Here we examine conflicts that have involved and embroiled Britain since the end of the First World War. We place special emphasis on the Second World War, one of the biggest disasters to overtake this country in modern times. You can also see artefacts and stories from less familiar conflicts in Britain's recent history. We have tried to explore these conflicts from many different angles.
Early RAF relic, India (1919)
Our new acquisition is a relic from one of the first RAF crashes in November 1919 near RAF Ambala, not far from the Pakistan border. Part of the wreckage was crafted into this unusual picture frame with the date and location carved into it. We're not sure what part of the plane, or indeed what kind of plane, but it would certainly have been a bi plane like the Sopwith Camel pictured. In 1919 reconnaissance and bombing raids would have been launched from there against rebellious tribesmen in the Afghan mountains. We are working with the Boscombe aviation museum to try to identify the plane and pilot, but if you can help us out with any information, please get it touch.
Souvenirs from Northern Europe, 1944
Oddly enough, these items belonged to a British soldier. In 1944 troops from 2nd Army were serving with the ground element of Operation Market Garden, and experienced their trial by fire at Son bridge. During the fight, a large number of German POWs were taken, and these medals and badges were apparently swapped for cigarettes by the war-weary German soldiers (and, it turns out, sailors). This small collection is exactly what the museum is about. A moment in time captured and represented. It's not about the German army or the operation, but about that 30 or so seconds in 1944 when two opposing soldiers exchanged goods as fellow human beings. There is more information about this set on our blog.
Battlefield relics from Ginkel Heath, site of 4th Parachute Battalion's drop during Operation Market Garden, September 1944. Most of these items are parts of the Horsa glider, which transported the Battalion to Holland.
D-Day Relics from a German army unit,
June 1944 (Utah Beach)
WW2 BRITISH HOME GUARD UNIFORM
The British home guard are one of the most iconic images of the Second World War. We are fortunate to have recieved this uniform set from Doncaster museum. The in-tact medal bars and arm patches tell us alot about its wearer, he served in the first world war, and was in Italy during the second war. He was awarded the military cross at some point. We are currently researching this uniform to indentify its former owner.
WW2 GERMAN BAYONET
We like 'lovely but brutal' items at the museum. This is a WW2 Wehrmacht K98 bayonet. It does show how far ahead the German army was in 1939, when you compare this to the faintly ridiculous British spike bayonet. Modern British bayonets are not dissimilar, except that they are easier to fit. We think it was taken as a souvenir by a member of the King's own Yorkshire light infantry (KOYLI) during WW2.
ASHTRAY TRENCHART, 2 POUNDER SHELL (1941)
Trenchart is one of my favorite areas, rich in provenance and each piece is unique. Unfortunately, we don't know who produced this, but we know a bit about what it is. Firstly, it's an ashtray, possibly made for use by the creator, or as a gift for someone back home. The headstamp on the bottom tells us it's WW2 and a 2 Pounder shell, a big 'N' tells us its naval, dated 1941. If only it could talk...
1941 'BRODIE' Mk II BRITISH HELMET
In keeping with our latest focus on uniforms and costumes, you can now try on this period British army helmet, which still has its original fittings and straps. The 'Brodie' helmet was largely unchanged since the First World War, where it debuted in 1917 as the first steel helmet (replacing soft caps). Along with a number of variants it served home guard and civilian organisations as well as the military, but we believe this example to have seen active service with the army. The design was eventually replaced in 1944.
WW2 MEDAL SET
We love medal sets at the museum. Not only do they catch they eye and hold the interest, they really tell us something about the recipient. Here, we have (from left to right) the 1939-45 star, the France and Germany star and the Territorial Efficiency Medal. We can say, therefore, that the recipient, Sgt W Glogely, Royal Artillery, fought in Northern Europe after the D-Day landings, that he served at least 109 days, that he was a member of the TA two years before the war (12 years TA service was the stipulation for the award, the war years counted double) and that he has lost at least one medal along the way. The War Medal, with its Red, White and Blue striped ribbon and lion motif, was automatically awarded to anyone with a 1939-45 star.
1954 Soviet (Polish) PPS-43 Submachine Gun
This year's big piece is this beautiful Soviet PPS 43, one of the simplest submachine guns made. Our example is from 1954, but nearly identical in design to the wartime examples. Mass produced weapons like this, which were cheap to produce quickly in large numbers, allowed the Soviet Union to fully utilise its superiority in manpower. Talking about the weapon helps to understand the importance of mass production in the Second World War. It's also a unique opportunity for school children and local people to handle an artefacts that is a little bit out of the ordinary...
BRITISH ARMY BANKNOTE FROM SUEZ WAR
After the end of the Second World War, the British army decided it was rather unwise to ship large amounts of hard cash into hostile environments abroad. From 1946 onwards, they began to issue their own banknotes that could be spend by soldiers in the canteen and later the NAAFI (Navy, Army, Air-force Institute). They were only redeemable at British army shops by British soldiers, so it was pointless to try and steal them. There were 6 issues (including a very rare 5th issue which seem only to have been released in tiny numbers).
BRITISH RED CROSS SOCIETY MEDALS AND BADGES
Covering the entire period from the Second World War to present conflicts, as well as numerous efforts in the UK in peacetime, this remarkable collection of medals and badges marks the achievement of a generation of dedicated individuals who served with the Hampshire branch of the British Red Cross. Many of the medals, which cover work in such diverse places as Kenya, Somalia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and the Middle East, are named so that we can tell the story of each individual and their efforts to help improve the lives of those in crisis situations. We are very grateful to the British Red Cross Society, in particular Balfour museum, for their donation of these artefacts.
BRITISH ISSUED UNIFORM AND RESPIRATOR - FIRST GULF WAR
Dating from 1990, this set of issued uniform and respirator serves to illustrate how far the development of combat uniforms has come. We began our study of military clothing with chain-mail in the medieval period, so it is intriguing to see plate armour re-appeat here in ceramic and kelvar. The 1991 issue S10 respirator and Mark 6 helmet are all interactive pieces.