Explore a WW1 trench at Kensington Gardens in London - free family event

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15 September 2017
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ww1-soldier-94987.jpg WW1 trench event at Kensington Gardens in London
Visitors to Kensington Gardens in London can experience what life was like in a World War I trench, with a free exhibition and tours on 17 and 24 September 2017.

Visitors to Kensington Gardens in London can experience what life was like in a World War I trench, with a free exhibition and tours on 17 and 24 September 2017.

Visitors are invited to go on an immersive tour of Kensington Gardens’ very own First World War trench – a reconstruction of the one built in the park 100 years ago, which formed part of the Government’s top-secret plans to devise ways to defeat the enemy.

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The free events invite people to discover the vital – but undercover – role played by London’s Royal Parks during wartime Britain. The tours are part of a series of activities hosted by The Royal Parks together with The Royal Parks Guild to mark the centenary of the Great War.

Every half hour a costumed soldier from the 10th Essex Living History Regiment will lead a 20-minute interactive tour around a specially-constructed open-air trench to give groups a unique glimpse of how the army slept, ate and engaged the enemy during the Battle of the Somme. Events are wheelchair accessible.

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WW1 trench exhibition

To complement the tour, an exhibition will reveal how the original Camouflage School, sited at Kensington Gardens, enabled the army to experiment with innovative tactics to confuse the enemy through disguise - from cardboard cut-outs of soldiers to ships inspired by zebras.

Discover the story of how Solomon J. Solomon, a pioneer of camouflage techniques, established the school. Find out:

  • how he convinced the army to translate the camouflage techniques found in nature into cutting-edge techniques to deflect enemy aerial reconnaissance of troops and vehicles
  • how he knitted camouflage nets from his mother-in-law’s house

Forgotten secrets of the Royal Parks

David Ivison, Vice Chairman of The Royal Parks Guild, said: “This is a rare chance for visitors to immerse themselves into the fascinating but forgotten secrets of how the Royal Parks boosted the war effort – and find out about the people who worked in them. So much knowledge has been lost over time. But research organised by the Guild has uncovered intriguing snippets from the past.

“A ‘eureka’ moment came when the official list of Royal Parks’ war casualties was found in The National Archives. The subsequent discovery that 24 names of The Royal Parks’ war dead were included in His Majesty’s Office of Works memorial, situated in the Treasury building opposite St James’s Park, was a truly heart-stopping moment.”

The First World War project is funded by a £90,000 National Lottery Grant awarded through the English Heritage Fund. The project runs until June 2019 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles, with a host of events being organised in the Royal Parks over the next two years.