The War and Peace Revival

By Dan Shea

Return to the Hop Farm Family Park in Kent, England

In the county of Kent in the South of England, near the small village of Beltring, there is a special park called the Hop Farm Family Park. Between 1982 and 2011, this park played host to the largest military vehicle show in the world, the War and Peace Revival (formally known as the War and Peace Show and also known as the Beltring). The show has been enjoyed by countless people coming from as far away as Eastern Europe and the United States, many of whom have made it a tradition to spend three to five days wandering the show. Whether they were looking through the vendor stands for military memorabilia or admiring the tanks and other vehicles, it was a yearly migration.

In 2012, the owners decided to move the show to Folkestone Racecourse at Westenhanger, 44 miles away from Beltring. It was not a bad location, but many who were used to the Hop Farm were still disappointed. At the Hop Farm, many had their traditions and favorite meeting places. (I grew up attending the War and Peace Show with my family, and it was a great vacation for us every July.) They were used to the location and all the local stores and restaurants in the area. Folkestone Racecourse just didn’t feel the same for those used to the old location. Then, in 2017 and under new ownership, the War and Peace Revival returned to the Hop Farm. There were a few changes, but it didn’t matter. Many people were happy and enjoyed themselves even when it started to rain.

The parking is near the Hop Farm Family Park itself. At the back is the Arena, with two large man-made hills with a large path in the middle for vehicles to drive through. This is for large numbers of people to sit on and watch the events in the Arena. The Arena is covered with bushes, small ditches, and small mounds to show how the tanks and other military vehicles move in that terrain. They will put old cars in the field so that the tanks can run over them. They will even fire off a few rounds, all blanks of course.

Next to the Arena are the Living History Fields, where rows upon rows of reenactors from all over Europe and even the United States appear several times a day. Most reenact fights between Axis and Allied (American and British) forces in WWII, though there is a large Vietnam War Section, which includes some hippie/protester reenactors for color. There are also a few people reenacting the Malayan Emergency and the Battle of Mogadishu. In the center of the field is a small memorial to the British soldiers who died during the war in Afghanistan.

Between the car park and the Arena are the trade stalls, where the vendors are. Helmets, bayonets, swords, gun parts, uniforms, books, toys and other military objects can be found throughout the stalls. There are also a few candy stands and a few stalls selling WWII vintage clothing. You could probably find anything you want in these stalls and a few things you have never seen before.
Throughout the stalls are deactivated guns that are for sale. The United Kingdom has very strict gun laws, making it very hard for the average citizen to own one. Among them are SKS carbines and M1 Garand, Mosin-Nagant and Lee Enfield rifles. Gun sights and magazines are also on offer here—most are quite common, but occasionally there are some that are very rare and hard to find. Some stalls even sell armor and weapons from the English Civil Wars in the 1600s.

Other sights include the Home Front Marquee, where you can see how stores and barber shops looked during WWII. There are various food vendors spread throughout the show, serving everything from the classic fish and chips or sausages from mainland Europe to Thai and other Eastern cuisines. There are also other marquees, where you can get a bite to eat and listen and dance to old WWII-era music. If you don’t know how to dance, do not worry because they will have dance lessons. At certain places, you can get an opportunity to ride a tank, and small airsoft ranges are all around.

Beyond the Living History Fields is the Public Camping area, where some people spend the night at the show. It is about 40 GBP to camp. Parking at the show is free. The average cost of getting into the show starts at £20 (pounds) a day. You can buy two-day tickets for £40 and five-day tickets for £100. If you have a child under the age of 16, he or she can get in for free. If you are a soldier currently in the military, you get a discount of 50%. The show usually has a special catalog that has information like maps, schedules and articles on related topics. It also has the list of exhibitors at the trade stalls and their locations.

When you are not at the show, take some time to explore England. The show is located in the country of Kent, home to the White Cliffs of Dover. There is a lot to see, including Dover Castle and the secret wartime tunnels underneath, where the evacuation of Dunkirk was planned. There is also the city of Canterbury and its cathedral, not to mention all the other castles, cathedrals and villages that are older than any of the states, cities and towns in the USA. If you are an American and going over for the first time, you should probably be aware that in England they drive on the left side of the road, with the driver on the right side of the car. Still, if you are going to another country for the first time, England is a great choice.

Show Master Info:

Location: The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, UK (southeast of London and about midway between Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells).

Show website: https://warandpeacerevival.com/

Dates of next shows:
2018: July 24 to July 28
2019: July 23 to July 27
2020: July 28 to August 1

Focus of show: Reenactment of military units from all modern times. The emphasis is on the military vehicles and having correct uniforms and kit. Live reenactment of many different units, including from WWII and Vietnam, takes place across a 400-acre area of displays. Huge militaria sale area, with thousands of vendors selling everything from deactivated firearms to vehicle kit and period dress.

Dress: This show is outdoors, with a lot of walking through potentially rain and mud. Be prepared to supply your own seating arrangements anywhere you go, including to watch the military vehicle demonstrations.
Hotel hints: Holiday Inn Expresses are everywhere. Most hotels in the Paddock Wood area are booked way in advance, so you will probably have to book outside the area if you haven’t booked already.

Power and plug types: 220-volt, 50-hertz, U.K. three-prong plugs and sockets. You are unlikely to find U.S. or European sockets in many local hotels.

Country warnings:
Like any country, there are areas where it is unsafe to travel. A good rule of thumb is to stay out of city areas at night. Ask the locals for advice on danger areas.

Cultural hints: The British love pubs, pub quiz nights and karaoke, as well as football (soccer to American speakers), cricket, rugby and jokes told in a wry manner. They utilize 300% more of the English language than Americans and are generally very precise speakers. The Brits have a long military tradition, which is evident in their culture and museums. Ordering food in pubs is generally done at the bar with payment in full; then it is brought to you.

Tipping: 10% is generally fine in restaurants, less to a taxi. In many pubs, tipping is not considered correct—offer to buy the barkeep a drink for later.

Currency type: GBP: Great Britain Pound. Generally, see-sawing of late at 1.2 to 1.3 USD per GBP. For up-to-date conversion, try www.xe.com/ucc/. Slang expressions for currency include “Quid,” which means GBP; “20 quid” is equal to “20 GBP” or “20 pounds.”
Getting around: Rental cars will have U.K.-style right-hand steering, and driving is on the left side of the road. Unless you know how to drive with a left-hand shift—the pattern is the same—order an automatic. We advise finding the first parking lot in sight after getting your rental car and learning the reverse geometry if you are a Euro or U.S. type driver. The trains are quite reliable, as are buses. For directions to the Hop Farm, please go to www.thehopfarm.co.uk/visitors/18.

Military museums to see: In London, the Tower of London’s weapons display and the Imperial War Museum are of note, and there are many others. In Portsmouth, Fort Nelson cannon museum. Royal Armouries in Leeds in the North. The U.K. has a well-developed museum community; check the Royal Armouries website at www.armouries.org.uk/home and search “English Heritage” for other sites. For tank aficionados: www.tankmuseum.org.

Tourism: Two excellent resources online are www.visitbritain.com and www.visitlondon.com. If you are in the area for the War and Peace Revival, try to visit Leeds Castle (not in the city of Leeds up North, it’s just north of the show site). It has witnessed many monarchs since the 1200s and is an amazing family visit. For events in Kent, try www.kentmessenger.co.uk.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N2 (February 2018)
and was posted online on December 22, 2017


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