Youngsters uncovering Reigate Fort's wartime past

Children from local schools have been going through the wars at Reigate Fort – in an extended archaeological study.

The pupils from various schools have been taking part in archaeological recording at the fort on top of Reigate Hill over recent weeks, to help determine what happened on the site in its wartime past, and especially during the Second World War.

The youngsters have been working in conjunction with the Reigate-based Gatton Trust, Surrey County Archaeology Unit and the National Trust, which looks after the fort.

 In addition, Second World War expert, Tim Richardson, has been adding an extra touch of  authenticity by putting the young recruits through their paces on the fort’s parade ground.

The Gatton Trust’s education manager, Louise Miller, said: “This piece of work, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is a great opportunity for us to share the history of the local area with youngsters who visit and play here.”

She said: “It’s important that they know what happened during the Second World War and with such experts on hand, we hope to be able to inspire them to discover more about that part of history.”

During the education days, Louise took youngsters to the site where a US Flying Fortress Bomber crashed on the hill, with the loss of all nine lives onboard.

Reigate Fort's ramparts are open daily, but access into the fort’s buildings is restricted. The site offers fine views of Reigate, the Weald and the South Downs, with nearby Colley Hill a favourite for dog walkers.

A two-year archaeological study of Reigate Fort was announced earlier this year by Surrey County Council’s Archaeological Unit (SCAU) as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project delving into the fort's past. The project will be the first of its kind. Presenting opportunities for people with a keen interest in military history and archaeology to join in, SCAU are looking for participants. Reigate Fort was one of a series of mobilisation centres built between 1890 and 1903 to protect London. The centres, forming a defensive line along the North Downs, were built to protect the capital from a feared invasion. The fort was used in World War One for ammunition storage. It has been looked after by the National Trust since 1932, and was restored in 2000.

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