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.
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.
“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.
The Archives are now settled in to our new home in a brand new re-configured and climate controlled storage facility, with equipment for digitisation. This makes it so much easier to look after the Archives according to professional standards.
In Arborfield, the Archives were stored in three separate parts: the Documentary Archives, the Pictorial Archives and the Technical Archives. In Lyneham, these have been merged into one Archive under myself, the new Museum Archivist, who with great foresight managed to avoid the unpacking of the crates and boxes by starting in February this year and so missing the decanting process. I am so grateful to my Museum colleagues who liberated the material from the packing boxes and placed them on the new shelves.
We now have all the Archives handily located in one room, on mobile shelving and our collections of EMERs and AESPS have a special room all of their own.
Since moving in, we have been arranging and sorting out the collections storage, acquiring new material, assessing the Archives Service and making arrangements to improve the way the Archive is managed and services delivered. Although not yet open, we look forward to receiving enquiries and visitors once we are, and so we are working on getting our enquiries and research service ready.
Working with me in the Archives is the new Corps Historian, my colleague in archives and research and fount of REME knowledge, who you will hear from soon on this blog.
As a newbie, it has been (and remains) a steep learning curve and quite a journey to get to know the collections and learn more about REME and the Corps history: from Land Rovers to LADs; BARVs, CRARRVs and ARVs; from Egypt to East Africa; from Burma to Belize; from Italy to India – working with the Museum Archives is like taking a world tour!
It’s been 10 months since the last update, and an incredibly busy 10 months it’s been.
The Museum was due to open on October 1st 2016. As most will notice we were unable to meet this deadline. It became evident that essential building works were needed in order to ensure that the building was fit for purpose as a Museum and that our visitors have the best experience possible.
Work is now well underway to address these issues and we are working towards a new opening time in Spring 2017, exact details to follow.
Throughout the year we have continued with the development of the gallery designs, sorting and selecting objects for displays, developing new education sessions, designing the new café and reorganising the extensive archive collection.
We have welcomed new staff and sadly said goodbye to some as well. We have enjoyed meeting our new neighbours, including schools, museums, heritage sites and local community groups.
We are now entering the final stages of the project. Once the building works are completed this month, we will begin the installation of displays and showcases. As well as the design project we are now looking ahead to our events programme for 2017. This includes a series of temporary exhibitions, an evening lecture series, family events and special public events.
The pace is definitely picking up as we near the end of 2016. Over the next few months we will keep you updated with news about the galleries and their development, as well as news from the Archives and Education Departments.
The REME Museum was established in 1958 on the ground floor of Moat House, Arborfield. In 1985 it moved across the road, and continued to expand and develop over the next 30 years.
In April 2015 the Museum hosted its final event before closing to the public. The next 6 months saw staff and volunteers packing over 100,000 items along with offices and furniture.
On the 27th November, the Museum building was officially handed over and the ‘REME Museum of Technology’ in Arborfield came to an end.
We are now starting a new stage in our history as the ‘REME Museum’. Over the past year an incredible amount of work has gone into designing the displays for the new Museum, and with the help of REME Recovery Mechanics the majority of our vehicles have now been put into position in the main galleries.
The Museum is now closing until the 4th January so that staff can have a well earned rest and recharge themselves ready for 2016 which will see all of the displays and text created, installed and the Museum reopened to the public.
From all staff at the REME Museum, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
There is nothing more unusual than facing 400 children while they speak out your name in unison. I have delivered a few assemblies now, one about Remembrance and a few on the topic of VE Day, but the welcome is something I have yet to get used to.
“Today I am here to talk to you about Armed Forces Day”, and I crack on with why I am there.
As Education Officer for the REME Museum, I have had many challenges in my five years of being in the post. One was a group visit of over 90 pupils studying Local History to a Museum designed to hold a lot less. Another was a visit by only five children with multiple learning difficulties for which I needed to find new ways to help them access the collection. My new challenge is to start an education programme for the new location with a new Museum, and this is a challenge which I am looking forward to.
Since our site in Arborfield is closed to the public, my main focus is to start talking to schools near our new site in Lyneham. Assemblies, which for this week were focusing on Armed Forces Day, are a great first step into schools. They are places where we can talk to both children and teachers about who REME are and what sort of thing they should be expecting in the Museum when it opens in Autumn 2016.
The Armed Forces Day assembly focuses on two things: what the Armed Forces do for us and who they are. I talk about protection, peace, aid and innovation. We discuss the role of veterans, men, women and members of the commonwealth who make up our fighting forces (but with a little REME bias!). With the help of a few young volunteers from the audience, the school has a chance to explore some uniform and kit from both World War Two and the present day.
After a barrage of wonderful questions, that usually deviate off track a bit, class by class they file out of the hall leaving just me and a member of staff. After a quick handshake, I am off. In all I come away from the school knowing that many kids have had a great experience with the collections, they have learnt lots. If that was only after 15 minutes in a school hall, imagine what they will learn once they are able to visit the actual Museum.