The last little bit

With only a couple of weeks until we are officially relocated, the staff are busy preparing for the transition to our new home. The store rooms and display areas are emptying fast with most boxes now stacked on pallets and ready toBoxes on pallets move. The most notable difference is seen in our archives with hundreds of boxes being stacked high, ready to be loaded onto trucks.
The dismantling and reassembling of shelves is also taking place to ensure that our objects and archives are stored suitably in the new Museum. A few of our cases will not be coming with us but they have found new homes with other museums such as the Household Cavalry Museum. We are sure they’ll get as much use out of them as we did!

Staff goodbye meal

In the hubbub of moving, we took some time out last Wednesday for our farewell meal. It was a momentous and sad occasion for the staff as we said goodbye to five of our members: Lt Col (Ret’d) John Edwards, Mr Brian Baxter, Mr Ian Fisher, Mr John Blaney and Mr Malcolm Heppolette. Many of them have served longstanding years with the Museum and have contributed in their own way to developing the Museum. Brian Baxter, the Technical Historian, had served 62 years with REME. 32 of these he spent in the Museum sharing his vast knowledge and expertise with staff and visitors. We look forward to seeing them again when the Museum reopens next year.Birthday cake

Last Thursday, 1st October, marked a significant moment for the Corps, as it was on the 1st October 1942 that the Corps was formed. Celebrating the Corps 73rd birthday in true style, we tucked into some chocolate cake while thinking about where we would be in the coming months. This time next year we hope to be welcoming visitors (if all goes to plan!).

Despite having to relinquish our computers and desks, the staff here are determined to work to the very last day. The Assistant Curator will be making a trip to London for an oral history interview before the move to ensure that this key story is captured and stored in the archives for future use. The Curator is organising various focus groups with REME trades. These discussions have proved incredibly useful and will influence a large part of the narrative for the new Museum. As well as this, the new website will be launched to coincide with the move so keep your eyes peeled for this new development!

It is an exciting time for the new Museum, a chance to reorganise our collection stores, redesign our displays and set new challenging targets for the year ahead. We are looking forward to stepping into our new home and charging forward in 2016.

Juliet Turk – Assistant Curator

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Less than 3 weeks to go!

With only 20 days to go until we have access to our new home, our current location is looking more like a storage warehouse than a Museum. Almost all of the displays have now been taken down and packed and the large graphic structures which housed cases and gave information have also begun to be dismantled.

Some of the 1000 medals packed and ready to go
Some of the 1000 medals packed and ready to go
Boxes waiting to be transferred to Lyneham
Boxes waiting to be transferred to Lyneham

A lot of the packing has been done over the past few months by our dedicated team of volunteers. However, there are a lot of items which need a more specialised approach. Staff from Specialist Packers started working at the Museum two weeks ago and have been able to deal with some of our more awkward items, such as missiles and mannequins.

The former James Johnston Room
The former James Johnston Room
A Guardroom mannequin packed and ready to go
A Guardroom mannequin packed and ready to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are almost ready to start moving things to our new home. So far everything is on schedule and we will be picking up the keys on the 28th September. Not long to go!

Some of our items are already waiting in Lyneham. The biggest item to be moved over the last couple of weeks has been our Scout helicopter. This couldn’t have been done without the help of REME Recovery Mechanics, members of the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron (JARTS), and Babcock Technicians. The move of the Scout took the whole day, starting with it being brought down from the plinth, then wheeled up a road with a police escort and finally put onto a low loader for transfer to Lyneham.

The Man SVR had to get as close as possible to get the Scout down
The Man SVR had to get as close as possible to get the Scout down
Lift off!
Lift off!
Wheeled down the road with a police escort
Wheeled down the road with a police escort
Onto the low loader
Onto the low loader

A video showing the move of the Scout throughout the day can be seen on You Tube: https://youtu.be/K8Lgn-8PTgI

The Scout isn’t the only larger item which we have been packing in recent weeks. In the Museum’s former Meeting Room there was a large model depicting the D-Day landings. This model was built in situ and had been in place for the past 20 years. It proved quite a challenge for staff and packers on how we were going to be able to take it apart so that we could put it back together again.

