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Forces War Records Blog


Blogger: GemSen

In order to prepare for battle, thousands of soldiers would have used mock training camps ahead of the First World War — this is how Britain was able to drastically increase the size of its small soldiery into a mass citizen army.

Amazingly, an example of a replica World War One battlefield has been recently uncovered in Hampshire, reported the BBC.


The two sets of opposing practice trenches — the size of 17 football pitches — with a no man’s land between them were found beneath heathland at the Ministry of Defence’s Browndown site in Gosport.

Initially, the trenches were spotted by an eagle-eyed Rob Harper, Gosport council’s conservation officer, on a 1950s aerial photograph.

"I was looking for something else. I was looking for Second World War pillboxes and features associated with an airfield nearby and I came across this 1951 plan in the office of this area in Gosport,” Mr Harper told the BBC.

"I couldn't believe it because in one corner of this plan was your absolutely classic First World War trench system."

Millions of working-class men, agricultural workers and middle-class clerks all had to get together as a team to train to become a force ready for battle in a very short amount of time.

Armed forces volunteers are now helping to map and record the recently discovered battlefield site in Gosport.

After examining the site, Mr Harper said: "I found myself walking along a ditch and realised it was part of an elaborate trench system, hidden for all these years by bracken and gorse.

"I looked around and there were trenches everywhere.

"It's quite jaw-dropping really. We are talking about an area of 500m (1,640ft) by 500m.

"It's Ministry of Defence land but open to the public. Local people picnic here and are aware of the lumps and bumps but their origin has been a mystery until now.

"Gosport was a departure point for thousands of soldiers setting off to the trenches of Europe many of whom may well have practised here.

"But we haven't yet found any records of who they were, what they did or what happened to them afterwards."

In Great Britain, the training facilities of the regular army were soon overwhelmed by the numbers of men being recruited in 1914 and after conscription was introduced in 1916.

In training camps men were taught individual and unit discipline, how to march, follow commands, basic field skills and how to safely handle his weapons. Many men arrived at the fighting fronts utterly unprepared for the experience. and BBC

Forces War Records are continuously adding accurate information and historic documents to the website with the aim of making your quest into genealogy a fruitful one. With the impending World War One Centenary this year, Forces War Records is sure to be the first port of call for many researching the conflict and their family history. 

Forces War Records aim to offer that extra bit of insight, not always provided by other, less niche genealogy sites. Constantly being added to is the rare ‘historic documents’ library, which contains a wealth of original documents, periodicals, manuals and newspapers that could have been read by your ancestor — explore Forces War Records — what might you discover? 

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