The Royal Engineers Museum is set to launch a special programme of events and activities linked to the centenary of the First World War Armistice. Dedicated talks, exhibitions and a small-scale theatre production are all planned for the Museum, based in Gillingham.
Events kick-off on 4 November with a talk Actions on the Sambre-Oise Canal. The date is significant because it falls on the 100th anniversary of three Royal Engineers who were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during the Battle. It was also on this day that the poet, Wilfred Owen, lost his life nearby. Just two days later, on 6 November, the final Victoria Cross of the First World War was awarded to Lieutenant Brett Cloutman, RE. Visitors can see his medal on display as part of the HLF-funded VC: For Valour – Sapper VCs of the First World War exhibition, which runs until 21 December.
Following on from last year’s huge success, the 5000 Poppies project returns to the Museum on 6 November. This began in Australia in 2013 as a small personal tribute and has since grown to become an international phenomenon. Coordinated by Medway Fun Palaces and Nucleus Arts, the display will see the Museum covered in hand-crafted poppies. Also on display will be the grave cross of Lt Maurice Mowbray who served on the Western Front. Awarded the Military Cross, he was killed in action in 1917, aged just 21.
Motivated by the Armistice anniversary, students from Robert Napier School have produced a special ‘Remembrance Installation’ which will be on display in the Museum’s atmospheric truck gallery. Museum Director, Rebecca Nash, said “It goes without saying that the end of the First World War was a hugely important landmark and it is vital that we take the time to recognise the 100th anniversary of this significant event. As a Museum we dedicate a huge amount of time to try and tell the story of people who have fought and died in conflict, and the collaboration with Robert Napier School has given us a fantastic opportunity to see how today’s generation view such events. We look forward to seeing the final installation and how this compliments the other events and activities we have going on at the Museum”.
On 14 November the Museum’s Curator will give a talk ‘Gas! Gas! Quick Boys!’, exploring the development of the Special Companies and Gas Warfare during the First World War. Visitors arriving after 5pm will have an opportunity before the talk to enjoy an exclusive look around the Museum after it has been closed to the public.
The events will conclude on 22 November with a moving theatre production Thirty-Odd Feet Below Belgium; a real-life story of romance based on letters discovered in a locked wooden chest. Exchanged between Edith Ainscow and Geoffrey Boothby after he is sent to the Front, the letters are brought to life through this production, offering a unique glimpse into the lives of these two people. Starring Bethan Nash (guest lead in BBC’s Casualty), the play fuses live performance with projected animation, as well as an opportunity for a post-show discussion with the performers and production staff. Definitely not one to be missed!
For more details about what’s on, please see the events section.
The Museum tells the story of the Royal Engineers and how they have helped the British Army live, move and fight for over 300 years. It is Kent’s largest military museum with highlights including 25 Victoria Crosses, Wellington’s map of Waterloo, a huge section of the Berlin wall, Zulu War weapons, amazing bridge-laying tanks, a Harrier Jump Jet and an enormous V2 Rocket. With interactive exhibits, indoor and outdoor play areas, and a newly refurbished café and gift shop, there’s plenty for all the family whatever the weather.
The Museum is open from 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm) Tuesdays to Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays – full details can be found at in the visiting section.