Berwick at War: 1939-45 -26th & 27th November 2005
Memories of Berwick during the 1940s were rekindled when Derek Sharman organised a two-day programme of activities in association with Berwick Borough Museum to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
The activities staged in and around the Barracks provided an opportunity for people of all ages to discover how ordinary folk lived from day to day on the Home Front in Berwick.
Re-enactors from as far afield as Lancashire, Yorkshire and Wales depicted civilians and service personnel of the time including a railwayman of the LNER, a “spiv”, a mother with a baby in a genuine 1940s pram, schoolchildren, evacuees, and a washing day scene with housewives using dolly tubs, washboards and mangle.
The voluntary services were represented by the WVS (Women’s Voluntary service), the Women’s Land Army, ARP (Air Raid Precautions) and Fire Watch personnel complete with stirrup pump to deal with incendiary bombs.
A 1940s air-raid shelter was recreated in one of the tunnels of Windmill Bastion that was used for this purpose during the Second World War.
Military and civilian vehicles of the period were on display on the Barracks square, including a 1940s period tractor from Chain Bridge Honey Farm, of a type that would have been used by the Women’s Land Army. A searchlight unit and an anti-aircraft gun.were set up on the grass area opposite the Barracks gates.
Men of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), the forerunners of the Home Guard, or “Dad’s Army” as they have come to be known, paraded with their improvised weapons and gave instructions in drill to volunteers from the audience.
There were mock air raid drills, activities for children and displays of 1940s children’s toys and other artefacts, naval uniforms and a selection of gas masks, including the Mickey Mouse version produced for children.
Tables were set out explaining the rationing system, with examples of the weekly civilian allowance, ration books and recipes. Re-enactors representing the wartime Army Catering Corps demonstrated how the army was fed.
Alongside the living history activities, the story of the town’s wartime experience was told on panels displaying contemporary advertisements and articles from Berwick newspapers; The national perspective was illustrated in an exhibition provided by the Imperial War Museum, entitled Their Past, Your Future.
A programme of short talks on a variety of topics was given during the weekend in the old guard house beside the Cowport, near the Barracks.