War weekend takes visitors back in time

Stuart Wright with a tank that's been delivered from Holland. (d31051107)
Stuart Wright with a tank that's been delivered from Holland. (d31051107)

GREEN fields above Heckmondwike are to be transformed into a battle-stricken Normandy village where a recreation of a dramatic war rescue will take place.

This year’s Ponderosa War Weekend is set to attract more than 10,000 people as it becomes the backdrop for a re-enactment of the rescue scene from Hollywood wartime blockbuster Saving Private Ryan.

The drama will take place in an accurately reproduced Normandy town, put together using mock-up houses secured by organisers from a television company.

More than 200 war vehicles will drive into the scene and even take part in the re-enactment as war planes fly over the scene and a professional pyrotechnics company provide blasts and explosions.

Ponderosa owner Howard Cook said: “It’s going to be amazing this year. We started off small and other organisations have come in and we have built it up.

“There are 11 major military weekends in the country and we have been listed as a major one. We are expecting more people than ever before.

“We are hoping to have a military parade into Dewsbury. There is a lot to do — we are working every night. I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Organiser Stuart Wright said the rescue scene would be played out by members of 37 re-enactment groups who would portray the action in precise detail, with every prop and item of clothing down to their underwear completely authentic.

He said: “A battle this big has never been done before. We are the only show that’s doing this kind of thing. We are having trenches and bunkers and some of the re-enactment groups will be living in the trenches. It’s going to be as realistic as we can make it. There will be a cook and he’s going to operate his kitchen on a wartime cooker with wartime utensils. All the trenches are going to be authentic with spent rounds and an ammo dump so when the public go on the field it should look like it’s 1944.”

Stuart has this week taken delivery of a new tank which he would be putting on display at the event.

He said: “It came out of a museum in Belgium. A dealer from Holland bought it and I then bought it from him.

“It’s a 1943 American M16 anti aircraft halftrack. I used to own one, so I have always had a thing about trying to get another one. There are only four in England and the nearest one is in Kent. It’s bringing something different to people in the area.