March 2017 - WHATS NEW FOR 2017
The winter months provide a short respite for the staff to clean and refresh the museum before we open our doors again to the visiting public in early March. The focus of this time is on ensuring the continued safety and preservation of our artefacts as well as making changes to the displays so that visitors have something new to see.
New for 2017 are the display of our medal collection within the sliding drawer medal cabinets in the Intelligence Corps ethos room. This enables visitors to see the medals and to read a short piece about the recipient and their achievements. We have also tried to include something personal about the medal recipients in order to make them into someone we all might have known, not just as another soldier on parade with a row of medals.
Significant acquisitions during 2016 and early 2017 are now on display. Firstly, during 2016, we obtained the medals of Major Alastair MacDonald MBE MC an SOE officer who, with Captain JPS Amore MC and two others as SOE Mission Cherokee, parachuted into occupied Italy to assist the local anti-fascist partisans. We already held Captain Amore's medals and the opportunity to reunite the two officers through their medals was too good to miss.
Also in 2016 we acquired the medals of Sir John Masterman OBE, the man who led the Twenty Committee (perhaps better known as the XX or Double Cross Committee) which so successfully kept the Germans wrong-footed by the use of turned agents, misinformation and scams such as the well-known story of the 'Man who never was', a tale that was even turned into a film. Sir John's medals share pride of place in the top of a display cabinet alongside those of Corporal Fowler GM who, along with Lieutenant MacDonald GM, also Intelligence Corps, went into an American bomber that had been shot down by a German fighter and had crashed near their base. The two men then set about rescuing injured crew members from the burning wreckage with the risk of exploding bombs all around, their heroism being rewarded with the George Medal.
Late in 2016 we learned through a number of Corps members of the sale on ebay of a World War One jacket that belonged to one of our 'First 55' from that conflict. Such jackets are extremely rare in their own right but having one from a former Corps member who went across to France in 1914 and later gave his life during the last German offensive of the war in 1918 was, again, an opportunity too good to miss. The Museum Trustees duly approved the purchase of this Jacket. Captain William George Gabain MC, remembered fondly to this day by has family as 'Willie', was a scholar and linguist before the war and a noted amateur boxer. Of additional interest was that the Museum already held this officer's medals. The chance of reuniting such important artifacts almost 100 years after the individual's brave sacrifice in battle must be vanishingly small but, against all the odds, this collection is now together and proudly on show in the WW1 interactive display.
We also obtained the World War Two jacket of Sergeant Kaye Norman, a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) who served with the Intelligence Corps in the Y Service carrying out Signals Intercept work, the jacket being donated by Sergeant Norman's daughter during a quite moving handover ceremony.
Our vehicle fleet stands sentinel outside the front of the museum with the Russian ZiL signals truck dominating the skyline and our BRIXMIS Mercedes G Wagen, the sole surviving genuine original, soon to be made road legal by our band of enthusiastic volunteers so that we can take it to military shows during 2017 where we intend putting on a display showing the operators life in the field.
The Long Gallery, (how I have been referring to the corridor!), with its long walls, is ideal to display the 'Homes of the Corps' with information boards aplenty and we will soon be adding a selection of plaques and other ephemera from the various home and operational locations the Corps has populated over the years.
These new displays, as well as a myriad other small changes and reshuffles, completed and intended, are part of our constant efforts to encourage visitors, both new and returning, to enjoy the Museum. As always we are open to comments and suggestions and, most especially, to donation of artifacts that will help us continue to tell our important, multi-faceted, often incredible and always fascinating story.