Clipstone Camp brought back to life

WWI trenches at Sherwood Pines.'''Pictured is Laura Freer.

WWI trenches at Sherwood Pines.'''Pictured is Laura Freer.

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School pupils exploring the First World War will be able to see what life in the trenches was like for their ancestors after a new exhibit at Sherwood Pines was unveiled.

A replica of a training trench has been lovingly recreated at the park, to mark its former role as a training camp for thousands of British Tommies during the 1914-18 conflict by specialist contractors.

And staff at the park hope it will be used as a place for thousands of youngsters studying the Great War to engage with a real piece of interactive history.

The trench network includes an office, a kitchen and even a privy, while the surrounding landscape looks like it has been subject to a recent mortar attack.

Sherwood pines is still riddled with the remains of trenches and shooting ranges from its days as the former Clipstone Camp, where 30,000 men at a time where made ready for trench warfare in France and Belgium.

And staff from the Forestry Commission have engaged the services of craftsmen Philip and Courtney Wilkinson, who recreated the trenches for Stephen Spielberg on his First World War drama War Horse, as well as recreating Edwardian life and the 1920s for Downton Abbey.

Hugh Mannall, heritage manager with the Forestry Commission, told the Chad: “This recreation will really benefit young people who are studying the First World War as it will give them a real insight into life in the trenches.

“Trenches like this would have been dug by men who may have been their great-great grandfathers, and they would have had to survive in these conditions for up to four years.

“This is something we have been thinking about for the last 20 years and it has been in planning for the past three, so it’s wonderful that the trench recreation will be ready in time for the 100th anniversary of the start of hostilities next year.”

There is also the possibility that the site could be used by film companies wanting to recreate trench warfare, although the Forestry Commission says that the trench has primarily been created as an education resource.

Sherwood Pines warden Laura Freer said: “The centenary of the start of the First World War is an opportunity to share history and show the importance of remembrance.

“The outbreak of the First World War was a life-changing event. We want to illustrate the history of the Sherwood Pines site and the role that it played.”

Construction on the camp started in 1914, soon after the outbreak of war, and it took its first cohort the following year - with the arrival of 5,000 troops from University and Public Schools Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women passed through the camp through the war, and life could be almost as dangerous as at the front. A total of 29 graves at nearly St Albans Church, in Forest Town are of those killed while stationed at Clipstone, including one woman who was training to be a nurse.

Many other young soldiers are also buried in local churchyards.

Local primary school teacher Tim Priestley from the WW1 Clipstone Centenary group, is also involved in

the recreation.

He said: “There are so many stories connected to the camp, marriages of soldiers to local women, deaths from the outbreak of Spanish flu, there are even records of suicides.

“The camp was of great national significance and I have been contacted by people from all over the country who have stories connected with the camp.

“We think that it is important to mark the centenary of the First World War with a memorial to these soldiers. The majority of the British Army would have trained here.”

The Forestry Commission would like to hear from anyone with stories about Clipstone Camp.

Email firstworldwar@creativeconcern.com.

Pictured: Laura Freer and Hugh Mannall from the Forestry Commission at the recreated trench at Sherwood Pines.