A FRENCH Foreign Legionary, a member of the feared Austrian mountain force, a Lewis gunner and a Russian female balalaika player – a member of the Provisional Government which overthrew the Tsarist regime – flocked to Burwash to re-stage a key World War I Western Front battle.
They were all members of the Western Front Association which enthralled visitors with realistic manoeuvres at Bateman’s, former home of poet and author Rudyard Kipling, earlier this month.
The grounds were transformed into a realistic camp from which the Battle of Messines Ridge was launched in 1917.
The Association re-staged elements of the battle including a reconnaissance of the battlefield by the Royal Flying Corps where a photographer leant out of the open cockpit with a plate camera. Pictures were developed back at camp so commanders could access the detailed geography of the terrain.
A soldier of the French Foreign Legion – complete with his cook – was called up, as were soldiers from both Allied and the Kaiser’s German-Austro-Hungarian Empire armies who made an appearance in Burwash.
There was realistic bayonet practice, a forced landing of the replica Newport 20 bi-plane, a surgical tent with field surgeon busy reading a 1917 edition of the Daily Mirror and even a Pathe film crew who recorded flattering images of the ‘unstoppable’ Allied advance.