kevin, who was amazed and proud to be presented with the victor's plaque. He added:

"We love coming here. We don't come to win awards but this was very gratefully received."

Best in show 2019 - The Firebase
The Firebase...Best In Show 2019

Another unusual exhibit was the Volkssturm - Germany's Home Guard, formed in the later stages of WW2. usually recruited from WW1 veterans, and those considered unfit to join the Army.

They were equipped in a mish-mash of uniforms but - says expert Phillip, they shouldn't be pictured as a German "Dad's Army" in sit com style...."Dad's Army never fought. Of the six to seven hundred thousand men and women, they also took disabled people so they were the first every true equality combat unit.

The Red Cross estimate between 150 - 200 thousand of the Volkssturm fighters perished in combat.



Germanys Home Guard were fighters
Garmany's Home Guard, Volkssturm

Charities such as the Royal British Legion and Help For Heroes were also on site. This year's Temple At War focussed on Combat Stress as one of its main beneficiaries.

Next year's festival is already in the planning, sheduled for May 16 - 17 at Cressing Temple, CM77 8PD.