Wartime Memories

Despite the rainy weather, Daventry Museum had a fantastic turnout on Saturday for its “Memories of World War Two” exhibition which, coincided with Remembrance Day on Sunday. The Museum, adorned with poppies, was a platform for visitors to reflect and share memories whilst absorbing the contemplative exhibits and talking to exhibitors about their collections.

Poppy Fields artwork by Nursery children - on display in Museum2

Poppy Fields artwork by Daventry nursery children – on display in the Museum

On Saturday Gerry Thompson exhibited his prolific research on the lives of the men named on the War Memorial on Abbey Street. Gerry’s interest started 8 years ago after retiring. He wanted to find out about the men behind the names on the War Memorial and discovered a distinct lack of information, this spurred him on to commencing his research project.  Several years on, Gerry has produced a wealth of information and history on the lives of Daventry men who fought and died in World War One and World War Two.

Gerry said “Events like this at Daventry Museum enable encounters with the public who are keen to discover more about their family history”. During the Museum’s last 3 Saturday open days, Gerry has had 10 members of the public enquire about their relatives and family connections to the men named on the memorial.  He has even sent copies of his research files to families in Canada and Australia.  Not only does Gerry help families discover more about their family history, he also photo shops old, damaged photographs. He does this generously as part of his hobby.

Mike Hill, Gerry Thompson & Cllr Ted Nicholl

Exhibitors Mike Hill, Gerry Thompson & Cllr Ted Nicholl

Councillor Nicholl started collecting militaria about five years ago after buying a Lee Enfield mark4 rifle. He bought it because it was the model that he had trained on in his school cadet corps.  He then decided to collect World War Two memorabilia but gradually let his focus drift, and now has weapons and artefacts dating from the Zulu and Boer wars to present day.  Cllr Nicholl said, “The most enjoyable part of collecting, apart from cleaning it, is actually showing it to others, especially at the Town museum, and seeing the pleasure handling artefacts gives people aged nine to ninety”.

When he was just 9 years old, Mike Hill who moved to Daventry in 1977, found an interest in collecting World War One small arms. His collection includes rifles, guns and bayonets. He describes this field of collecting as very popular and regularly attends The International Military Arms Fair held at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, where you can see lots of vintage and antique militaria.

Roger Money & Vickers Machine Gun

Exhibitor Roger Money and Vickers Machine Gun

Roger Money has collected militaria since the age of 13 and has family medals going back to 1870. Roger joined The Royal Artillery in June 1959 for training in Oswestry for 3 months. He was then seconded to the Military Police and after a week, he dislocated his right shoulder so was then sent back to his regiment. Roger then started training at the School of Artillery in the Guided Weapons Wing at Salisbury Plain and ended up in the Outer Hebrides on a missile range.  Roger made his profession as a missile technician and now enjoys showing his militaria collection to different generations and sharing his vast knowledge of military weapons.

Robert Jennens, former Church Organist at Daventry Holy Cross Church pictured at the Museum’s piano, brought a wonderful, reminiscent atmosphere to the Museum by playing such songs as “I’ll be seeing you”, and “Pack up your Troubles in your old kit bag”, which visitors and volunteers sang along to.

Pianist Robert Jennens

Pianist Robert Jennens

Members of the public have been continuing to bring in their own World War Two memorabilia either as a donation or loan to the Museum. At the weekend, a Daventrian donated an Air Raid Warden (ARP) whistle belonging to her father. This whistle, still in good working condition will be added to the display on the Home Front which includes an ARP rattle and Stirrup Pump.  The exhibit on The Women’s Land Army has also been added to by a donation from a member of the public of her Women’s Land Army presentation shield, along with pictures and documents recognising the contribution of Land Girls to the War effort.

ARP Whistle2

ARP Whistle

Ted Sharp who served with the Royal Marines from 1942 to 1946 brought his model of a Royal Marine and two landing crafts he made; one is based on a craft used at the D-Day Landings and one is based on a Landing craft used in the Far East. Mr Sharp said he believes it is important to recognise and remember all those who fought gave their lives during the two world wars and other conflicts.

Ted Sharp Models

Ted Sharp’s Models

The Museum received lovely comments in the visitor book for the Saturday open day, describing the exhibitors and volunteers as “helpful and enthusiastic”.

One visitor commended the Museum for a “splendid display” and they felt humbled by the thought provoking exhibits.

Another visitor said, “Lovely friendly people who were great with the children. Very interesting and informative displays. Thank you, will try to come again and have recommended to family”.

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Alfie & Madison Sansome enjoying the children’s activities

Many thanks to our fantastic Volunteers and exhibitors for giving their valuable time and making the day enjoyable for all.

Volunteers, Rod, Rita, Helen, Jamie & Gwen

Volunteer Stewards, from left: Rod, Rita, Helen, Jamie & Gwen

If you missed this Saturday open day then you have another chance to see our exhibitors on Saturday 5th December. Memories of World War Two is on until 18th December 2015. Opening times: Tuesday to Friday 9.30am to 1.30pm.

This Wednesday 11th November is Armistice Day and Daventry Museum will be open from 9.30am to 1.30pm for members of the public to view exhibits and reflect on such a day.