Story by Kyle Shea | Photography by Dan Shea
A Reeanactor’s Paradise
The War and Peace Revival in Kent, England, has had a long history. It was originally just called “The War and Peace Show,” but the name was changed to “The War and Peace Revival,” after the owners retired and sold it to a new show manager. The show stayed at the Hop Farm Country Park in Tunbridge-Wells, until 2013, when it moved to the Folkestone Racecourse. The move was not well-received though, so in 2017, it returned to the Hop Farm. It was a success, and many old-timers returned. The Hop Farm is a good area for a large group of people to gather. The parking is better, and there is a nostalgic feeling for those who have been going to the Hop Farm for years. This is sometimes referred to as “The Beltring Show” and located in Paddock Wood. It’s about 30 miles southeast of London in Western Kent.
The first thing that greets visitors when they enter the show is the Home Front. This section is dedicated to how England looked during World War II. There are games from the Forties, shops that sell local treats and military vehicles, both old and modern. In 2019, there was a downed World War II British fighter plane on which reenactors would demonstrate how to put out a fire on the plane, though they didn’t actually light it on fire.
To the right of Home Front are the trade stalls. Here, hundreds of vendors from all over Europe come to sell various antiques and militaria. There are helmets and uniforms from World War I to modern day. Swords, both real and replicas, can also be found. There are also books on almost every military subject, including Osprey books, a well-illustrated and greatly researched series on weapons, battles, wars, equipment and other subjects. Other equipment includes bayonets, old medals, old postcards, coins, flags and countless other products. There are also local toys and candy like any fair-type event. One thing you will find throughout the show is vintage products. There is a large group of attendees who like this and enjoy dressing up in clothes from the Forties and Fifties.
While walking through the stalls, you will see some deactivated firearms. Great Britain and most of Europe have strict gun control laws, having most firearms deactivated by welding the insides. There are various levels of deactivated firearms from different legal eras, and in England, these are restricted and have ownership documents stating the method of deactivation. The most common deactivated firearms are World War II guns, like Thompson submachine guns and the Sturmgewehr 44. However, there are also more modern firearms like AK-47s and the SKS rifle. Americans cannot buy these firearms and return to the U.S. with them without first getting an approved Form 6 to import, because the receivers are still intact, even in cutaway Brens or other guns.
Behind the trade stalls is the Arena. Here, assorted historical tanks and other military vehicles drive in front of crowds while an announcer explains the history and inter esting facts about them. The Arena is also used to play reenactments by local history groups, with the ammo being blanks of course. Some of these reenactments include World War I, World War II and Vietnam. Two large mounds separate the Arena and the Reenactor’s field and can be used as a “bleacher” to watch the events.
Next to the Arena is the Reenactor’s field. Here living history groups like Eaglestorm and Three Sixty History gather for the show, coming from all over England, the rest of Europe and even Japan. Some have trenches based on World War I and World War II, with deactivated firearms and other equipment of the time period. There are also more modern reenacting groups, which have settings like Mogadishu and Northern Ireland during the Troubles. There is a large following of Vietnam War reenactors, with one group even dressed up as Vietnam War protesters, with a flowered Volkswagen van and protest signs.
Throughout the show are food stalls for vendors and show comers alike. The food varies, from sausages and fish and chips, to Asian cuisine, including Thai and Chinese. In front of the trade stalls are a couple of small restaurants where people can sit and eat. The food is good depending on where you eat. Also throughout the show are ice cream vans that sell not just ice cream but water and soda.
High in the sky above the show, a couple of WWII fighter planes can be seen on certain days. They do a number of aerial acrobatics for the crowds below. Military vehicles drive throughout the show, including tanks, trucks, Ferrets and Mules. Because of this, you should be aware of your surroundings if you go to the show.
The War and Peace Revival and the Hop Farm are located in the county of Kent. Located on the Southeast coast of England, Kent has a long and amazing history. It is the home of the White Cliffs of Dover, Dover Castle, Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and countless other castles and towns. The famous Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, Writer H. G. Wells and Major General James Wolfe are just a few of the famous people who were born here. Famous residents who lived here include Charles Dickens and General Charles Cornwallis.
