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303man

TRAINING TRENCHES CLOSE TO TANK MUSEUM

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303man

Has anyone spotted these training trenches just to the East of the MOD Training Area at Bovi, Just to the right of the small airfield is some heathland and the marks in the vegetation can easily be seen is there much on the ground?

Bovington Trenches

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Moonraker

I wonder if they were trenches to train men for warfare or to test tanks' ability to cope with them?

Moonraker

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Gareth Davies

I was talking about those very trenches this morning with people in Bovington as I have a cunning plan to use them for some Community Engagement activity. I have the full history at home and will dig it out this evening and post some notes for you. In the meantime here is a map. The road visible in post #1 is the road just north of the Hansa Line (the orientation of the photo is slightly west of north).

post-61373-0-31726000-1452614384_thumb.j

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delta

Give the names of the trenches and defensive features, the system should be 1917. However, I am looking forward to Gareth's feedback.

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Gareth Davies

From George Forty's Bovington Tanks "F Bn began mobilising on April 14th [1917] and final intensive training commences. This included some tactical training on a trench system which the Battalion had helped to dig on Sunday rest days in the Gallows Hill area." This comment is not referenced.

There is nothing in the WD, that didn't start until their move to France, but the Bn history notes "The Battalion commenced to mobilise on April 14th, when a period of Intensive Training commenced. The men were hardened up by route marches and even more physical training. Section Officers conducted Compass and Map Reading expeditions. Refresher courses were run in each Section for Lewis gun and 6-pdr. On the trench system around Gallows Hill, the Sections were taught the tank tactics of the day, the training even included taping routes at night, and approach marches by day and by night."

There are no other mentions of the Gallows Hill area in the Bn histories.

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Guest Tim Maley

Hi,

I have been interested in re-opening these training trenches at Gallows HIll (Stoke Heath) since I lost my job as a History teacher when Bovington Middle School 2013, I still think they represent a great opportunity to redress what Jeremy Paxman bemoans as the shocking lack of knowledge about the sacrifice of so many in the Great War,

I wrote to Cris Copson at the Tank Musum. He explained they were aware of them but had decided not to push to develop them as they foresaw difficulties with land ownership and environmental bodies. The Tank Museum was poised to recreate a short length of trench on its existing site, he said. I teh wrote to my local MP, Annette Brook, who wrote to the landowner, Richard Darx MP. She wrote back saying Richard had replied to state his brother owned the land, It seems it is part of the Drax family trust.

I still hanker after trying to save what is left of what was a very extensive site. The trenches ( ditches now) to the east of the glider station are now designated as "access land" on the latest OS map.

I came across your feed whilst preparing to meet my current MP, Michael Tomlinson today. I have asked him to chase up Richard again with a view to sounding him out about the possibility of lending support.

Such training trenches were set up in quite a few places but they have just about all been lost to development since. An exception being those at Gosport, discovered in 2014 see

: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-26471922

I personally think the Bovington training trenches should be preserved for our national heritage. The nearest place where people can visit reconstructed trenches is in west south Wales in Camarthenshire see

http://www.morfabay.com/front-experience/

English Heritage put on a festival 2011 at Kellmarsh Hall Northamptonshire relating the War Horse story which proved most popular, see

http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/military-history/first-world-war/art359777

Would it not be worth having a go at turning the Gallows Hill site in to a permanent national visitor centre? It would surely compliment the Tank Museum and schools sending Geogreaphy students to study the geology at Lulworth Cove could combine this with History at Gallows Hill or English (poetry) at Gallows Hill.

A sensitive archaeological survey would be needed followed by as search for funding and sponsorship before any redevelopment and this would take some years and a deal of effort no doubt. Nevertheless, if it ends up with a fitting tribute to those who sacrificed so much and as being a learning resource to the youth of tomorrow, it has to be worth a shot. I for one would love to pursue the possibilities.

Tim Maley

Ex teacher / homehusband.

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Gareth Davies

Tim

I offer a few thoughts on your plan. Anything west of the Bere Regis - Wool road is MOD training area. This area is already very busy and it is very unlikely that the DIO will give any of it over to a heritage project. Thus the areas to focus on are probably Gallows Hill, Hyde Heath, and Stoke Heath. As you state, the Tank Museum considered the idea but ruled it out. If they are not interested, who do you think would take the lead? I am not sure it would compliment the TM; people go there to see tanks not old trenches used in training. Wouldn't it be better to have a detailed exhibit in the museum that tells the story of the training area own the period 14 - 18? And if you really want to reconstruct a trench system, wouldn't it be a better idea to look towards Salisbury Plain; many more soldiers of all flavours trained there than at the Tank Corps centre in Bovington.

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Sidearm

There are other training trenches. There's some at Tenby (popular holiday destination for many) and also if memory serves, in Denbighshire.

Gwyn

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delta

post-1494-0-99545500-1457217119_thumb.jp

The Tenby trench system is on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path within five minutes walk of Penally,

Access may be limited when the ranges at Penally are in use.

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Guest Tim Maley

Thanks for the advice above re the restrictions to the west of the Bere Regis Rd. I was aware of this. I am less sure about the quality of trenches north of the Puddletown Rd. Google Earth doesn't help too much due to the scrub vegetation.

I understand your view re it perhaps being best to leave it to the TM. Maybe your right. I don't honestly know the full extent of what's on offer or planned for the future at the TM. However, part of what I had in mind is to arrange for young students to get involved in active learning. I'd like to give small groups of interested students the opportunity to get stuck in with shovels and picks - digging out the trenches by hand. I imagine the health and safety aspects will be formidable and with good reason. Trench collapse being a major worry. I guess there are tried and tested methods of completing such work in a safe and controlled way. What better way could there be for gaining some understanding of the physical difficulties of trench warfare? Groups could be set a challenge eg. to dig out one or two metres of trench and be rewarded with certificates and the privilege of having a commemorative plaque embedded in the trench wall to thank them for their efforts.

I particularly like the reconstruction of the trenches carried out by the Canadians in the Vimy Memorial Park:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/french-flanders-artois/trenches-vimy-memorial-park.htm

where concrete-filled sand bags help to make a safer, more permanent structure. To have such a facility here in England, where it'd be so much more accessible to school groups in particular would be marvelous. in time, as funds permit, it may even be possible to add dugouts and machine-gun nests etc. School groups could get involved with re-enactment drama groups to bring to life the trench experience. Perhaps writing letters "home" from the front etc. Despite all the obvious obstacles to making something like this happen, I feel that the rewards of such a facility would make it worth it.

I've had a response from my MP. Apparently Richard Drax MP, who everyone assumed owned the land, is himself, unsure. I am now trying to confirm things with the Land Registry Office however their fees (£29.50) are an issue for me hence I'm trying to appeal to their corporate responsibility! Not holding breath on this one:-) If the Drax's are unclear and the land is Access Land, then perhaps ownership of the land is not so much of a problem?

I shall probably take a trip to the site soon and ask about at the Glider Station etc,

If anyone would like to contact me directly:

timmaley123@btinternet.com

mob: 07501 67 68 62

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Gareth Davies

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Martin Brown

Hi Tim

I will drop you a line!

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Swift and bold

Is there any news or updates on the possibility of any trench excavation at all? I'm local to bovington and metal detect old ww1/WW2 training areas and airfields, and would love the opportunity to detect round there

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