Monday, 20 November 2017

Battle of Mapledurham

FALLEN soldiers scattered the field as bombs exploded and the sound of gunshot rang out.

FALLEN soldiers scattered the field as bombs exploded and the sound of gunshot rang out.

It was only a matter of time before the German forces advanced on the Allies and forced their surrender before taking prisoners of war.

This was the scene as a Second World War-style battle was re-enacted at the Mapledurham Estate over the Easter weekend.

More than 1,000 people saw the estate’s grounds transformed into a war zone on Saturday and Sunday.

The event celebrated the filming of The Eagle Has Landed at the same location 37 years earlier.

More than 400 British, American, Canadian and German “troops” set up camp and patrolled the grounds.

Some of them guarded the entrance, which included a roadblock made from sandbags and a barrier.

A war strategy room with maps was set up in the water mill. Other features included a military vehicle display, a mock air raid, square bashing, an appearance by a Winston Churchill lookalike and a Forties dance marquee.

Miller Corry Starling said: “It was a bit unusual to see the estate transformed like that.

“I came home the night before to see how the lights were working in the marquees just as it was getting gloomy.

“There was a complete camp with German soldiers, Allied troops and military vehicles moving round in the dark. It was quite an eerie sight.”

The 1967 film, which starred Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, featured Mapledurham House as well as the estate’s church and watermill. The story was about the German military trying to capture Sir Winston.

Money received by the film company was used to restore the water mill, which is the only working mill on the Thames.

The estate has also featured in episodes of Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders and on the cover of a Black Sabbath album.

Mr Starling said: “The film is one of the few things people are aware of about Mapledurham Estate.

“It’s quite a sleepy little estate — it’s on a dead-end road so there’s no through traffic and people only come if they know it’s here.”

Event organiser Dave Norris, who was acting as a sergeant major on behalf of the real-life 442 Regimental Combat Team that was made up of mainly American and Japanese soldiers, stages shows about once a month in different venues across the South.

He said the battle was choreographed so the Germans won on Saturday and the Allies the following day. Mr Norris said: “It takes a lot of organising and the guys who do the briefing for the battle do a walkthrough and choreograph it all.

“They have a final safety briefing and then they run through the battle.

“The re-enactment was not of a specific battle but it was put on for the public to see and give them some idea about the noise, the vehicles and the troops. You can’t get close to the real thing and it doesn’t happen like this.

“You don’t see guys getting up and running when they’re under fire and you don’t see guys kneeling and firing or standing and firing unless they are behind cover.

“Mainly they’re on the ground, so this is a little bit of artistic licence.”

Families watching the battle unfold gasped as explosions went off. There was a shock reaction when the fight appeared to have finished and then a surrendered soldier was “shot” in the back for trying to escape.

Mr Norris said he was pleased with the size of the crowds, adding: “There were masses of the public there and the reaction was really good.”

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