Thank you to all our Volunteers

Volunteers have been incredibly important to the Museum for many years. They have helped with research, exhibitions, archiving and education to name just a few of the projects.

Over the past few months, volunteers have been a vital part of the packing process at the Museum. Since April, an additional 12 volunteers joined us in the mammoth task of packing up the numerous objects which we have on display and in storage. Training them in the early days, it has been an absolute joy getting to know each one of them and seeing them grow in confidence. They are now aware of various conservation issues including approaching me with items possibly affected by pest damage.

There have been several occasions when we have come across something truly remarkable in the collection. I remember the day that our volunteer, Reg, came across an extremely ornate presentation piece containing several tools and apprentice pieces. He kept looking at it, admiring its craftsmanship.

Presentation piecePresentation piece (2) (2)

Another time I remember was when our volunteer Paul marveled at the weird and wonderful things which we had in the collection, such as a tub of grease and ear defenders which were donated by a workshop.

I can honestly say that the staff and volunteers have enjoyed looking through and packing the variety of objects which we have, and learning about the breadth of REME’s involvement in various campaigns and countries.Salerno wheel

Tuesday the 11th August was a momentous occasion where we saw the last item, a workshop shovel, being packed by our volunteer Ida. This was also the day when we packed our ship’s wheel found in Salerno. The item was packed so well that the shape of the object is still obvious despite the layers of conservation materials!

Wheel

As we laid the last item on the pile of objects packed that day, there were mixed feelings of relief and sadness that the giant task of preparing the collection for transport was now complete.

WVolunteer Barbecue 2015ednesday saw us celebrating this achievement with a barbecue in the Museum grounds. The weather was kind as we enjoyed the heat and company of those around us. Talking over sausages and burgers, we reminisced about fun times and our plans for the future.

Volunteer Barbecue 2015

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all the wonderful volunteers who gave up their time to help the Museum with this next stage in moving to Lyneham. I am confident that the objects will be safe in transit and we look forward to unwrapping them at the other end.

Juliet Turk – Assistant Curator

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Bringing down a Phoenix

It’s been a couple of very busy weeks at the Museum with lots of different projects happening.

VolunteerArmourers Halls and staff have continued packing the collection. We are now surrounded by boxes, the displays are starting to look empty and there is an echo in some of the corridors. As well as the thousands of smaller items, volunteers and staff have begun dismantling our Armourer’s Hall display.

The display showcased over a hundred weapons from different periods to demonstrate the development of firearms. It was one of the most popular displays with visitors, and we hope to make it even better in the new location.

Another of our key displays was dismantled at the beginning of this week. The Phoenix Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was brought down off its stand with help from the Aviation team at Arborfield.
Dismantling Phoenix

Dismantling Phoenix As you can see from the photos, the Curator was also hard at work making sure the moment was captured on film!

The Phoenix has now been put into storage ready for transfer to Lyneham. When it arrives it will need some TLC after its years of being on display outside. Once it is ready it will become part of the permanent display inside the main Museum where the intention is to suspend it from the ceiling. Dismantling Phoenix 3

The Museum had more good news in that a site has also been secured for our historic vehicle collection. This collection is currently located in Bordon. Due to restricted access it is difficult for the public to gain entry to see these vehicles, but this will all change in our new home where they will be much more accessible.

Work continues on the new displays, and there have been more focus groups with the eight different trades of the Corps to get feedback on layout, subjects and interactives. We are now moving into the final stages of the design process.

And finally, we were happy to receive photos of our 25 Pounder Field Guns and Morris Commercial on display outside the Mess of 7 Air Assault Battalion. Readers will remember that we loaned these items out as part of their VE themed Summer Ball. We’re really glad that they helped to set the scene and make the evening a success.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

Objects outside Mess

Tanks, VE Day Ball and Museum Designs

For those of you who have read our earlier posts, you will know that Museum staff had a visit to the Tank Museum in Bovington at the end of April.

