Saturday, 16 July 2011

Discover wartime past

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, July 9, 2011, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Discover wartime past
  A big day out!
   RICHARD THOMAS heads to ...
 the 1940s Museum. 
Ever wanted to travel back in time? If so, then why not enjoy an educational day out at the 1940s Swansea Bay Museum. With the winter months here, it’s fun for all the family whatever the weather.
The 1940s Swansea Bay Museum is based in Crymlyn Burrows off the Fabian Way in Swansea. The Museum contains exhibits showing what life was like in the Swansea Bay area during and in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The Museum offers visitors a unique chance to discover for themselves what life was like for civilians on the “Home Front” during the war and experience the sights and sounds of an air raid first hand. You even get to find out what you could eat with a week’s rations and dress up in 1940s clothes and uniforms!
Lots, it’s a museum after all. Most people have heard of the London “Blitz”, but the ports and industrial towns of South Wales were also targets for the German Luftwaffe, a three-night bombing campaign on Swansea in February, 1941, left most of the city destroyed. The 1940s Swansea Bay Museum was setup six years ago to tell the story of the impact of the bombing raids on the area, and how local people managed to cope with the devastation of total war. The Museum is preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Swansea, in February next year.
There are many highlights. The Museum have just recently opened a new exhibit, an authentic wartime grocer's shop, where visitors can see what products available then are still on store shelves today. “Items like Spam, tinned beans and Weetabix are all here on display - although the Weetabix used to come in a tin rather than a box”, according to Museum director John Thomas. In addition short films and displays of actual material from the period help bring to life a time over 65 years ago when every Briton had to carry a gas mask and identity card with them. But the best part of the exhibition has to be the RAF plotting room, where you follow the course of the German bombers before taking cover in the air raid shelter! If you survive the German bombs, when the all clear sounds, you can stroll down the reconstructed 1940s street, past houses, shops and into the corner pub.
Don’t forget to bring a camera with you.
The Museum is open daily 10am-4pm (last admission 1 hour before closing).
Tel: 01792 458864

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