This year marked the 75th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, one of the greatest military operations of all time. World War II plays a large part of the area’s history, as the skies were filled in the Battle of Britain aerial war. Kent played an important role in the War. The evacuation of Dunkirk was planned from underground tunnels in the White Cliffs of Dover. Atop the cliffs there were special sonar stations that were used to watch for German aircraft.
This was a bit of a rough year for the show, though it was in no way the owner’s fault. The 25th of July was one of the hottest days in English history, and it rained for the majority of the show. Still, many people battled the heat and rain to come and do business with old friends and other vendors. War and Peace is still a great show, where you can find almost anything you want. It is worth a trip to England in the heat of July.
(The author has been traveling to The War and Peace Show/Revival almost every year since 1995.)
WAR AND PEACE 2020: Show Master Info
The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, UK. (This is in the South, located southeast of London and about evenly in between Maidstone and Tunbridge-Wells.)
Promoter Contact Info
Phone: +44 (0) 1258 857700
Sandpits Farm, Poole Road
Lytchett Matravers, Poole
Dorset, BH16 6AG
The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, UK
July 28 to August 1, 2020 (check website for up-to-date info)
Reenactors of military units from all modern times; emphasis is on the military vehicles and having correct uniforms and kit. Located on 400 acres of displays and live reenactment of many different units from WWII to Vietnam. There is a huge militaria sale area, with thousands of vendors selling everything from deactivated firearms to vehicle kits and period dress.
This show is outdoors, with a lot of walking and potential rain and mud. Be prepared to supply your own seating arrangements anywhere you go, including to watch the military vehicle demonstrations.
Holiday Inn Express is everywhere; most hotels in the Paddock Wood area are booked way in advance, so you will probably have to book outside the area if you haven’t done so already.
Power & Plug Types
220 volt 50 cycle, UK three-prong type plugs. It’s unlikely to find U.S. or Euro plugs in most hotels.
Like any country, there are areas that are not safe to travel in. A good rule of thumb is to stay out of city areas at night. Ask the locals for advice on dangerous areas.
The British love pubs, pub quiz nights and Karaoke, as well as football (soccer to American speakers), cricket, rugby and jokes told in a wry manner. They utilize 300% more of the English language than Americans and are generally very precise speakers. The Brits have a long military tradition, which is evident in their culture and museums. Ordering food in pubs is generally done at the bar with payment in full; then it is brought to you.
Ten percent is generally fine in restaurants; give less to a taxi. In many pubs, tipping is not considered correct but offer to buy the barkeep a drink for later.
England uses the GBP (Great Britain Pound). For up-to-date conversion, use xe.com. Slang expressions for currency include “Quid,” which is one GBP.
Rental cars will have UK-style, right-handed steering, and driving is on the left side of the road. Unless you know how to drive with a left-hand shift—the pattern is the same—order an automatic. We advise finding the first parking lot in sight after getting your rental car and learning the reverse geometry if you are a European or U.S. driver. The trains are quite reliable, as are buses. For directions to the Hop Farm, please go to thehopfarm.co.uk.
In London, Tower of London’s weapons display and the Imperial War Museum are of note, and there are many others including, Portsmouth-Fort Nelson cannon museum and Royal Armouries in Leeds in the North. The UK has a well-developed museum community, check the Royal Armouries website at armouries.org and search “English Heritage” for other sites. For tank aficionados, visit tankmuseum.org.
Two excellent resources online are visitbritain.com and visitlondon.com. If you are in the area for The War and Peace Revival, look for a visit to Leeds Castle (not in the city of Leeds up North, it’s just north of the show site) built in 1119; it is an amazing family visit. For events in Kent, try kentmessenger.co.uk.
NOTE: All information subject to change. Go to warandpeacerevival.com for up-to-date information
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V24N7 (Aug/Sep 2020)