Campaign seeks to turn trenches into educational facility

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Calls have been made to transform the Capital’s neglected First World War trenches into an educational facility.

A network of trenches at Dreghorn Woods, Colinton, which it is estimated would cost around £10,000 to save, could soon disappear as they become overgrown by trees.

The campaign to save them – which is backed by the Evening News – is being led by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, whose father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar, was trained in the trenches before he was sent to the Battle of the Somme.

The Ministry of Defence is currently investigating possible future uses for the site, and city education leader Paul Godzik said there was scope for transforming the trenches into an educational resource. 
“Certainly we would be pleased to discuss the possibility,” he said. “If they could have an educational purpose we would be willing to investigate that – I can certainly see the potential.

“We would be willing to discuss that with the MoD and the campaigners should they wish to come forward with a proposal.”

The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots dug trenches in the Colinton and Dreghorn area which, at the time of the First World War, was countryside, before they made their way to France. The area of Dreghorn Woods where the trenches lie is open to the public and is owned by the MoD.

Representatives from Historic Scotland, the MoD and the city council have been in talks to discuss how the trenches could be 
preserved.

MoD archaeologist Philip Abramson, who inspected the site, said the Dreghorn trenches appeared to be in as good a condition as two other examples – at Otterburn in Northumberland and Barry Buddon, Carnoustie – but more work needed to be done to make sure.

Efforts are now under way to secure enough money to carry out a survey of the site, although the MoD said today that no further progress has been made.

Former education spokesman Ewan Aitken said: “Anything that could allow young people to experience or come close to experience the horrible reality of war would be a good thing.

“It would mean that they would be less likely to be in favour of conflict.

“There is this idea that as time passes, the more unreal these events seem. To a lot of people, the First World War is becoming less about history and more of a story.

“It would have to have some educational interpretation so the children would understand the history behind it, and means to direct people round the trenches so it wasn’t just a hole in the ground.”

Campaigner Ms Gladstone-Millar was delighted with the suggestion.

She said: “It’s an excellent idea. The trenches are so accessible from the main road, the children could go there and see the trenches, and [learn] what the soldiers went through.”