From the Trooper of the D-Day landings to the kitchen maid dishing out meagre wartime rations, families can witness the theatre of war from all angles. And as any good spy will know, it’s important to know your allies from your enemies – and spectacular arena displays will help visitors tell the difference.
Bazookas and dynamite will ensure the bank holiday goes with a bang and soldiers and agents will be put through their paces in some compelling training exercises. Witness marine tactics as soldiers take to the water in a spectacular amphibious assault from the river, join in an army obstacle course and witness the ‘make-do-and-mend’ lifestyle of the home-front with plenty of 1940s music, comedy sketches, fashion displays and cookery demonstrations.
This weekend will also reveal more about the house and gardens’ secret wartime history. During the Second World War, this spectacular Jacobean mansion was a secret training station for Polish soldiers, unique to the Special Operations Executive, before they parachuted into occupied Europe. A total of 527 agents passed through Audley End between 1941 and 1945 and now some of the rooms they occupied will be opened up on a series of free guided tours.
Did you know that birds also contributed to the war effort? Find out more at the Wartime Falconry displays, where you’ll meet Para-Pigeons and discover The Animal Rescue Squad.
Rebecca Hornby, assistant English Heritage events manager, comments: “We are really excited to be able to invite visitors into the once secret Station 43. Much is known about Audley End’s colourful history spanning over 400 years but many will not realise its significance during WWII. To be able to tell that story as part of an exciting event with everything from life on the home front, through to some thrilling arena displays and plenty of activities for children, it really is an event for the whole family to enjoy.”