Museum Collection: World War 2


Bradford on Avon Museum, Wiltshire


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Warships Week posterThis hand-painted poster was produced in the offices of Bradford’s Spencer Moulton rubber company. It was part of the government’s drive to pay for the war effort by getting the people to save money, or even paying money. Warships Week in February 1942 was to raise awareness (and cash) towards keeping sea routes open.

Piece of shrapnelThe jagged piece of steel (right) is part of the casing of a bomb that was dropped on the canal just outside Bradford. The word that is used to to describe fragments like this comes from General Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), the inventor of the exploding anti-personnel shell, who was born in Bradford to a prominent clothier family.

Ration bookDuring the war there were shortages of various items -food, clothing, fuel- because of the huge risks in bringing in supplies from overseas and because the forces had to be supported. This meant that people’s consumption had to be limited. Ration books contained coupons that had to be produced when buying things and only a certain number could be used in a period of time. Rationing continued for some years after the war, as can be seen from the 1946-7 book on the left.

Identity cardAlongside the ration books the other document you needed was the National Identity Card, which had to be produced when demanded by police or armed forces, to prove you had a right to use the ration book or that you weren’t a spy.

Gas maskEvery museum in the country has at least one of these! A gas mask was issued to every person in the country. After the use of corrosive gas in the trench warfare of the previous war there was a great fear that gas bombs would be dropped. Perhaps because of the fear of retaliation, it never happened, but the masks were carried everywhere.

Make do and mend bookletThe need to restrict the use of vulnerable merchant ships to bringing in vital supplies meant that the government encouraged people to reduce demand. One way was to promote recycling of clothes. The booklet Make do and mend is full of hints and practical demonstrations, not just about mending, but about altering clothes to keep up with fashion or simply to have a change.

Fire guards handbookIncendiary bombs were an enormous menace; they could pierce the roof of a building and burst into flame, with burning molten magnesium metal seeping between floor boards to lower floors. The Fire guards handbook contained detailed instructions on how to deal with fires and for rescuing people from burning buildings.

Stirrup pumpThe standby for dealing with small fires in the war was the stirrup pump (right). The end of the pump went into bucket of water, a foot on the round loop at the bottom to counteract pulling on the handle and the water was squirted at the fire from the hose, usually by another person.

> Old wartime photographs


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