Susan Allman (bottom photo, right), assisted by Dorothy Brankin of the MoC, declared our 2017 exhibition open! On the same day, Susan gave an excellent Saturday Special Lecture.
This year we stepped back to 1917– the turning point of WW1. The year when America declared war on Germany and turned the tide in favour of the Allies. Throughout this global war, horrendous battles were fought, involving many nations, all of whom suffered grievously. Little was learned from this, and just 20 years later, the entire world was once again plunged into war…..
We moved on 50 years to 1967, to see how these two cataclysmic events had affected life in Britain….. Hardship? Unemployment? Deprivation? Not a bit of it!!........Welcome to the Swinging Sixties!! The display in the Stairwell set the scene, with familiar examples of home entertainment –‘Trannies’, Record Players, Telly….. and the walls decorated with record sleeves of the time! Inside the Exhibition Hall, the first bay on each side of the entrance continued the1960s theme. One section was devoted to Television and the other to Radio - the two most popular means of entertainment and news of the decade.
1967 was a breakthrough year for the BBC! It became the first regular broadcaster of colour TV in Europe, and over on the Radio, the three regular services were re-badged, and a new exploratory pop music channel, Radio 1, introduced.
Huge advances in aviation technology occurred in the 60s…..with trail-blazing aircraft like Concorde and the TSR2 (Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance) and NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.
Moving on through the exhibition, we travelled back to 1917 and the horrors of Trench Warfare.
Our trench was built to WW1 specifications, as described in the Officers’ Manual of 1914.
This section aimed to give you an idea of how the troops coped, year in, year out, with life in the trenches: ours was far too dry, un-muddied, clean, quiet, cosy, odourless and corpse/vermin free!
Dominating our War at Sea case, is one of the Museum’s greatest treasures – the Morse Key from the German Battleship, Grosser Kurfürst. This is the only Morse key ever to be recovered from the German High Seas Fleet, scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919. After some amazing coincidences, it found its way into our Collection, donated to our founder, Harry Matthews, in 1986.
The two (1/350th scale) model ships displayed, are Grosser Kurfürst and HMS Dreadnought, from WW1.
The larger Corvette model, at the top of the case, dates from WW2, and is included to demonstrate maritime progress in 20 years.
The biplane and triplane in the War in the Air section are built to the same scale (1/32) as the vast Zeppelin, suspended above. These monsters were at least the length of 2 football pitches, with gas-bags (usually leaking), containing about one million cubic feet of highly volatile hydrogen. They were unstable and cumbersome, with a maximum speed of 53 mph - but they could carry a huge payload of bombs.
The final section deals with the interception work carried out in Room 40. In January, a telegram from Arthur Zimmerman, German Foreign Minister, to the German Ambassador in Mexico City, was intercepted. Its decryption led directly to the United States declaring war on Germany in April – and so changing the outcome of the war.