Museum of Military Medicine

BY CAROL MULHOLLAND

RECENTLY JESS POCOCK AND I visited The Museum of Military Medicine at Ash Vale in Surrey. We first heard of this at the London Science Museum exhibition ‘Wounded, conflict, casualties and care’ (also highly recommended and on until 15 January 2018)

There are regular trains from Waterloo to Ash Vale and a pleasant half hour walk to the museum…turn right when leaving the station and walk along main road, past the children’s nursery and right into Mytchett Lane (you may see the museum sign hidden in the undergrowth!)

Walk down the lane and take a right turn into Mytchett Place Road and you will see Keogh Barracks where the museum is housed.

You need a photo ID to get in… we took our IWM passes and the museum is free.

The exhibitions appear to have been newly organised and house artefacts from The English Civil War to present day conflicts… all are numbered so you can’t get lost!

There are so many amazing things to see including tableaux of field hospitals and macabre specimens such as Civil War arrow head removers and early amputation saws.

As Jess pointed out it covers a huge time frame and brings you right up to date with the very impressive modern day equipment carried in the field today. This means that lives can be saved on the spot so that complicated fractures, for example, can be treated quickly before moving patients to a treatment centre.

There are also sections on animals used in various conflicts as the barracks also houses the army veterinary services.

Of special interest to Jess and I were uniforms and headgear from WW1.

Image: Brody helmet and an example of a tank driver’s face mask to protect from splinters caused by either a shell exploding inside the tank or hitting the outside and sending loose splinters of steel flying around the inside of the tank. (Image (C) Carol Mulholland)

We had a wonderful day and strongly recommend a visit but make it soon as the whole thing is moving to Cardiff next year!

Some extra information:-

  • Opens Monday to Friday 9.30 to 3.30 but more days planned during the Summer (probably best to call before you go on 01252 868612)
  • If you plan to drive satnav is GU16 6DD… check about parking before you go.
  • There is no cafe but a one mile walk up the road is Basingstoke canal centre which has seats inside and outside and is lovely(museum will give you directions)
  • The Museum of Military Medicine website is at: https://museumofmilitarymedicine.org.uk/
  • The Science Museum’s ‘Wounded, Conflict and Care’ exhibition details are at:
    http://sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/wounded

Hope you have a great day!

Meeting an RAF veteran of the Battle of Britain

BY RICHARD MADDOX

LONDON’S SCIENCE MUSEUM may seem like a strange place to meet a veteran from the early months of the Second World War that made their last operational flight on 18 August 1940 – when the Luftwaffe made an all-out attack on Fighter Command airfields protecting London – and crashed landed at RAF Croydon.  But there on the third floor is a Hawker Hurricane aircraft that did just that and more.

Hurricane L1592 was number forty six in a production run of more than 14,500 aircraft of all marks of the fighter produced from 1937 until 1944. It was to serve with a number of squadrons. Damaged in combat over Dunkirk on 1 June 1940, it returned and crash-landed at RAF Tangmere.

On this occasion its pilot Pilot Officer Tony Woods-Scawen was uninjured but he would loose his life three months later – with in a day of the death of his brother, (see ‘Brothers in Arms post on this blog).

Once repaired the aircraft was issued to No 615 Squadron at Kenley and on 18 August it was being flown by Pilot Officer David Looker when it was attacked by a Messerschmitt bf 109 German fighter near Sevenoaks in Kent.

As the bullets hit, Looker threw the Hurricane into a spin to make the German pilot believe that the aircraft was doomed. Suitability convinced of the imminent death of the British pilot (and no doubt watching his fuel gauge) the Messerschmitt looked for another target.

Having lost his pursuer, Looker thought about what to do next. His plane was damaged and so he undid his seat belts and prepared to bale out.

Just then he sighted RAF Croydon – about four miles from his base at Kenley – below and decided to land there.

Image: Hawker Hurricane (left) and Supermarine Spitfire at the Science Museum London. Image © R Maddox 2017.

