PEOPLE will be able to step back in time to experience what life was like in Dorchester during the Great War at a special event to mark the centenary of the conflict.

The event at the Corn Exchange on Friday, August 8 will also see the launch of a new interactive history trail.

The county town is looking to mark 100 years since the beginning of World War One, during which 4,500 soldiers lost their lives.

The free event is being organised by a consortium of partners including Dorchester Town Council, the Dorset Youth Association, the Dorset County Museum, the Keep Military Museum and the Dorchester Rotary Club.

Any money raised will go to The Rifles Care for Casualties appeal.

Mayor of Dorchester Peter Mann will launch the event at 10am and at 10.30am the Dorset Youth Association will launch its Walking in their Shoes First World Ward Interactive History Trail, which was funded by a grant of £28,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Town councillor and former mayor of Dorchester Molly Rennie said: “People look to the town council to facilitate events but by involving as many people as possible, it makes a mammoth task a lot easier.

“The important role that Dorchester played in the war isn’t realised.

“Soldiers had a huge sense of pride in going.”

During the First World War the Keep was used as the training barracks for the Dorsetshire Regiment and the town also became one of the largest prisoner of war camps in the country.

By March 1919 the town housed 4,407 German prisoners, which was around half the population of the town at the time.

Cllr Rennie said that the event would allow people to share veteran’s stories that have been passed down through families, which will enable young people to realise the impact the war had on their relatives.

She added that the event should also raise awareness of the role that the Quakers and the Conscientious Objectors played in the war, which is often overlooked.

There will be talks by local historian Brian Bates and curator at the Keep Military Museum Chris Copson.

Mr Copson said: “The Dorset regiment made a massive contribution to World War One and the danger that they experienced can be forgotten or misunderstood.

“If what we are doing gives people a more accurate idea of what the war was like, that’s very important.”

Visitors will be able to dress up in a Tommy uniform, listen to a performance of World War One songs by Jane McKell and try some rationed World War One stew and cake.

Youngsters at the event will be able to take part in a trench art workshop or have a go at geocaching along the Walking in their Shoes trail.

The trail has been devised by young volunteers to give people a chance to walk in the footsteps of a Dorset soldier training for the war.

Walking in their Shoes project officer Lorna Johnson said: “A hugely talented group of 20 plus young volunteers have fundraised, researched and created a moving interactive geocache walk to share with the Dorset public so they too can walk in the shoes of a Dorset soldier training for the First World War.

“A supporting app contains Dorset family memories of the war and a radio drama to listen to on the way round.

“The young volunteers have impressed the experts who have mentored them with their professionalism and creativity and Dorset Youth Association could not be prouder of their achievements.”

Nerys Watts, HLF’s head of South West, said: “We were delighted to be able to award funding from our Young Roots programme to support Dorset Youth Association with the Walking in Their Shoes project. “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching every corner of the UK and beyond.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested over £56 million in projects – large and small - that are marking this global centenary and helping local communities and young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Anyone attending is also invited to bring any memorabilia relating to the Great War to have it identified by an expert and people can share their family history.

The Durnovaria Silver Band will be performing from 3pm and the event will finish at 7pm.

For more information contact Steve Newman on 01305 266861 or email