A Visit to the Black Country Museum’s 40’s Event

On July the 18thmembers of the Society made a visit to the Black Country Museum, which was hosting a 1940’s weekend. All of the visitors were faced with a nostalgic journey back in time to the sights and sounds of wartime Britain. The Museum site had been transformed.

The first thing you saw as you left the main building was a caravan site with both vintage cars and caravans, set up for a holiday away from the bombs and destruction.

There was an army camp complete with a field kitchen and vintage army vehicles and of course soldiers dressed in uniforms of the time. All over the Museum people had their hair styled as it would have been in the 40’s and were in fashions of the time.

On our arrival we had been issued with an identity card which had to be shown at manned check points of which there were two. One was on the bridge into the village centre and the other on the way round to the Anchor Forge and Rolling Mill, both important places in war time.

As we went through the first check point it was even more like stepping back in time as there were “villagers” going about their everyday activities shopping, pushing babies out in their coach built high prams and going to the “Bottle and Glass “ inn for a lunch time drink. All were dressed in the fashions of the time, ladies in hats and gentlemen in three piece suits. There were also squaddies and G.I.’s walking about.

In the village centre as people walked about they were brought to a halt as an air raid siren sounded, whistles blown and shouts of “Take cover!” A lady was shouting from an upstairs window that they would not drop a bomb on her house. Then a plane could be heard in the distance and the sound of bombs dropping. The sounds grew louder as the plane drew near then an explosion was heard very close at hand. Suddenly the lady in the bedroom window was engulfed in smoke and shouting for help.

A group of soldiers and Air Raid Wardens appeared with two stirrup pumps and a number of buckets of water to put the fire out. A successful rescue was achieved of the lady and her sister. Unfortunately the sister needed a stretcher and medical help to revive her. The lady then ran back into the house to rescue a precious object (an ornament) and was soaked by the water still being sprayed from the stirrup pumps, as she came out.

In St James’s school room lessons were being given in preparation for evacuation. There were ‘make do and mend’ workshops and you were able to find out about knitting comforts, rationing and war time recipes. In addition in the chapel there was a display of 40’s wedding dresses, showing what could be achieved despite rationing and scarce resources and a great deal of ingenuity.

Behind and around the side of the Institute building there were market stalls selling 1940’s memorabilia. As you walked round you encountered “spivs” touting ration cards and even one selling ladies undies from a suitcase on the edge of the pavement, keeping a wary lookout for the police who were patrolling the area. There were a great many uniformed people, both men and women from humble privates to officers, both English and American.

A dig for victory garden, illustrating how people were encouraged to grow their own food could also be seen.

The baker’s shop was doing a great trade in cakes and bread pudding and the queue for fish and chips had to be seen to be believed.

A stage had been set up and all day various artists performed songs, told jokes and generally entertained the visitors. It was a pleasant sound to sit and enjoy and rest your tired legs especially as the sun was shining.

We were promised an interesting and entertaining day and we were not disappointed. Thank you Bernard.

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