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Wartime in the Vale

Wartime in the Vale

There are some venues which have a reputation for putting on an event that all those who attend will enjoy, guaranteed. One of those is Wartime in the Vale, held at Ashdown Camp, which is part of Ashdown Farm at Badsey, near Evesham, in Worcestershire, WR11 7EN. The area has been laid aside for the specific purpose of hosting the show and includes several original wartime Nissen Huts, which house permanent exhibitions to display weapons, home front and even recreate an authentic barrack room of the 1940s period.

Details

Wartime in the Vale (WITV) is a well-established show featuring in the calendar of many military enthusiasts and collectors. It was all set and ready to go ahead in 2020, but then disaster struck with lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. In 2021 it was hoped the show could go ahead, but it was not to be and, like so many others, it had to be cancelled. We all remember those days only too clearly, but now, two years on, things are getting back to normality. Emma James and Amy Jelfs, who organise the show, very kindly invited me back to see the first show in two years. My first impression was it looked as though they had never been away, the return was that seamless.

Since the show was established it has continued to grow not only in size but also in popularity, with visitor numbers increasing. This year, over the weekend of 25th-26th June, it was back and what a show it turned out to be. The best way of judging the popularity of shows like this is by the number of vehicles in the car park and I’m pleased to say that at Evesham it was full. Walking onto the site, the atmosphere was as lively as ever and full of energy and lots of activity. Everything was laid on for the benefit of all at the show, from entertainment throughout the day to a range of facilities, including refreshment stands.

A great deal of thought has been given to the way things are laid out, such as the traders’ stands, which are pitched around the four sides of the display arena, which serves as the central focal point. This arrangement is a clever use of space and means it is possible to browse the trade stands while at the same time keeping an eye on displays in the arena.

Dotted about

The static displays by reenactment groups are always dotted around the site and because of this, they make for unexpected surprises. For example, this year the ‘Welsh Red Devils’ put out a great collection of WWII kit displayed around a Bren gun carrier. The members were engaged in answering questions throughout the weekend and attracted a lot of attention. There were familiar faces from previous shows, but also some new groups such as ‘Finland wat War’. At the show, there were only three members of this group but they had a very good display of kit, which they had collected. Having spoken to them at length, I will be focussing on them in a profile feature in a future issue.

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Other groups included the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which dates back to 1685, and as part of 3rd British Division, landed on Sword Beach on D-Day. Members of the group gave informal talks on the kit used in WWII to members of the public who engaged with this interesting display.

The Germans were also onsite and put on a very good static display, which featured vehicles and lots of weapons. They also demonstrated the Kettenkrad by driving around the arena with the motorcycles, which included some unusual and rare machines, such as a Zundapp sidecar combination brought over from Poland. Elsewhere there was a display by a group depicting the 33 Signals unit of Patton’s Third Army from the later stages in Normandy, including telegraph poles which they had erected for the show.

Fire them up

Military vehicles feature prominently at the WITV and while there are single vehicles parked on display at various intervals, the main display area was, as always, set away from the arena and a tour along the lines is always rewarding. There is usually an owner who turns up with something surprising and often drives it into the arena. This year a superb, fully restored Stuart tank, although not rare, was attracting a lot of attention because of its immaculate condition, which made it look factory-fresh. Another rarity was a compact Minerva jeep-type vehicle from Belgium, looking like a cross between a Jeep and a Land Rover.

Such was the determination to get back into the normal running of things, that some participants had travelled considerable distances to attend the show. The number of traders on site had plenty of stock for collectors and business was brisk. Most collectors’ interests were covered, from books and medals to weapons and battlefield relics from WWI. Traders dealing in retro and vintage collectables had good quality items and prices were reasonable. This is a show which really does have something for everyone and all the family.

Among the original Nissen Huts, more vehicles were parked and there were ‘pop-up’ displays arranged by collectors to show artefacts. The whole display area is like some large outdoor museum and being able to walk between vehicles and large items is a memorable experience.

Bravo!

The organisers of WITV are to be congratulated in achieving such a high level of come-back after COVID, and all because they kept in contact and knew the day would come when they would again be able open the gates to the public. The level of faith shared between Amy and Emma and all their participants at the show must have been enormous and it paid off by presenting yet another successful event. There was no sign of a drop in standards following the enforced cancellation over the past two years. In fact, if anything, the opposite is the case. In my opinion, I consider Wartime in the Vale to be in the top three shows of its kind in the country.

Amy and Emma are already hard at work towards planning for next year’s show, which is scheduled for the 17th-18th of June 2023. So, to avoid missing out on this great event, make sure to put the date in your diaries for next year and keep up to date on developments by visiting the website at www.ashdowncamp.com

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