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Talks begin on restoration and mapping of Berkhamsted’s First World War training trenches

The original work party that dug one of the training trenches at Berkhamsted Common.

The original work party that dug one of the training trenches at Berkhamsted Common.

There will be a series of talks about the recent restoration and mapping of Berkhamsted trenches used to train First World War soldiers.

The trenches were used by more than 14,000 troops from the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps, nicknamed The Devil’s Own.

The unit was based nearby at what became known as Kitchener’s Field – named after the 1914 war secretary.

Soldiers used eight miles of trenches that were dug in Berkhamsted and Northchurch commons.

Only about 600 metres of them are left in Berkhamsted after most were filled in after the war ended. The town’s trenches are the most extensive in the country to survive to this day.

The seven-month restoration meant clearing the scrubland that had overwhelmed them in recent years.

The work was done by 35 volunteers on behalf of the Chilterns Conservation Board and The Chiltern Society.

Maps will now be made of the surviving trenches and put on information boards nearby.

At least 2,200 ‘Devil’s Own’ troops were killed during the war and up to 5,000 injured. Three won the Victoria Cross.

Up to 200 soldiers from Berkhamsted died during the war.

Chiltern Society member Norman Groves said: “The overriding interest is to make sure that we do not forget how many people were killed, injured and traumatised by the war. Our children and grandchildren must not forget how terrible it was, because it’s quite easy to do that.”

Schools and other bodies that want information about the Devil’s Own unit and Berkhamsted in the First World War should contact Mr Groves by emailing norman.groves@ntlworld.com

He spoke recently about the project alongside fellow volunteer Brian Shephard at Berkhamsted Town Hall, on behalf of Berkhamsted Citizens Association.

His next talk on the project will be at Little Gaddesden Village Hall at 8.30pm on Thursday, November 28. Find out more at www.littlegaddesden.com

 

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