Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a WW1 trench

Come along to Tenterfield Memorial Hall to see a recreation of a WW1 tunnel and trench system, inspired by this photo.

Come along to Tenterfield Memorial Hall to see a recreation of a WW1 tunnel and trench system, inspired by this photo.

The recreation of the WW1 tunnel and trench system snaking the length of Tenterfield Memorial Hall to mark the centenary of Armistice is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have some concept of how the ANZACs lived, Tenterfield RSL Sub-branch president Dave Stewart said.

“Children alive today are not going to see it again, not in this hall,” he said.

The 35-metre long indoor temporary structure is the result of more than 300 man hours, and that’s not taking into account that one ‘Rhombus’ (Steven Cowin) hour is worth two of anyone else’s, according to ANZAC Centenary Steering Committee president Peter Reid. Rhombus’s great grandfather fought in WW1.

Mr Reid also singled out builder Murray Finnerty for going above-and-beyond.

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A concerted effort to commemorate the centenary has been on the books for five years, he said. Some recent rescoping of what could be possible resulted in the indoor event which is weather-proof, has power onsite and allows people to come and go as they wish.

Some army supplies in the form of sandbags and camouflage netting came from the Wallangarra Army base, and Rhombus again came to the party with scrap iron, pallets and other materials.

There are even sections of old paling fencing to direct traffic, thanks to the fortuitous replacement of someone’s backyard fence.

Mr Reid said a not-fortuitous bushfire provided the blackened foliage which certainly adds a distinctive flavour of the forest conditions of some of the battlefields.

For inspiration the volunteer builders used the so-called Wallangarra Tunnel, which involved the skills of engineer Oliver Woodward of Beneath Hill 60 fame, immortalised in a display cabinet at the Tenterfield School of Arts.

“He’s the reason we thought of a tunnel,” Mr Reid said.

The tunnel is wheelchair accessible, but Mr Reid said the tunnel is dark and claustrophobic in places which visitors need to take into consideration. There are three emergency exits along the course of the tunnel which people can use if they’re feeling uncomfortable.

There are several alcoves with displays to impart a sense of the soldiers’ lives, and there will be a soundtrack and strobe lighting to represent the ever-present bombardement of enemy fire, with original WW1 film footage displayed on large screens.

A periscope has been set up to show what a WW1 soldier would have seen over the edge of the tunnel, and the tunnel empties into a photo gallery with stations showing 15-minute videos of digital honour boards.

If people have items to lend to the secure display in this area, they should contact Mr Reid on 0407 031 065 or Mr Stewart on 0407 398 444.

There is no cost to check out the display, and families and children are very welcome to attend. The hall will be open from Thursday, November 8 to Tuesday, November 13 from 10am. The display continues until 4pm each day (until 7pm on Thursday and Monday).

Over in Bruxner Park there will also be a display of 200 white crosses each with a red poppy and the name of a soldier from Tenterfield Shire who died on the battlefields of WW1.