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History Alive: WW II Collection

Fran Singleton, trainee curator at Bodmin Keep, brought the museum’s Second World War artefacts box to a Warm Space at St. Petroc’s Parish Centre on a chilly November morning.

Original and replica WW II artefacts

Inside the suitcase original WW II items include a pair of itchy long johns, an anti-gas eye shield, foot powder, a pack of playing cards and two cooking trays.

Authentic items from WW II

Other objects are replicas, for example, the 24-hour ration pack. The box includes a few sheets of toilet paper (more like tracing paper) and sugary food for sustenance such as sugar, biscuits, chocolate bars, boiled sweets and chewing gum.

Mike, stationed at Bodmin Keep’s barracks in the 1960s, said these emergency boxes were a soldier’s lifeline. He remembers a love-hate relationship with the packets of oatmeal however; the taste was poor but the warm porridge helped fill a gap.

Fran and Mike deep in conversation

Sylvia’s story

Frank Blight, Sylvia’s father, was born on Armistice Day, 11.11 1910 (1910 or thereabouts). He was a regular soldier before the war and then received his call up papers.

Sylvia lives in Bodmin but Devon was her childhood home. She was only three years old when her father went to war. Sylvia recalls her mum taking her to Woolacombe beach where she remembers seeing barbed wire along the sands.

Frank returned home thanks to the Dunkirk rescue mission. He told his little girl about a beautiful china doll he bought her and left in the shop for safekeeping. Fleeing for his life meant he did not have time to collect the doll.

Children joining in

One boy who attends a local primary school dressed up in soldiers’ clothes and shared what he’d learnt about the war at school. A toddler tried a hat on but preferred to see his dad wearing it!

Warning: not for the fainthearted

As the children returned to their drink and cake, Judith shared some horrific facts around the open suitcase. One of the flashbacks her dad repeatedly had of the war was where all the soldiers were walking up a hill and as they reached the top they saw one soldier without a head, leaning on his machine gun, his head lying beside him. He looked like he was 14 years old. Judith said: “How did they manage? How did they live in that filth?” Yet that was what they did.

Enjoying the Warm Space

The Saturday morning Warm Space run by St. Petroc’s Church with friends from the Inner Wheel and in collaboration with Bodmin Way Community Courses History Alive sessions with Bodmin Keep, ends on Saturday 26 November, with the opportunity to see and play with children’s toys and games from the 1940s. It’s suitable for all ages and everyone is welcome to join us from 10.30am at St. Petroc’s Parish Centre (next to Priory Park).

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