The Clipstone Camp, one of the largest training camp during the World War I, is slowly restored to what it used to look like about a hundred years ago. Now known as Sherwood Pines, the camp used to host trainings of thousands of soldiers.
The camp was believed to train 30,000 soldiers at one time during the First World War. The camp included bunks and trenches that molded volunteers to become war heroes from 1915 to 1920.
The restoration project was initiated by the Forestry Commission with the help of several individuals. Tim Priestly, a primary school teacher, is among the active individuals who assisted in reviving the camp to its former set-up. He assisted in the creation of the WWI Clipstone Centenary. The group has since then collected images of the camp to guide them in the restoration. The group is also campaigning to make Sherwood Pines a permanent memorial.
According to Priestly, “There are so many stories connected to the camp, marriages of soldiers to local women, deaths from the outbreak of Spanish flu, there are even records of suicides.
“The camp was of great national significance and I have been contacted by people from all over the country who have stories connected with it.”
Trenches become death traps of around 750,000 British soldiers during the First World War. Thus, the training in Clipstone Camp using trenches is very critical during the war. The trenches become one of the symbols of the First World War.
“We think that it is important to mark the centenary of the First World War with a memorial to these soldiers. The majority of the British Army would have trained here,” Priestly added.
Part of the restoration efforts include the building of gun ranges for present and future generations to get a first-hand experience of the training in the camp. This is part of the efforts to relive the memory of soldiers of WWI and to educate the youth of the role of the camp in history. The ranges will be opened by the Forestry Commission.
Father and son landscapers Philip and Courtney Wilkinson are also said to contribute their expertise to the full restoration of the camp by next year.
“We will now be on site at Sherwood Pines digging trenches and sourcing reclaimed materials to make them. There is a lot of labour involved and we will be working on this for some time. We carry out research from books and old photographs and then make sketches and build from those,” Courtney Wilkinson said.
The father and son tandem contributed to the making of many sets for movies including the famous “War Horse” directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie bagged home six Oscar nominations.
“Spielberg was a friendly chap. It was all hands on deck and very busy. We needed to make sure the ground looked authentic,” Courtney commented.
Laura Freer of the Forestry Commission said their efforts to restore Clipstone Camp is an “an opportunity to share history and show the importance of remembrance.”
“The outbreak of the war was a life-changing event. We want to illustrate the history of the Sherwood Pines site and the role that it played,” she finally said.