Moments of compassion and aggression that were a solders’ experience during the First World War will be reenacted Saturday to provide both a history lesson and a cautionary tale.
Visitors to the Port Moody Station Museum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16 will see the historic wooden building turned into a French railway station, with re-enactors playing soldiers helping a group of refugees fleeing the war; later, those "soldiers" will simulate a raid on enemy territory in the model trench behind the museum.
“It’s a tightly-scripted event,” explained Markus Fahrner, museum coordinator. "We show you, for an hour, what would have taken place during trench life."
The 50 or so visitors expected to attend the museum’s final 24-hour trench reenactment commemorating WWI can expect to see some compassion as well as some hair-raising moments.
Fahrner said the First World War uprooted millions of people who fled their homes in advance of the armies. Showing how refugees were hungry and looking for safety will be part of this living museum experience.
“The idea is that people understand that thousands and millions got displaced. The war did not happen in a vacuum. People suffered, people were displaced and were pushed out of their homes.”
The trench raids were another aspect of a soldier’s life in WWI and though feared and hated, were meant to keep the men sharp, aggressive and ready for battle, Fahrner said.
“The historical voices say even the information value of these raids is sometimes questionable,” he told The Tri-City News, describing how soldiers would leave the safety of their home trench and sneak into an enemy trench, possibly bringing back a prisoner or other intelligence.
After the reenactment, members of the public are welcome to talk to the actors, handle the equipment and learn more about WWI.
Weapons will be part of the raid, and Fahrner said it’s a reality that visitors will have to understand.
“It’s nasty, there is absolutely nothing nice about it, it’s just a very horrific thing,” he said, adding that the museum has to walk a fine line between depicting violence and glorifying it.
The purpose of the program is simply to educate people and, for the most part, it seems to be working because the visitors ask a lot of questions, remark on specific details and seem eager to know about this important segment of Canadian history.
“We are running a very thin line here," he said. "The message obviously must be it’s about history and we have to remember, so we do not repeat history.”
• The third and final 24-hour trench reenactment takes place Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. and people are encouraged to park at Rocky Point Park or nearby so as not to block activities in front of the railway station.