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Two years ago, War and Peace Revival organiser Rex Cadman was ready to focus on the day job.
After 25 years of packing out fields with tanks, jeeps and rifles, the military enthusiast was ready to call a halt. Instead, he was looking forward to getting his evenings back and focusing on his full-time job running a care home at his rural retreat in Ash, near Canterbury.
To his surprise – but not that of others – he soon discovered it was not easy to cut ties with a show which has grown to become the largest of its kind in Europe.
More than 100,000 people are expected to visit the five-day festival at the former Folkestone Racecourse in Westenhanger.
War and Peace began as a collection of 100 vehicles at the Kent & East Sussex Railway in Tenterden in 1982. This time it is extra special, commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.
Yet despite its remarkable growth, differences between Rex and the management of the show’s previous venue, the Hop Farm at Paddock Wood, had taken him to the brink of surrendering.
“We took this small event with 100 vehicles and built it into this monster but it became a chore,” said Rex, 57.
“It had always been a pleasure. It was not about money. It was about delivering something important and enjoying the celebrations of it. But organising it got worse and worse and by the time of the 30th anniversary in 2012, we’d had enough and thought we wouldn’t do it anymore.”
The solution was for Rex to walk away from the Hop Farm, which would fall into administration the following year (it has since reopened under new management).
But it was not long before the itch returned.
“I realised we have an enormous responsibility here,” Rex said in his office at his home, where his small team co-ordinates the event late into most nights.
“It was not about picking up our toys and saying ‘I’m not playing anymore’. Many people depend on what we do. We cannot just walk away from that.”
Word quickly spread that the show might return at another venue and a meeting was set up with Rex and the owners of the former racecourse, Arena Racing. Within 15 minutes of speaking to them, he knew he had the right place and the War and Peace Revival was launched at its new home last year on a scorching July weekend.
Rex attributes much of the show’s success to his former business partners at the Hop Farm, Brent and Fiona Pollard.
The husband and wife team took over the venue in 1997, making Rex co-owner in 2000, before emigrating to Australia in 2006.
“The Pollards were more business minded,” said Rex.
“They were interested in the vintage aspect and the living history side. That was a big area of expansion. It became more than just a playground for men with toys.”
It would be easier to enjoy his vast collection of military memorabilia privately at his home but Rex knows now he cannot give up.
“I do ask myself ‘why am I doing this?’,” he joked.
“But we keep telling ourselves that next week, when it is all done and everyone is happy, it will have been worth it.”
The War and Peace Revival runs until Sunday, July 20, at the former Folkestone Racecourse in Westenhanger. Day tickets £19.50, concessions £17.50, families £65. For tickets and full details of all events visit www.thewarandpeacerevival.co.uk or call 01304 813337.
MUST-SEES BY DAY...
Organisers have commissioned the building of a trench system typical of the type that many of our soldiers spent hours in during the First World War, which represents not just the classic corrugated iron and wood construction, but also the earlier designs which were held up with anything Tommy could find.
Don’t miss the full-scale choreographed battles in the main arena. Get right up close to the action or get an overview from the main grandstand or even the restaurant.
Army Reservists from the 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (The Tigers) will be providing a thrilling tactical demonstration on Saturday and Sunday.
Thousands of military vehicles will be on display. Look out for tanks, artillery, armoured and amphibious vehicles, cars, Jeeps, bicycles and motorbikes, emergency and commercial vehicles.
MUST-SEES BY NIGHT...
One of the most eagerly awaited events is the dance on Friday, July 18, featuring the popular Jive Aces, one of the UK’s leading jive and swing bands. Vintage and retro dress encouraged. Tickets cost £15.
The cast of ’Allo ’Allo will host tables at the Saturday, July 19, highlight: a 1940s dinner and dance featuring the John Miller Orchestra. Dine in style with the characters Herr Flick, Helga, Yvette, Mimi la Bonq, the Policeman and Gruber. Tickets cost £25 including the meal.
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