Men dressed in First World War uniforms stood proudly on parade on Saturday, recreating Lord Kitchener’s famous inspection on Epsom Downs a hundred years ago.

Scores of re-enactors, along with Army cadets and reservists, marched from Ewell to the racecourse on the Downs, enjoying far better weather than the WWI soldiers who were reviewed before going to the front.

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On January 22 1915, Kitchener, depicted on the iconic recruitment poster Your Country Needs You, inspected 20,000 volunteers during blizzard conditions which were so bad that one man died of hypothermia.

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Men march through Ewell

Despite the huge force on parade, only a hundred of them were equipped with rifles. Many were to die within months in the trenches in France and Belgium.

On Saturday the marchers passed through Epsom and up to the Derby Arms where they were joined by a military band and then on to the grandstand complex to be inspected.

As they passed through East Street in Epsom they broke into the iconic World War One song It's a Long Way to Tipperary.

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Instead of Lord Kitchener, Surrey's Lord-Lieutenant Dame Sarah Goad, Epsom's Mayor Councillor Robert Foote and Belgian Consul Bruno Marien inspected the troops together.

More than a thousand people turned out to watch the inspection followed by a service which included hymns, poetry and a performance from Epsom Male Voice Choir.

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Epsom town hall

It also featured music by British composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams, who was on the Downs at the original inspection, serving as a private soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Re-enactor Tim Richardson, whose great uncle took part in the review 100 years ago, said: "Bringing back the sights and sounds of 1915 to Epsom Downs is a great privilege.

"The men who paraded here on that cold January day 100 years ago are no longer with us but with the march and the WWI memorial wood their sacrifice will never be forgotten."

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The event was organised by Ewell’s Bourne Hall Museum, the Woodland Trust, Epsom Downs Racecourse and the 10th Essex WW1 Living History Group.

A spokeswoman at the Woodland Trust said: "It was a really wonderful, touching tribute to the local men who made sacrifices for their country."

Some of the actors from the controversial Sainsbury’s Christmas advert, which recreated a football match between German and British soldiers, took part in the march.

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The Woodland Trust's new English World War One Memorial Wood is being created at Langley Vale less than a mile from where the parade and WWI troop training took place.

Philippa Borrill, the centenary woods project manager said: "It is vital to reflect upon the sacrifices made in the past and say ‘thank you’ to the bravery shown by our ancestors.

"Many local residents will have relatives who participated in the original march 100 years ago, and we were honoured to have played a part in this re-enactment.

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"I hope that our Centenary Wood will create a living legacy to the men we remembered at the march, and provide for future generations."

Dedicate a tree for £20 to someone lived or served in the First World War. Call 0800 915 1914 or go to

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More on World War I:

University students and public schoolboys set up military camp in Epsom

When crowds clamoured to fight for King and country

June Sampson feature: War on the Home front