While the Ground Floor of the Museum looks at HM Factory Gretna in World War One, our First Floor galleries consider the impact of conflict on our local area from 1939 onwards. Many (but not all) of these displays look at the life of women and children in the War including a look at evacuees, life on the Home Front and work done by women in munitions and organisations such as the ATS.
We have many objects in our Museum object store which relate to these topics such as a collection of Housewife Magazine from World War Two. Despite the old fashioned title and imagery, these images have a certain nostalgia charm.
Some of the adverts from within the magazine are also of interest and give one an insight into life during the Second World War.
Come and visit us when it is safe to do so! Here is a photo of a visitor enjoying a look at our 1940s kitchen.
If you’d like to know more about World War Two in our region, the following book may be of interest:
The Devil’s Porridge Museum joined in the nation’s commemorations of the 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday. This event (which we participated in digitally) has brought forward some more memories and photos which we wanted to share with you.
The photograph below shows Ettie Wilsenham celebrating VE Day on Friday at her home in Eastriggs (the windows have been covered with red, white and blue fabric in place of a British flag which they weren’t able to source during lockdown).
Ettie was working in Eastriggs depot when the War ended, she actually took the call from the Brigadier and did a great job going round all the magazines to break the news to everyone that the War was over.
Ettie has a lot of connections to the Museum: she was once one of our volunteers and she features in our display about the Eastriggs depot. The story of her marriage also featured in our ‘Love in Wartime’ exhibition as recounted below.
Ettie joined the war effort aged 16 when she secured a job in Eastriggs Depot in 1942. While she was there, she met Arthur who was a soldier in the Ordnance Corps, assigned to guard the Grade 4 stores.
“Every so often when I was working at those stores, Arthur would slip me a bar of chocolate. What with the rationing and chocolate being so scarce, I was won over! We married in 1945 [on June 7th] after the war with Germany was ended.”
Thanks so much to Ettie and Ann for sharing this account and to Dot for organising for it to be shared with the Museum.
If you would like to know more about World War Two in this region, the following book from our online shop may be of interest to you:
The Devil’s Porridge Museum has several gas masks in its collection, some date from World War One but the majority were made during World War Two. We have two ‘baby’ gas masks. One is on display in the Museum’s First Floor Second World War galleries and the other is in our object store (it was recently donated to the Museum and is unusual in that it came in its original box).
We are also fortunate to have a document in the Museum collection which went with gas masks such as these when they were issued. It provides lots of interesting information such as:
-they were issued to the mother on the birth of a child
-the gas mask was issued by he local council and was government property
-it was expected that it would be returned (obviously some weren’t)
-masks such as this were meant to be used for children up to the age of two
Poisoned gas was widely used in World War One and, although its use was banned under the terms of a 1925 Geneva Protocol, both sides in World War Two anticipated its use by their enemies and prepared accordingly. Changes to aerial warfare meant that civilians could have been targeted and poison gas could have had a devastating impact had it been used on a large urban area. Fortunately, neither Britain or Germany used poisoned gas on one another during the War (although its possible use was discussed by both sides).
It is estimated that nearly 40 million gas masks were issued during World War Two. During a recent oral history project, the Museum spoke with a lady from Carlisle, who is now in her 90s. She remembered getting in trouble for dragging her gas mask along the ground on the way to school. Her treatment of this piece of (potentially) lifesaving equipment was so careless that she had to have it replaced several times.
The Museum has another gas mask specifically aimed at children on display, this is the ‘Mickey Mouse’ gas mask. Thankfully gas masks were not used in Britain in World War Two but serve as a grim reminder of the possible horrors of war and the amazing gift of peace in Europe which was achieved on VE Day 75 years ago.
Young visitors (photos above) enjoy putting on replica gas masks (these are completely safe, some World War Two ones have asbestos in them and should not be worn or handled without testing/careful controls).
If you’re interested in the experiences of children in World War Two, the following may be of interest to you:
This article was written by Alastair Ritchie, who is one of our young volunteers. He recently completed The Prince’s Trust Award while volunteering in the Museum.
Ammunition Line Display
A while ago the museum was kindly donated 2 rollers and 4 trestles which we believe were used at the Eastriggs or Longtown depot. Since then we have sought to find a place for them, which we have now found (thanks to Neil McGarva for this suggestion). The items have been arranged in a way which will help to demonstrate their use, under the stairs in front of the window so it will be something for people to see when coming in from the car park or walking round the building.
Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers Alastair and George along with Digital Marketing Modern Apprentice Morgan, the area has been cleared, cleaned and arranged to ensure it both looks good and gives some insight into how these items might have been used.
If you are interested in some more information on our display then here are a few facts about it…
The rollers were used in both WW1 and 2 (some would have been mechanised by the Second World War though) to assist in moving all types of ammo, firstly from the train to the magazine and secondly from one part of the factory to another.
The rollers were able to make moving large amounts of tank shells, bullets of all types, artillery shells, bombs though these were limited in type and navy shells more efficient.
In order to improve the rollers longevity they were made very durable, requiring little maintenance beyond the occasional greasing and replacing of the yellow and black paint which could easily be done by the women and men who worked with them.
Rollers could also be set up in long lines that might run up to 6 rollers long, allowing multiple teams to work on different parts, doing a varied tasks including….
placing empty open boxes onto the line
placing shells into boxes or removing ones from the line to be placed in storage or shipped out
taking boxes off to be either placed in storage or on a train to be taken away for use
We have been told by Robin, a Trustee at the Museum (he worked within Eastriggs and Longtown depots for many years and is a former Inspector in the Ministry of Defence Police) that at the depot the process was referred to as “hand-balling” by some staff.
The rollers were a earlier version of the modern assembly lines without power and were used throughout the depot until the introduction of forklifts and other modern equipment.
In total the Rollers could hold somewhere between 13-15 tons which was vital as the Eastriggs depot could house up to 10–30,000 tons of material while Longtown could hold almost twice that amount as it was split between the COD (Central Ordnance Depot) which stored inert material such as boxes and packaging for various forms of ammunition and the CAD (Central Ammunition Depot) which stored various types of small arms to artillery shell ammunition.
The following book may be of interest if you would like to know more about the depots and the local area in World War Two:
After this article was published, a member of the public came forward with the following information and photographs, we thank him for sharing this with us:
The beginning of the process in what was known as the In-Transit this is where the ammunition/explosives are received into the building
Operatives would breakdown the pallets and load the containers/boxes onto the rollers and they would then be pushed through a hatch into the Process area where Ammunition Examiners would carry out various tasks:
A pedestrian gate in the rollers where examiners could work on both sides of the rollers
Once this was done the containers/boxes would be moved along the rollers to the Out-Transit, here operatives would add markings
The rollers were used in all types of industry including the ships for deep sea dumping