A FASCINATING new exhibition telling the story of the world's largest military training camp opens at Stonehenge Visitors' Centre on November 5.

The exhibition, Soldiers at Stonehenge: Salisbury Plain and the journey to the First World War, will delve into the story of the estimated one million men who, between 1914 and 1918, were battle hardened at Stonehenge.

Records show 180,000 men were stationed at any one time on the plain during the First World War.

Their personal stories, photographs and original objects will form the basis of the exhibition but evidence of their presence can still be seen across the wider Stonehenge and Salisbury Plain landscape.

Robert Campbell, head of interpretation at English Heritage, which is staging the exhibition, said: "The task of these men was to overcome the horrific stalemate of trench warfare and to replicate conditions on the Western Front, soldiers dug intricate networks of trenches which were then pounded by shellfire. The exhibition will explore this aspect."

The war left its mark on the ancient archaeology of Salisbury Plain and the exhibition includes finds on loan from Wiltshire Museum including cap badges, rifle cartridges, aircraft parts and highly personal items such as a spoon and even part of a bottle of Australian hair tonic.

The war and the training camps have become part of the fabric of the modern history of Stonehenge with the human stories that emerged.

When the war broke out the site of the monument was owned by the Antrobus family. Lieutenant Edmund Antrobus, was the heir to Stonehenge, was killed in action at Ypres. His father, also Edmund, had been a professional soldier and had inherited Stonehenge as part of the Amesbury Abbey estate in 1899. He died soon after his son.

The death of owner and heir to Stonehenge led, in part to the monument being put up for sale at auction in 1915. It was bought by Cecil Chubb, a local barrister, who was the last person to privately own it.

The exhibition is on for six months and admission is included in the Stonehenge entry price.