The Trench at Bodmin Keep

The Trench – Commemorating the Centenary of World War 1

“We thought the whole production was excellent and the whole ‘experience’ from ‘enlisting’ to the review of soldiers and exhibition at the end was excellent.  The acting was superb and a measure of this was when at the end of the performance it is announced that an amnesty had been declared. There was no cheering or celebrations from the participants and the journey back on the train was very quiet. This was very true and accurate from many of the records I have researched, yet nobody had asked the participants to keep quiet, it was purely the impact of the performance. The singing and the cheering of the soldiers on their way out but no welcome back was sadly so true.” Review of the Trench by an audience member

As part of Cornwall’s First World War commemorations in 2018, Collective Arts Theatre Company, Bodmin Keep and Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway presented an intense and immersive theatrical experience based in a specially-built trench.   

The story started in 2016 when the museum’s Director Mary Godwin attended a unique theatre performance at Levant Mine in West Cornwall.  Entitled The Trench, it was an immersive theatre performance in the landscape, with a ‘real’  Trench, that brought vividly to life local stories of World War 1.  She was so inspired by the experience that she knew she wanted to create something similar for Bodmin to mark the century of World War 1 in 2018.   She contacted Jason Squibb, The Trench’s Creative Director and so began two years of work for Jason and Mary, the museum team of staff and volunteers, and the many project partners that made it all possible.  

Thanks to financial support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional support from Arts Council England and Feast, the project was able to become a truly ambitious adventure.   The overall concept was to create an immersive theatre performance and exhibition to tell the stories of 80 local men who had served in World War 1, finding out as much about their lives as possible and connecting their stories to the museum’s collection wherever possible.

First of all we put together a team of around 40 volunteer researchers who set to work finding out about local soldiers and officers of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI) who had fought in World War 1.  Eighty of these became the subject of the Trench experience and exhibition.

You can find out about some of the soldiers that featured in The Trench by following the links below


Letters Home

Connecting with World War 1 soldiers

In The Trench, people were invited to write letters home to their families.


Action in The Trench

Professional and volunteer actors side by side

Seven professional actors worked side by side with 20 volunteer actors from the local community to lead the audience on their immersive journey through The Trench.

Walking to The Trench

Disembarking from the train at The Trench

The audience were taken by steam train to The Trench which was built in a field on the Lanhydrock estate.

Returning to the troop train

Back to the train after the Trench experience

A special platform was built in this field for The Trench

Off to the station!

Audience members being marched to catch the train

Nurses on the Front Line

Volunteer nurses cared for the wounded


Click on the images below to find out about The Trench Soldiers' Stories

Thomas Hanwright, 2nd Lieutenant 2nd Battalion DCLI

Thomas Hanwright

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Bawden_DCLI from The Trench, WW1, Soldier

Richard Thomas Bawden

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William Henry Parrish 17.08.1897-18.10.1916

William Henry Parrish

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Thomas Richard Stokoe, cornwalls regimental museum

Colonel Stokoe

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Research Project Update, The Trench Bodmin - Major Hammans

Major Hammans

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Thomas Edward Rendle V.C. Private 7079 1st Battalion DCLI

Thomas Edward Rendle

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Trembeth Brothers - Cornwall's Regimental Museum

Thomas H Trembeth

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Alec Forbes Portrait

Alec Forbes

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The Trench, Film Night, A Night to Remember, Bodmin Keep, WW1, Armistice, The Great War, First World War, Cornwall's Regimental Museum

The Trench Film

Watch The Trench Film

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Thanks to our supporting funder

Thanks to our supporting funder