With both Kenley and Biggin Hill under attack, and Croydon having been badly hit three days before the defences at Croydon were on full alert and expecting to be under attack themselves at any moment. Seeing an unexpected aircraft approaching they opened fire on the crippled British fighter.

Dodging more bullets – this time British – he crashed landed on the airfield, knocking himself out as the aircraft tipped over on its nose. An RAF corporal left his air raid shelter and pulled the pilot from the wrecked aircraft.

Looker was to spend a month in hospital recovering but remembered nothing about what happened that day.  In October 1940 he became an instructor and began training pilots in Canada. He left the RAF at the end of the war and died in 1995.

Meanwhile his aircraft – which was due to be replaced on the Squadron before it crashed this last time – was repaired once more. But it never flew in combat again.

Amongst other things,  it became an extra in two post-war films – ‘Reach for the Sky’ and ‘Angels One Five’ – both filmed at Kenley.

In 1963 it was given to the Science Museum as an example of the development of aircraft construction.

Today it remains at the Museum where it has been housed for more than fifty years and is now the oldest surviving example of a Hawker Hurricane in the world.

More information:

http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/Looker.htm

 

HMS Belfast – Happy birthday ‘Tiddley B’!

by RICHARD MADDOX

Hms_B_launch

Image: Launching Ceremony: HMS BELFAST with her tugs prior to being moved to the fitting out yard, 17 March 1938. IWM Catalogue number MH 24911. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205092802

HMS Belfast (until named officially, known as ‘Yard No. 1000’) was launched from Harland and Wolff’s Slipway No. 12 in the Musgrave Yard. The date and her construction number had been reserved for what was seen as a very important day –  for the Royal Navy, Harland and Wolff and the city of Belfast.

HMS Belfast was only the second warship built at the shipyard since the end of the First World War and the launch date and yard number reflected the importance and pride the company had in the construction of what was at the time of her completion the most cruiser in the Royal Navy.

Anne Chamberlain, wife of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain performed the naming ceremony in front of a crowd estimated at 20,000.

After the ship had settled in the water all eyes turned to a 14 year-old riveter’s catcher – who had worked on the vessel’s construction – as he presented her with a bouquet.

Besides the dignitaries present –  the Prime Minister, The Governor of Northern Ireland, Duke Abercorn, Viscount Craig and the members of the Ulster Cabinet – were a party from the Dublin branch of the Royal Naval ex-Comrades’ Association, who had marched to the yard with their banner.

Together they watched the white hull (specially painted to show off her lines) slip into the water and the tugs move her to be fitted-out.

POST SCRIPT – 17 MARCH 2018

John Harrison, now 104 years old. john served on HMS Belfast’s very first commission in 1939. A former Ordinance Artificer, his action station was ‘A’ turret from where a ceremonial salute of the turrets main armament was fired to mark the ship’s 80th anniversary. Image © R Maddox 2018,

 

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Harland and Wolffe’ yard number 1000 first touching water. Today is the 80th anniversary of HMS Belfast being born.

Yesterday at a press day, the ship was reunited with 50 veterans and their families who served on her through her career, together with representatives from the Royal and Commonwealth navies. the city of Belfast and Harland and Wolffe where  (as I’ve touched on above) men from the city designed and built a weapon of war that has lasted to become place of memory and reflection as well as learning.and happiness for all who set foot on her Quarter deck.

In the days ahead the birthday celebrations will end.

And the ship will revert to doing what she has done since Trafalgar Day 1971, playing her part as IWM’s largest exhibit and also one of the five (three in London) sites in the IWM family. 

But for those who were privileged – a word I do not use lightly – to sit and talk to 104 year old veteran John Harrison and the other veterans it  is day that will be remembered for a long time to come.

You can learn more about John and HMS Belfast by clicking the links below.

More information:
http://titanicbelfast.com/Discover/On-This-Day/March-17/HMS-Belfast-Yard-No-1000.aspx

https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/hms-belfast-80-john-harrison