Over the past 2 years, the Museum has been busy packing, moving, unpacking, sorting, developing, installing and getting ready to open. We are almost ready to unlock our doors and let the public in. One of the many projects that has been happening in this time is developing a new education programme, one fit for a new Museum.
Since the Museum closed in 2015, I have been busy visiting schools in Wiltshire, talking about what the want from this new facility opening soon in their area. Teachers asked for fun, exciting workshops that are befitting of REME’s heritage and engineering role in the Army.
From these discussions 5 workshops have been created, developed and tested in the playgrounds and classrooms of local schools. Between them they cover the subjects of Design and Technology, Science, Maths, English and History for Key Stage 1 and 2 classes.
Once the Museum is open, school children will have an opportunity to build recovery vehicles from LEGO, discover the story of REME medal winners, test their maths skills in our Army style command tasks or even bivouac in the Museum grounds.
Within weeks, the first school will arrive at the Museum to test the first workshop. This is an exciting time for the Museum. These first pupils will have an opportunity to sample something which we hope will see thousands of school children learning about the critical role REME have played and are still playing in keeping our Army on the move and our nation safe.
If you are interested in what the REME Museum could offer to your school or a school near you, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a New Year and we’ve hit the ground running. The final display installation will be taking place over the next couple of weeks, followed by the graphics and images, objects and object labels and the hundreds of other little things which we will be doing to get everything ready for our visitors.
Work on our café has also started and once open, visitors will be able to sit down and enjoy a meal and hot drink in what was the former Officers’ Mess bar.
In preparation for opening, we are recruiting new staff for the Museum. This includes a Front of House Supervisor and Assistant positions, a Museum Assistant position and an Archives Assistant position.
This is an exciting time to join the team and to be involved in how we will develop over the coming months once we are able to welcome visitors in again.
We now have a target date set, and the staff are working hard to meet it. For the moment we are still keeping it under wraps but hope to be able to announce it soon via our website, blog and social media.
Over the next few weeks we will keep you up to date in how the Museum is coming along, including the Archives, Education and the Café.
The first full year in our new home is coming to an end, and what a year it’s been. Although things haven’t gone quite to plan, the work and effort put in by the Museum team, Design team and all the contractors has been phenomenal.
The majority of the physical displays and cases are now in place, and we can’t wait to start doing the final touches.
The New Year will see Collections staff doing a through dusting of everything before we then start installing all of the objects.
A big thank you to all the REME Officers and Soldiers, current and former, who have given up their time to give input and feedback for the displays. A big thank you to the public who continue to offer their support and have made us feel so welcome in our new home.
Current plans are that we will be open to the public in Spring 2017. An exact date will be announced closer to the time.
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Over the past year, I have been researching and trialling a number of Reminiscence sessions as part of making the Museum more age friendly. Four sessions have now been delivered to memory groups and care homes in Chippenham, Royal Wootton Bassett and Calne.
The most recent of these took place at the Chippenham Memory Café which is run by the Alzheimer’s Society. Walking in with my box of objects, I was thrilled to see so many people had turned up.
The session, titled ‘Craftsman of the Army’, talks groups through what REME do and the different trades which make up the Corps, but also has a practical element of handling Museum objects. It is the perfect introduction to REME and allows ex-members of the Corps to reminisce about their time in the Corps. It was a wonderful surprise to see two ex-REMEs in the audience, an ex-Radar Technician and an ex-Vehicle Mechanic.
The group was very enthusiastic about handling the various objects I passed around including a Battledress jacket, cap badges, large Churchill tank spanner and reproduction photographs from the Archives.
After packing away the last object, I turned around to see the ex-Vehicle Mechanic on his feet. He started to share his memories of changing engines in the dark and cold, saying that they were great years of his life.
It’s hard to quantify the worth of these sessions but my final conversation confirmed the impact that they can have. A lady who sat at the back and remained silent throughout was upset by the memories that were sparked from the topic. I went over to comfort her, feeling bad that she had perhaps not enjoyed the session. She assured me otherwise by pointing to her red poppy pinned to her jumper and saying “We will remember them”.
18 months ago, we did not have a Corps Historian. My predecessors had dual roles of Historian and Archivist in their three specialist areas of the documentary, pictorial and technical archives. With the recruitment of a dedicated Archivist who joined the team in February, I focus on my ‘core’ role of research into REME related projects.
When I started I had no idea what a Corps Historian was supposed to do, so I had to ask some questions, some of which I’m sure you would be asking too.
Do you have to have a background in history?
I don’t. I ditched history for geography when I was 14. In fact, all studies were less important at school than sports and just play acting. I though history was boring, how wrong I was…
Do you have to have be or have been a soldier?
Historians can study a subject without having done it. For instance, you can be a historian of ancient Greece without living through it. But, I must say, it does help if you “know the lingo” and have half an idea of the acronyms and context.
Do you have to have held a senior role within the military?
No, but if you have climbed the greasy pole of promotion it means that you have been around for some time. In my case I served for 32 years and then worked in an industry closely related to REME for the next 15 years.
Do you have to put on a show?
