By Angela L. Garratt
When we arrived at the VE day celebrations at the museum of Cannock Chase for 2016 who would have thought that we would be greeted at the gates by an armed guard. Of course, the gun wasn’t loaded, it was just a prop for visual effect; nevertheless, it was very exciting. Andy Lines (founding member) parked the car and just as we were walking toward the first outdoor exhibition of WW2 vehicles and memorabilia, we were met by a German Officer, who sold us a ration book programme for the events of the day, and he gave us our identity cards and stamped them both.
Everyone who either worked or volunteered for the museum was dressed in either British or German uniform. There were people there dressed in civilian 1940’s attire. On this day 7th May 2016, everyone at the Museum of Cannock Chase made an effort to bring back the 1940’s and celebrate our day of victory in Europe.
Considering this was a free event at the museum, it was starting to look like it was going to be a very good day indeed. The sun was shining, and the air was warm. The truth is we couldn’t have asked for better weather. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We (the OWG) only went there for the spitfire flyover, and we got such a wonderful day out from it.
Just outside the museum doors were a choir, the sound of beautiful voices emanated all over the museum with songs like the White Cliffs of Dover and other songs from the wartime era.
Inside the building we walked into the gift shop which sold everything from paperweights to toys, all with an air of patriotism and history to them. But the toys of today and the toys of yesteryear had some differences and showed many of the injustices of the day. It pains me these days to see dolls like this and words in the poster behind that are extremely offensive, but in those days, many people just did not know any better, and the ones that did were just too ignorant to care. Happily, people have changed, but just like it is important to never forget the war, so we always respect the fact that these people gave up their life for our freedom, it is equally important that we remember all parts of our history, if nothing else but to know that it should never be repeated.
Unfortunately, learning from our past is not something we human beings are particularly very good at. WW1 may not have seen as many lost lives as WW2, but it was still brutal nonetheless. This cigarette tin was once in a soldier’s pocket during a battle in WW1, it did not save the soldier’s life, but it shows us, over one hundred years on how human beings have a habit of repeating our mistakes with the onslaught of WW2.
As the OWG climbed the stairs to look into the 1940’s room in the museum, we were told that the Spitfire would fly over soon and that we should not miss it. We had no intention of missing it, especially as that was the reason why we went there in the first place. There are not many Spitfires left now, and the ones that are actually in working or flying order must be extremely rare, so to see one flyover was a spectacular treat. At first, we heard the engine of the aeroplane, that distinctive hum. We were not sure in which direction it was coming from but the louder it got, the more obvious its direction. We pointed our cameras and pressed play on the recorder, then out of the blue sky came the most wonderful sound and those wings were unmistakable, the spitfire: the plane that my dad always said helped us win the war came flying over with three turns. The sheer awe of the moment left my heart beating faster, and goose pimples climbed up my arms as the Spitfire flew over us. For those couple of minutes that we saw that beautiful aeroplane fly over, it made me well up with so much pride I could hardly contain it. I don’t think that up until that moment when we saw that Spitfire, I had ever felt so proud to be British in all my life as I did right there and then. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be the child or the wife of a pilot in the war days and see your father or husband up in a plane like that one, scared stiff that he would not be coming back, but beaming with pride that he was up there fighting for his country’s and his family’s freedom.
After the flyover was complete, and adrenalines were still running high, The Oldbury Writing Group decided to take a look at all other parts of the museum, which included the dance lessons. Nicole and I took part in learning how to do the Lindy hop while the male members of the group stood on the side watching and looking after our bags. This also was a very enjoyable part of the day. The sun was blaring down so you can imagine how hot Nicole and I were while dancing. Now, I have two left feet, and I have no idea how I managed to get through it, but it was a lot of fun and a great experience.
Other exhibitions were the Anderson Shelter and the 1940’s caravan. There were nurses there seeing to the wounded, and you had the chance to be able to Dig for Victory as they used to say. During those days, people who had gardens were asked to dig up their lawn and flowers and plant vegetables instead. That way we would have to rely less on others and more on ourselves during a time where everyone had to look after each other.
I am glad that the Oldbury Writing Group was able to come to this event today. We learnt a lot from history, had a lot of fun, and I felt a certain type of patriotism that I have never felt before, but it is a feeling that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. It is events like this that show us that we (the earth) lost 60 million human beings during that war, but we British and many other nations around the world did not lose our humanity, and I hope with all my heart that we never do.