I’ve just got back from the World at War weekend at Fort Nelson.
The main event involved an re-enactment of a raid on a fort on the Franco-German border in late 1944. The British had captured the fort, and a scouting force had left the fort on a patrol. A German force entered the fort, killed the commanding officer and set up an ambush.
The British troops – of the Devonshire and Hampshire Regiments – returned, in a half-track and on foot. Suddenly the Germans fired a Panzerschrek at the half-track, and ambushed the British. Returning fire, the British were hard pressed. Reinforcements arrived in the shape of an American patrol, a British airborne anti-tank gun, and a Royal Artillery Sexton Self propelled gun. With the extra firepower the British eventually assaulted the German positions, clearing the fort and taking them prisoner. Although slightly fanciful, interpretations such as this make great watching for kids and adults alike.
I also watched a brilliant interpretation of the Cockleshell Heroes raid – Operation Frankton – based on the recollections of Marine Bill Sparks, one of the survivors of the raid. Again, brilliant to watch.
There were also a whole host of military vehicles on display – including a number of Second World War Jeeps, with one in British Airborne Recce markings, and another marked as a Red Army lend-lease Jeep. There was also a British Army truck in 2nd Army markings, and a US Army truck.
Also outside were a number of post-war British vehicles. There were a number of Land Rovers, including a Bomb Disposal, and a couple of lightweights. Interestingly, there was also a Humber Pig, an armoured vehicle used in Northern Ireland, in the markings of J (Sidi Rezegh) Battery, 3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. Two of my uncles served in J Battery in the 1970’s.
Fort Nelson is definitely one of the best-kept secrets about local military history. There’s always plenty of events going on up there, and you only have to pay to go in on special event days. How many people live only a mile or two away but don’t even know that exists?