World War One museum and trench plan for Doncaster

The horror of the trenches in the Great War1914-18. World War One
The horror of the trenches in the Great War1914-18. World War One
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TALKS have started over plans to set up a World War One-themed visitor attraction and a memorial to Victoria Cross winners in Doncaster.

The plans have been put to Doncaster Council by the Victoria Cross Trust, which has held preliminary talks to ask if there are any possible sites in the borough.

The plans would create a number of jobs in the borough if it goes ahead, and the trust believes it could be built for about £500,000.

Gary Stapleton, Victoria Cross Trust founder, said: “We are looking to bring this to Doncaster and we are in talks with Doncaster Council for a suitable location.”

Under the trust’s plans, a World War One trench system would be dug to show visitors how British troops lived and suffered during the 1914 to 1918 war, which saw almost 900,000 British soldiers, sailors and airmen killed.

There would also be a museum explaining the facts behind the war, so future generations can understand what those who fought it went through, and focusing on the lives of those involved.

It would be combined with an area of trees, each one to serve as a memorial to a holder of the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the British military for courage in battle, with a museum looking at their lives, with many living in poverty after leaving the forces.

The project would see 1,353 trees used as a memorial to the VC winners, many of whom do not have a grave because their bodies were never found. Mr Stapleton sees a link with World War One, because it was the conflict which produced the largest number of awards of the medal, including several from Doncaster.

Mr Stapleton said: “The other part would be a living World War One museum, complete with a trench system and actors in period costume from World War One.

“We have interest in the project from a re-enactment society who may become involved.

“This is not going to be pro war. It will be pro bravery. The plan we have would be of huge benefit to Doncaster.

“It would create quite a number of employment opportunities and we would be looking at doing some modern apprenticeships.

“It would be of huge educational benefit, and we have event had messages of support from Canada.”

The plan would involve groups of volunteers as well as paid staff.

The public would be unlikely to be able to walk through the main area of the replica trench, but Mr Stapleton hopes to build a viewing platform where they would be able to walk along to see what is going on. But there may be a walk through area of trench created.

He believes the attraction would enhance Doncaster’s appeal as a destination, adding to attractions such as the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and the last airworthy Vulcan bomber. There are also plans to build one of a number of Battle of Britain memorials in the borough.

Mr Stapleton is investigating funding streams and hopes to get local businesses involved with the project. They can call him on 01302 342652.

Structures on the site are expected to be made of wood, in keeping with many of the buildings which would have been close the battlesfields at the time.

The Western front in World War was fought in a system of trenches which streched all the way from the coast at the English Channel to Switzerland.

Doncaster’s links with the war include a number of VC winners, Thomas Bryan, John Harper and George Wyatt, and one of Britain’s main Royal Flying Corps pilot training centres during the war, which was near Doncaster Racecourse.