A FIRST World War trench system that offers one of the most authentic ‘Great War’ experiences in the UK is to open at a museum near Burton next month – for the first time since it was redesigned.
The Staffordshire Regiment Museum, based at the Whittington Barracks, in Whittington, is the highly regarded and much-loved museum of the Staffords and Mercians.
It holds nationally important collections of not just weapons, vehicles and medals but letters home from the front, written by ordinary soldiers who travelled to France during the 1914-18 conflict.
This large archive of first-hand material has allowed the team at the museum to redesign the on-site trench system ahead of the First World War centenary next year.
The 500ft trench system now contains ‘scrape’ holes, living quarters with interactive exhibits, gun positions, a first aid station and even a tunnel used during the period to undermine the enemy trenches that were often just a short distance away.
Ammunition boxes are strewn around, sandbags line the walls, original signage points the way and the visitor is immersed in the trenches of First World War France.
The museum is staffed by serving and ex-Army personnel and volunteers, and this allows for the trench system to truly reflect what many people would have heard and seen every day almost 100 years ago.
A spokesman for the museum said: “For instance, if you were being fired at by a sniper, you would hear the report of the gun very differently to how it’s usually portrayed in the movies and on television.
“Rather than just hearing the weapon going off or rounds whining past, if a sniper has you in his sights, you will hear the passing round before you hear the round being fired. This is called ‘crack and thump’.
“The ‘crack’ is the sound of the round passing your ear and the thump is the rifle being fired in the distance.
“This strange noise is created because a bullet flies faster than the speed of sound.”
The museum is planning a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
One of these will be a ‘night in the trenches’ which will be taking place this year in the new trench system.
This is an opportunity to experience a soldier’s life in the trenches in First World War. Uniformed re-enactors take you back to evoke the life lived and conditions experienced by our troops during the ‘Great War’.
Guided tours take place from 4.30pm to 7.45pm and pre-booking is essential.
Tickets are priced £6 for adults £6 and all concessions and children under 16 can get in for £4.
More information is available online at www.staffordshireregimentmuseum.co.uk