It was at this time that several members of staff managed to get a hold of tickets for the annual Tank Fest which took place on the 27th and 28th June.

We had a fantastic time watching tanks doing tours around the arena to a huge crowd and we even got a chance to see the tank tug of war!

Tank

Marines

Staff couldn’t help but think about how we could offer members of the public a similar experience – maybe a ride on our Scammell ‘Swampy’? Or maybe even our Western Star?

25 Pounder tooIn other news, our World War Two 25 Pounder Field Guns were loaned out to 7 Air Assault Battalion, REME, who are based in Ipswich. Staff watched on as soldiers from REME and the RLC collected the Field Guns with a Man SVR vehicle – who needs Tank Fest!

The items were loaned out for use at the Summer Ball which had a VE day and 1940s theme. They fit in perfectly with other items of the era which we had loaned out.

All have now been returned to the Museum, and the next time they leave will be for their permanent home in Lyneham.

Another event which took place on the 1st July was the Arborfield Garrison Staff Garden Party. The event was held as a final thank you to all staff who have worked at Arborfield over the years. It was a great afternoon, helped by being one of the warmest days of the year. Though those who were playing cricket might not agree with that!

There was also a great display by the REME Parachute Team.

The designs for the Museum are progressing with rooms now having definite themes to them. As well as a World War Two gallery, we have rooms dedicated to the trades of the Corps (past and present), the lives of REME men and women when off duty, a room to celebrate the achievements of the Corps and a dedicated armoury to display the hundreds of weapons held in the collection.

Staff are currently busy doing Focus Groups with each of the trades to make sure that the information provided is accurate and comes direct from the men and women doing that job.

With only 3 months to go, the packing pace is picking up and we are starting to dismantle the displays around the vehicles in the Prince Philip Vehicle Hall. Now, how did they get that Scout up there?!

Scout

Jennifer Allison – Curator

The Last Freedom Parade

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Museum with activities happening on site and off site.

Last week started with designer meetings where we looked at the other gallery spaces which are available. As well as the two vehicle halls which have been discussed in earlier posts, we will also have areas dedicated to the trades of the Corps, the structure of the Corps and the family side of the Corps. There will also be a room dedicated to remembrance and achievements.

A large part of the work now involves looking at our collections and deciding which items will help us tell the story of REME. This week we have specifically looked at our Second World War gallery and have been considering themes such as uniforms, communication with families and loved ones, propaganda and prisoners of war.

We have come across some very interesting items which aren’t currently on display, including a roof tile from Hiroshima, sawdust bread given to prisoners of war and a bandage decorated with instructions on how to use it depending on your injury.

Other items include a REME flag flown at the Battle of El-Alamein by Recovery Section of No 1 AMT Depot, and desert goggles given to H Benson, a fitter with a Light Aid Detachment from 30 Corps Workshop REME, by Field Marshall Montgomery.

REME Flag

The story behind the goggles is that they belonged to General Von Thoma who commanded the Africa Corps at El-Alamein where he was captured. The goggles were taken off him and passed to Montgomery who then passed them on to Benson after he carried out a repair on Monty’s car.

Desert Goggles

Sunday 14th June saw the final REME Freedom of Wokingham Parade. REME were granted the Freedom of Wokingham in 1978, and a parade has been held on a number of occasions. Freedom of Wokingham 2It was a fantastic turn out from the local community and a great display by REME.

Freedom of Wokingham 1

Although REME had their last Parade in Wokingham, in Stockton-on-Tees the Corps has just been granted Freedom of the Town and will be having their first parade next week. As part of this the Museum has loaned out a number of items to be put on display in their Rediscover Stockton shop on the High Street. The display will be in place for several weeks.

Next week also sees Armed Forces day. Our Education Officer, Oliver Parr has been busy travelling out to schools in the Wiltshire area to host assemblies around this topic and will be able to give an update next week.

And now, it’s back to packing!

Jennifer Allison – Curator