This year has seen the annual Great Dorset Steam Fair (GDSF), which is held at Blandford, celebrate its 50th anniversary. In conjunction with this commemoration, the WW1 trench complex which was constructed there in 2014, occupied by several individuals from the 10th Essex.
This complex has been manned every year by historical interpreters. Along with our brothers in arms (The Royal West Kent living history group), Displays conducted by additional groups and independent bodies of reenactors were all enjoyed by the general public. With a foot fall of over eight thousand visitors the success of this attraction is obvious.
Every morning and afternoon of the five-day show, the Garrison Artillery Volunteers, fired a salvo of blank shells from there artillery positions over the trenches. This was a great attraction, after which the public could enter the complex. Whilst inside the warren of trenches the visiting public were treated to short presentations from various “Tommie’s” on their journey along the duck boards. These included pre-hospital Emergency Care (1918 style), a chat with the padre, a brush with the Company Commander in his dug out, various men on sentry duty, a sniper in a sap and last but not least an opportunity to place a wooden cross at the temporary memorial at the exit of the complex.
Food was served every lunchtime to all the Tommie’s, cooked on period field kitchen equipment. The preparation of these culinary delights also formed a concurrent activity and attraction for visiting public on there way from viewing the two tanks that were on display. One provided by the Tank Museum at Bovington and the other which featured in the TV series of Guy Martin’s; “The Tank”.
Each day, our very own Captain Thrush assisted the GDSF with commentary which was broadcast from the main arena. This daily feature was listened to by literally thousands of visitors to the fair.
The GDSF had commissioned the trench complex to be constructed in 2014 to commemorate the outbreak of WW1. It was such a success that it continued to feature until 2018. If it is to carry on beyond this, the decision lies with the GDSF organisers. However, a wonderfully enjoyable time has been spent in a muddy trench and has seen thousands of people of all ages enjoying interactive and memorable educational visits to the Western Front. Over the course of the past four years all of those involved are very proud of their achievements. The main triumph being to remember the Men who fought in the Great War, with dignity and to educate and inform further generations of the daily life on the Western Front 1914-1918.