Four Winters at War

June 2015

A a member of The Birmingham Pals I took part in the production "Four Winters at War" - a musical play, written by a local writer and a local musician.

James and Graham also had acting roles in the production.

It tells the story of the The Chase during Great War.  At this time The Chase was a barren, windswept heathland - very different to its appearance today!

The photographs on this page were taken at both performances and at rehearsals.

The Chase was home to two large training camps - Rugeley Camp and Brocton Camp - as well as a military hospital and a prisoner of war camp.

Each camp was in effect a small town, each capable of housing 20,000 soldiers at a time as they underwent training.

The Chase also has War Grave sites - one Commonwealth and one German

During the war well over half a million soldiers and WAACs passed through the camps.  The camps were the base of the ANZACs.

At Brocton Camp the German POWs constructed a scale model of The Messines Ridge.

The musical concentrates on the lives and loves of four soldiers - one British, one German and two from New Zealand, and follows their lives as the war progressed.

The play was performed in the open air amphitheatre at Birches Valley, close to the site of one of the camps.  The audience were seated picnic style on the centre, with the action taking place on four stages, giving a true 360 degree experience!

The "South" stage, where the battle scenes took place was complete with purpose-built trenches and a fox hole.

The production involved over 150 local amateur actors, musicians, singers, dancers, cadets and schoolchildren.

The younger members of The Pals took on additional roles as young men attending a recruitment session.

The Birmingham Pals appeared in several scenes including marching off to war, battle scenes (including pyros), the Christmas Truce, recruitment, injured returning from the war, and Graham, costumed as a German, mowed down the actors as the British went "over the top".
The play concluded with a moving scene, with standard bearers from various military organisations such as The British Legion, the playing of The Last Post, and one minutes silence to commemorate the casualties of war.