Military historian joins the battle to protect trench training site

Andrew Robertshaw built a 60ft-long trench in the back garden of his home
Andrew Robertshaw built a 60ft-long trench in the back garden of his home
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A MILITARY historian who was an adviser on Steven Spielberg’s War Horse has lent his support to an Evening News campaign to see a historic Edinburgh trench complex preserved for future generations.

Former history teacher Andrew Robertshaw recently hit the headlines after building a 60ft-long trench at the back off his Surrey home to raise awareness of the conditions endured by soldiers in the First World War. Around 200 tons of earth was dug out to build the full-scale replica – which took a month to complete with the aid of help from volunteers and soldiers of the 23 Pioneer Regiment Royal Logistics Corp who had recently returned from Afghanistan.

The 55-year-old trench fanatic has now backed our campaign to see trenches at Dreghorn Woods in Colinton turned preserved for the future.

The crumbling network, which was used to train soldiers before they headed to the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres, are at risk of disappearing as they become overgrown by trees.

The Evening News has backed the campaign to save them, led by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, whose father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar, was trained in the trenches. It is estimated preserving them would cost around £10,000.

Mr Robertshaw was chief historical consultant on the War Horse film, giving advice on issues such as props, costume, armoury, badges and even the colour of First World War German smoke.

He is also known for his television appearances in programmes such as Two Men in a Trench and Time Team.

Mr Robertshaw, who also runs the Royal Logistics Corps museum in Deepcut, Surrey, said he was happy to support the Save Our Trenches campaign. He said: “It’s important to protect these trenches for future generations as they are an integral link to what really happened in the UK.”

Mr Robertshaw, who said he has a particular interest in Scottish military history, added: “The soldiers in these trenches would have been trained in everything from grenade practice to keeping out of the way of the enemy and actually digging the thing in the first place.”

The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots dug trenches in the Colinton and Dreghorn area before they made their way to the front. The area of Dreghorn Woods where the trenches lie is open to the public and is owned by the Ministry of Defence.

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

Efforts are now under way to secure enough money to carry out a survey of the site.

Colinton Councillor Jason Rust, who has also backed the campaign, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the level of support that’s been received across the board, particularly in the run-up to Remembrance Day - it’s a very poignant time.”

We revealed last month how history guides at Mercat Tours are keen to lead parties of schoolchildren around the site.