Virtual reality experience of Ballykinlar WWI hut

Virtual reality experience of Ballykinlar WWI hut

24 November 2021

A NEW virtual reality model experience of the replica First World War Armstrong hut which opened recently at the Down County Museum has been formally launched.

The hut mirrors those which had been in place at Ballykinlar camp with the new facility hailed as a major new tourist attraction at the English Street museum in Downpatrick.

Initially built to to house 4,000 Belfast men training with the 36th (Ulster) Division for active service on the Western Front, including at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, they later housed 1,800 republican internees.

The men were arrested all over Ireland during the Irish War of Independence in late 1920 and 1921, with the soldiers in 1914 and the internees in 1921 given the same beds, made from three planks, with four army blankets to sleep on.

The original 60ft by 20ft timber huts, clad with corrugated iron, housed evacuees from Malta, American GIs and German prisoners of war during World War Two and also sheltered Hungarian refugees after the Russian invasion in 1956. The last huts were dismantled in 2012.

The new virtual reality 4K model experience was developed by the Centre for Data Digitation and Analysis at Belfast’s Queen’s University and showcases historical research, key interviews with project contributors and also offers insights into the hut’s diverse and shared history.  

The recreated Ballykinlar History Hut, complete with tunnel entrance, was constructed and fitted out during the coronavirus lockdown as part of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s ‘shared history and culture’ programme, which was supported by the EU ’s PEACE IV Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The immersive nature of virtual reality has allowed the content creators at Queen’s to explore and develop innovative ways of learning and teaching ideas through interactive means. 

Residents and viewers of the new virtual experience will gain a 360 degree, 3D view inside the hut and it will enable people from around the world to tap into this rich historical resource from their mobile, PC or laptop, with or without the use of virtual reality headsets.  

Council chairwoman Cathy Mason,said the virtual reality walkthrough experience added a “valuable digital element” to the Ballykinlar History Hut.

“It is possible to move around the hut and look at everything inside it thanks to the detailed scans made by the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis at Queen’s. It is now possible to spend hours exploring it from anywhere in the world,” she added.

The innovative project will allow the museum to offer a virtual tour of the hut and share this historic exhibition worldwide. 

Council officials say the new experience will provide viewers with a self-guided exploration through a private viewing, enabling them to watch videos and access the stories of those who occupied the huts at Ballykinlar between 1914 and 1957. 

They say access to the hut’s extensive artefacts and history becomes both immediate and more accessible regardless of the viewer’s location. 

To access the Ballykinlar History Hut VR Experience visit while further information is also available at