D Day model divided into sections
D Day model divided into sections

The model was divided into sections and photographs of these sections taken at multiple angles. Each section was then dismantled and put into marked bags showing where it came from.

The model will be back on show in Lyneham.

The next few weeks will see larger items and vehicles moved into our new hangar in Lyneham. From the 1st October, the rest of the collections will start being moved across with staff following behind.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

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

Only 8 weeks to go….

With over 5000 objects now packed, the Museum is filling up with boxes and empty cases. Information panels are coming down, and our mannequins and old display items are finding new homes in other museums.

View of the Vehicle HallThe dioramas surrounding the vehicles in the Prince Philip Vehicle Hall are being dismantled with sand, gravel and rocks being moved outside. The surrounding information panels are being dismantled and within a fortnight our Scout helicopter will be brought down from its stand onto the floor, ready to be loaded and transferred to Lyneham.

So far the packing has been carried out by Museum staff and volunteers. Next week, professional packers will be coming in to help us dismantle and pack other larger and more awkward displays.

Just as things are coming to a close in Arborfield, things are starting to open in Lyneham. The new Museum is almost complete and looks fantastic.

WW2 Gallery

Visitors will enter the new Museum via our World War Two gallery. This photo shows the view towards the doors which visitors will be entering through. As well as vehicles, we will also be displaying items associated with D-Day, Prisoners of War, messages back to loved ones at home and items collected by soldiers whilst on operations.

More vehicles will be displayed in a second, larger vehicle hall to show the range of campaigns and environments where REME men and women have been.

Large vehicle hall

Before and after photos show just how much work has gone into making our new home suitable as a Museum. These two photos are of the education suite. The first was taken in March this year, the second was taken August this year. The change is dramatic!

Education suite before

Education suite after

Museum staff have continued to work with the Designers, PLB, to create the new layout and displays. A series of concept drawings have helped to bring to life the plans so far.

These images show the large vehicle hall and the REME Relaxed gallery which will look at the day to day lives of REME soldiers, including their families, social and sporting clubs, and mess functions.

Concept for large vehicle hall

Concept for REME relaxed

We still have a lot of work ahead of us and no doubt a few challenges, but there is a fantastic team of staff and volunteers all working together to make the new Museum a fantastic visitor experience and a place which the Corps can be proud of.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

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

VW’s, Vehicles and Packing

VW signThe last weekend of May saw Museum staff at the VW Expo at Stonor Park. Despite all the rain it was a great day with lots of visitors enjoying themselves. Organised by the Association of British VW Clubs, there was a variety of stalls and displays, as well as competitions.

The Museum became involved with the event due to our historic link with VW. REME Officers, Major Ivan Hirst and Colonel Michael McEvoy, played a key role in rebuilding the VW factory in Germany after the Second World War.

The Corps are very proud of this link, and the Museum enjoys supporting events whenever we can.

Beetles NightmareUnfortunately the weather on Sunday meant that we couldn’t put our banners out as they might have ended up being blown into Henley town centre. We were able to display a variety of VW models created by our Technical Historian Brian Baxter. These were a big hit with visitors of all ages, especially ‘A Beetle’s Nightmare’.

Packing is still one of the major tasks underway in the Museum. As well as packing up the collection in Arborfield, we also have a large collection in Bordon, Hampshire which we have started preparing for the move. This is where most of our historic vehicle collection is kept and for the new Museum we are hoping to bring out and display some of the vehicles which have been stored here.

Our small army of volunteers are very busy in Arborfield, packing plaques, name boards, models and a variety of other items. We are surrounded by boxes, bubble wrap, archival tissue paper and lots of tags. Our stores are almost completely boxed up now, and the main displays have begun to be dismantled.

More meetings with the designers are coming up in the next week so more specifics about the main display will be available soon.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

Corridor 2 after
Corridor 2 ‘before’ photo
Corridor 2 before
Corridor 2 ‘after’ photo