Well, you may be required to give presentation or talks formally or informally but, mostly, you need to be diligent in your research, correct in your facts and put the results of your efforts into language and terms that an be understood by the people who ask for that research.
Colonel (Retired) Mike Crabbe putting on a show
Colonel (Retired) Mike Crabbe putting on a show
Colonel (Retired) Mike Crabbe ‘putting on a show’
Who asks for you to do the research?
Well, a wide range of ‘enquiries’ pass across mine or the Archivist’s desks. It could be the Museum Curatorial Staff wanting facts and images for a display. It could be current or retired REME or other military people who want facts checked or images found. It could be relatives of REME Officers or Soldiers that want to understand what their people did when they were serving. In some cases, it could be commercial organisations that need the facts to support studies or media people who are making films or writing books or articles. It is safe to say that the variety of enquiries is the second most exacting part of the job. The most important part is the ability to transport yourself into locations and operations to dig out the information to satisfy the enquiry.
What is your output?
We provide interpretations of formal Records of Service, taking bare facts and putting them into plain language based on our understanding of the geographical and operational situation at the time the individual was serving. We provide other facts and copies of documents and images where available. We answer all enquiries however they arrive.
When can you take enquiries?
I and the Archivist are actively researching enquiries that arrive by post, email, telephone or in person, but until the Museum opens in 2017, we cannot allow access to the Archive for individuals to research.
In future blogs, I will give you a flavour of the type of work and enquiries which the REME Museum Corps Historian does.
After a very intense work period during which various building issues were addressed, work has now started on implementing the new Museum design. This includes new cases, display structures, false walls, painting, plastering, lighting, sound… It can only be described as a building site at the moment, but it is looking very impressive.
The work is being carried out by a team from The Workhaus and Glasshaus who are working all hours of the day to get everything in place on time.
The Museum will be divided into 7 galleries, each of which will have a theme. They include a gallery dedicated to World War II and the creation of the Corps, a gallery which looks at the modern and predecessor trades of the Corps, a gallery showcasing a selection of the Museums weapon collection and a gallery looking at the subject of remembrance and memorials.
The last of our vehicles have also been moved into place, and will provide an overview to visitors about the range of environments, campaigns and operations which REME have been involved in.
Staff are now finalising the graphics and text which will provide the visitor with the extra information to compliment the displays. For this we are drawing on our extensive pictorial archives which numbers over 60,000 images dating from when the Corps was formed in 1942.
The building side of the installation is due to be completed by the beginning of December, after which the Collections team will begin bringing out all the objects which have been selected for display and putting them into the relevant cases.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but it is safe to say that we can definitely see a Museum taking shape.
“Everything is awesome… I learnt a lot of new things about REME engineering”. This was the response from a 10 year old pupil at Lyneham Primary School to the Museum’s latest education workshop. Since the Museum moved to Lyneham, we have been busy working with schools to develop new, exciting workshops and our latest project looks like it will be one of the best we’ve ever offered.
Being new to north Wiltshire, a focus group was run with local Primary School teachers to see what we could offer our new audience. Of the may ideas discussed, the teachers wanted a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) workshop based on the interesting and unique vehicles which will be on display in the Museum. Lego Education was seen to be a wonderful material to work with, and one which could help us to meet the need of local schools. The pupils could engage with it whilst making it easier to build complex machines in the short timeframe which schools have during a Museum visit. The only issue with using Lego was expense, and this was made more of an issue when buying for a class of over 30 pupils. So, financial support would have to be obtained to make this project a reality.
Funding was sought from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Engineering Education Grant Scheme. With their assistance, and guidance from Lieutenant Colonel Ian Parsons (Chair of Western Region IMechE), the Museum was able to purchase multiple Lego sets, each with a battery pack, motor, axles, pulleys, gears and much more.
The Museum also teamed up with Lyneham Primary School, who supplied class space and pupils to run six trial workshops. Pupils were paired up and tasked to design and build a powered recovery vehicle in an hour, which could then tow a toy truck. The children loved getting stuck into the Lego sets and many fantastic designs were produced. “The best part of the workshop is that you can do your own design” commented one Year 4 girl.
The most challenging part for the children was converting the power of the motor to the wheels via some form of transmission. Thankfully they had the support of 3 Artificer Sergeant Majors: Warrant Officer 1st Class Flynn, Hart and Watson, from 8 Training Battalion REME. With their help the pupils were able to use a combination of cogs, axles and pulleys to power their recovery vehicles.
The workshops were a great success and the Museum received excellent feedback from all involved. The next step will be to run more workshops using this new Lego Education resource in the Museum, once we’re open to the public.
The Museum would like to thank the IMechE and IET for their support in this project. The project’s success was also down to the staff and pupils of Lyneham Primary School, who were willing subjects for this trial. The support of the institute members for these early trials has been crucial in helping the Museum get the learning level right for these initial trial workshops.
As a result of this project, the Museum now has the resources and experience to run Lego engineering workshops with visiting schools. By using the exciting collection in the Museum we can engage with even more young people and help inspire a new generation of engineers.