Radwinter at War
The Radwinter Society was successful in its application to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant from the Home Front Recall programme and organised an exhibition of World War Two memorabilia in Radwinter Village Hall in the afternoons of Saturday to Monday, May 28 to 30th. We are extremely grateful to the team of Radwinter residents led by Grace Simmonds, who helped make the event the success it was.
Radwinter has many current or former residents who either served in the armed forces during the Second Word War, in the home services or experienced the war as children. We had an airfield and a military camp that became a prisoner of war rehabilitation centre. The inmates of this centre included a distinguished organist from Cologne cathedral, who conducted concerts in Radwinter Church and Karl Weschke, a leading artist in the Cornish School, who died earlier this year. We also had a harvest camp where schoolboys from London stayed to help get in the harvest while former farm labourers were winning the war.
The exhibition included a wide range of artefacts from the time, both military and domestic, including munitions, bayonets and instruction manuals, cookbooks, gas masks and vehicles. It was supported by a display of World War Two posters, postcards and memorials of Radwinter fallen obtained from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Remembering the British Restaurants of the time, on the Saturday afternoon members of Radwinter WI served tea, cooked from authentic recipes of the period and sold at WW II prices.
Among memorabilia of the German prisoners of war, were a pair of boots and a clay sculpture of a head, both on loan from Saffron Walden Museum. There was also a Russian soldier’s identity tag, giving, amongst other information, his name, blood group, home address and next of kin. It may have been a souvenir picked up by a German soldier fighting on the Eastern Front, or could possibly have belonged to a Russian who was fighting for the Germans and who hid the tag to disguise his identity. Russians were sent back to their own country and collaborators were shot.
Miss Claudia Severn kindly gave us some wall drawings produced at Radwinter by German POW’s, having paid for them to be removed from 3 Church View.
The Royal British Legion and Home Front Recall both gave us a party packs of banners, posters, stickers and balloons to decorate the village hall and to commemorate the men and women who rendered faithful service in World War II.
A week before the exhibition opened, a quiz on the Second World War was organised by, Graham Schneider, who also supplied a fish supper for the competing teams.
The exhibition was made the focus of sound recordings and photographic projects from current and former inhabitants so as to build up a picture of life in Radwinter during the War. Photographs were also taken of the exhibits prior to return to their owners. Memories of the period, together with the photographs and archival research material, will be published in a booklet on Radwinter at War, as a companion volume to our millennium publication, Radwinter 1900.
The grant awarded covered hire of the village hall, display items, publicity and a small amount of travel costs for researchers. It also paid for the purchase of high quality digital sound recording equipment and publication of the proposed book. Because of the number of valuable items on display, insurance was taken out and a temporary alarm was fitted to the village hall.
If you have memories of World War II, either because you served in one of the military or home front services, or if you have a view of what life was like in Radwinter at the time and you haven’t already had your memories recorded, do please come forward. Also if you have photographs that could be used in the book or if you would be able to help with researching aspects of the home front in Radwinter, writing any of the articles or typing up somebody else’s work, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Contact: Michael Southgate, Village History Recorder
Telephone 01799 599478
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