Re-enactment revives memories of the Great War trenches

MORE than 90 years ago, a piece of land on the edge of Barnsley was given to the 13th and 14th Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment to prepare for war.

A training trench was dug, bunkhouses were built and hundreds of men from those battalions, who would come to be known as the Barnsley Pals, spent hours honing their military skills.

Many of them would travel to the front in northern France and never return, but yesterday a group of dedicated historians recreated the scene as it would have been before the Pals went abroad.

Organiser Duncan Simpson said the site on the edge of the village of Dodworth was "unique" because it was the only First World War training ground to still bear evidence of its original use.

Mr Simpson added: "The corporation found this piece of land for the Pals because before that, they were spread out all over the borough in public buildings and could not train together.

"Here they had a parade ground and there is still a training trench in the woods. As far as we know, this is the only place in the country to still have traces of First World War training."

The site is now owned by the national Scout Association and is home to Silverwood Scout Camp, but last weekend, men in authentic York and Lancaster uniforms pitched their tents.

Adrian Inman, of Leeds, and Liam Haines-Kernaghan, of Bradford, were in attendance to represent the German opposition and had the kit and uniforms of Infantry Regiment number 28.

Mr Inman said he also represented members of the British forces at some living history events.

The 45-year-old graphic designer added: "I am a Tommy as well, but the German subject matter is extremely absorbing and it allows you to see the conflict from both perspectives."

Mr Haines-Kernaghan, a 43-year-old landscape gardener, said one of his great-uncles had been killed in the First World War and added he had made the trip to the battlefields to see them for himself.

Another enthusiast, Rob Jordan, 45, had travelled from his home near Reading in Berkshire to take part in the event, and was dressed in the full uniform which would have been worn by members of the Pals regiments.

The groundworker, who had spent the night in an authentic tent with other members of his group, said it was important to recreate what the men went through and keep the memories alive.

But he added that it was not a cheap hobby and said: "The initial start-up cost would be about 1,500, just to get a set of uniform which is right and looks the part.

"After that the sky's the limit. There never comes a point where you say 'I've got it all'."

One enthusiast who is just starting out completed the First World War re-enactor's rite of passage on Friday night – by sleeping in a trench which had been dug on the site.

Rob Langham, 19, from Leicestershire said: "It was cold, but it was a good experience. I had always wanted to find out what it would have been like for those soldiers at the time."

Wartime days recalled

Nina Wilkinson and William Woodhouse make the perfect wartime couple, right, at the Battlegroup North and Military Wheels and Wings Show.

Aircraft from the Second World War flew over North Yorkshire at the weekend to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Dambusters raid.

The Lancaster bomber from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a Dakota transport aircraft were at the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, near York.

The show also included 200 historic vehicles from the Yorkshire Military Vehicle Trust and enthusiasts staged model wargames, many based on real battle scenarios.

Re-enactment teams also involved were the Normandy Arnhem Society from Thirsk and the Pontefract Home Guard.