When visiting the site of a battle or a siege, have you ever looked upon the series of lumps and bumps in the landscape and wondered to yourself....
"What would it have looked like at the time?"
"How were things constructed back then?"
"What would it have felt like to be there?"
In the absence of a time machine, experimental archaeology is the next best thing to help us to find the answers to these questions. By putting theoretical knowledge into practice and physically reconstructing historical sites in the same way our ancestors did, we can learn a great deal through the process. Reconstruction on this scale is no small feat. but this is exactly what the Centre for Experimental Military Archaeology (CEMA) has been created to do.
CEMA’s vision is to become the home for pan-historical experimentation where the methods of military attack and defence can be investigated, and the day-to-day lives of soldiers throughout 2,000 years of history can be experienced. We aim to become a location where military engineering from Roman times to the Second World War (WW2) can be explored, interpreted, constructed and tested.
CEMA was established in 2021 at the Kent Event Centre in Detling by distinguished historian and broadcaster Andy Robertshaw and military history enthusiast and business director Mark Ingarfield. Working in collaboration with Wessex Archaeology and the University of Kent, CEMA also aims to become a site for research, eduction and film to help preserve the lessons learned from the past for future generations.
Our first project was to recreate an authentic World War One (WW1) trench, which has already been a great success with many schools and organisations visiting us for guided tours and presentations about life on the frontline. Our site has also become a popular film location, with the BBC, ITV Meridian and Channel 4 choosing to shoot on our site.
The site itself is also rich in military archaeology and has an impressive military heritage spanning a thousand years.
Andy was previously Head of Education at the National Army Museum and director of a museum for the army. He is an author, historian and broadcaster, best known for the Great War, and has been involved in television archaeology from the medieval period to the Second World War. Andy has acted as historical advisor for the films of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Sam Mendes.
Mark comes from a business background in the Paper Trade. Early visits to the Great War Battlefields sparked a passion for military history which ultimately led to him attaining a War Studies degree from Kings College London. With the formation of CEMA, Mark has now fulfilled a long held ambition of his to help educate people about the Great War and to preserve the memory of their endeavours.
Philip's interest in WW1 began when he was 14 with a school field trip to Ypres in Belgium. He was both horrified and amazed at the sacrifices that had taken place in what is essentially one town. It instantly became a yearly pilgrimage for him.
Philip has since been editor of the largest online military magazine War History Online and has worked on and appeared in numerous Historical films and TV documentaries. Philip is an experienced guide who enjoys delivering interactive sessions for school groups and visitors.
Gemila is a qualified primary school teacher with a special interest in history and the evolution of women's roles in society in particular.
She enjoys undertaking personal research and is delighted to work with CEMA to share her passion for history with the younger generations outside of the classroom setting.
Gemila has also participated in historic events across the country for many years, honing her skills in delivering hands on learning experiences to the general public.
My interest in the Great War first began when I was about 12 years old. I was shown a clip from the 1930 version of All Quiet on the Western Front which left me intrigued and full of questions about the conflict. It was after this that I began to read and discover as much information as I could.
Luckily, since then I’ve gone on to work with Andy and CEMA. This helped me to take my personal research to a whole new level and instead I began to actually experience some of what I'd read about first hand! With CEMA, I have also enjoyed participating in archaeological digs, experimental archaeology and giving talks to groups.
Barry first became interested in military history when he discovered his grandfather had fought on Crete during WW2.
He began re-enacting in the early 2000s which is where he developed a belief in 'doing it as they before him did'. He is passionate about historical accuracy and through it demonstrating respect to those who fought in Britain's conflicts.
Barry's approach to historic talks is both infectious and immersive ensuring a memorable experience for visitors.
Barry confesses to also having a passion for WW1, particularly living in trench conditions and avoiding the use of soap...for accuracy purposes!
Since first being involved with Andy in historic military catering, and life in the trenches, some twenty years or more, I have helped to Impart that knowledge to a great many people.
Something very special to me, is being able to learn from, and listen to veterans’ recollections. This helps me to understand what it is actually like to experience life in an army from the past.
By actually experiencing the need to fend for yourself, and your ‘mates’ in an environment of recreated enforced hardship, it makes the portrayal much more real and vivid. It also makes the telling, far easier, having actually lived through it.
After over 50 years of collecting Militaria, military catering equipment, and motorcycles, I am still enjoying it.
When his Gran died she left Craig his Great Uncle Tubby's baccy tin, but was the contents that captivated - Tubby's three medals - Pip Squeek and Wilfred, a faded photo of a surprisingly un-rotund Uncle Tubby in khaki in 1915, a twinkle in his eye and a glass of something on the table, a faded horse rosette, a Bosche ( for that is how his family described them) Mark note!
Uncle Tubby never made it back to his beloved ' Elephant' ( & Castle) in South London but he did start a lifelong quest in his Great Nephew who (under the auspices of not knowing a man until you have walked a mile in his boots) has marched many miles in WW1 Army B5's, absorbed many books, fired many bullets, and given many talks to in some small way keep Uncle Tubby, his numerous Comrades, & their Victory, Humour and Spirit alive.
Remembering Pte William Trevell Driver
Royal Field Artillery, and Royal Lancaster Regiment.