10 group travel ideas: World War commemorations in Kent

Date Posted: 29/01/2014

The Secret Wartime Tunnels at Dover Castle, credit J. Brady, Visit Kent.

Pictured: The Secret Wartime Tunnels at Dover Castle. (Photo credit: J. Brady, Visit Kent).

Kent has a wealth of historic links to World Wars One and Two, including the coast where bouncing bombs were tested and the secret tunnels from which Operation Dynamo was masterminded. Special events will be taking place county-wide to mark the 2014 anniversaries, and here are ten ways your group can get involved.  

1. WWII at Dover Castle

Between 24th and 26th May, witness an explosive battle and soak up the atmosphere as Dover Castle returns to the 1940s. Walk through military encampments and get up close to a full size replica Spitfire.

Step inside Mr Smith's bombed out shop and discover the austerity of the war years from the Ministry of Food, plus experience the German field hospital, get tips on the latest period fashion, and witness a firepower display.

2. Ramsgate Blitz Walks

Take a guided walk around the heaviest bombed seaside town in the UK. Ramsgate Blitz Walks will relive the dark days of WWII, reveal stories of ordinary people on the front line, and visit the places connected with these stories.

Private walks can be arranged for groups and take approximately two hours.

3. 1940s Wartime Weekend

The 1940s Wartime Weekend taking place on 26th and 27th April at Dover Transport Museum will commemorate the vital role that Dover played as both a Port and hub of national defence during WWII.

A local historian will portray the late Queen Mother in her guise during the war years when she would be seen visiting the bombed towns and factories of Great Britain. The Victory Wartime Band will be playing ‘40s music, alongside dance and period costume.

4. WWI Centenary at Belmont House

Groups visiting Belmont House and gardens on 17th and 18th May can step back in time to experience what life was like on the frontline.
Demonstrations and displays will reflect the key aspects of the history in this period, with different WWI encampments plus displays of weapons and equipment. Children will be encouraged to take part in drill display and the army signal school.

The War & Peace Revival 2013 event, credit John Blackman.

Pictured: The War & Peace Revival 2013 event. (Photo credit: John Blackman).

5. The War & Peace Revival

One of the greatest military shows on earth is at RAF Westenhanger, Folkestone Racecourse from 16th to 20th July. Highlights include the Vintage Village - a peaceful haven with displays of vintage Rolls Royce from the 1920s to 1960s; and an RAF camp featuring full-sized replicas of a Spitfire, Hurricane and ‘captured’ Me 109.

The Home Front area will feature a wartime pub, shop, Women's Voluntary Service providing tea and refreshments to bombed out householders, ARP, policeman and even live cows at the Land Army display.

6. 1940s Weekend at Kent & East Sussex Railway

Experience the 40s lifestyle on 17th and 18th May as Kent & East Sussex Railway turns back the clock to wartime Britain. Enjoy flying displays by iconic wartime planes - the Hurricane and Spitfire; singing by polished professionals; and plenty of dancing.

Vehicles and authentic period costumes will be on view, plus a 1940s village scene with wartime cookery demonstrations. Steam trains will also run all weekend.

7. Combined Military Ops

Relive the sounds and drama of the Wartime Airfield at Headcorn Aerodrome’s Combined Ops Weekend on 16th and 17th August, which comprises a spectacular display of military vehicles and aircraft. 

Highlights are set to include vintage and modern aircraft displays on the ground and in the air; static military vehicles; living history re-enactment groups; arena events; military stalls and children’s mini tanks.

In battles depicting scenes from World Wars One and Two, re-enactors shoot thousands of blank rounds in carefully planned skirmishes. Deafening gunfire and tanks, together with explosions that blow holes in the ground, filling the air with dirt and smoke, make for an exciting day.

8. Salute to the '40s

Be transported back in time at the Historic Dockyard Chatham on 20th and 21st September.  Around every corner period vehicles, evacuees and people dressed in their best 1940s attire will aim to bring the site alive, creating a truly vintage atmosphere.

Open-air concert at Leeds Castle.

Groups will also be entertained by dance troops and the best of 1940s entertainers.

9. Christmas on the Home Front

At Kent Life’s Christmas on the Home Front event on 29th and 30th November, you can talk to the family preparing for Christmas in the 1940s cottage; make wartime decorations with the Blitz victims in the rest centre; gather around the piano for carols; or maybe send a telegram to a loved one from the post office.

Additional highlights include the chance to sample the Christmas cookery, join in the Home Guard training, visit the warden's office, take some wartime school lessons, and join the RAF billeted in the Victorian farmhouse. There will also be ‘make do and mend’ demonstrations.

10. Open Air Classical concert

Hosted by Leeds Castle on 12th July, the concert features The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, joined by soloists and The Military Wives Choir. 

At this fantasist night of picnics and patriot flag waving, you’ll also be treated to a military band, field guns, amazing air displays featuring iconic World War Two planes and a fantastic firework finale.

These ten group travel ideas were compiled by Visit Kent. For more group travel information and further event listings visit the Frontline Kent webpage.

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