Tuesday, 25 August 2009


photo courtesy of Royal Artillery Museum

The remarkable experiences of London’s children during the Second World War are to be commemorated at a unique event on Saturday 5 September. Seventy years on, Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum, in Woolwich, is to host the unique Wartime Evacuees Day. This moving day of memories and nostalgia will include an exhibition of evacuee memorabilia, archive films, living history re-enactors and, most importantly, give visitors the opportunity to meet and talk to evacuees themselves about their experiences seven decades ago.

With enemy bombing attacks expected as soon as the Second World War started, Operation Pied Piper began. This was the evacuation of Britain's cities - the biggest and most concentrated mass movement of people in Britain's history. In the first four days of September 1939, nearly 3,000,000 people, mostly schoolchildren, were transported to places of safety in the countryside. Over September 1 - 3 1939, officials evacuated over 1.5 million women and children from ‘danger zones’ in London alone. In buses and trains, children left the city to find refuge in the country. The authorities did not want chaotic scenes at London’s train and bus stations so insisted that parents said goodbye to their children in the school playground where they had to assemble. The older children were often given the enormous responsibility of looking after their younger brothers and sisters.

“For some, evacuation was a welcome adventure and escape from their homes in London” says Eileen Noon from Firepower “But for others it was a terrifying and heartbreaking separation from their parents and their friends. Nobody knew when they would return to London or if they would see their home again. Our Wartime Evacuees Day will give visitors the opportunity to meet evacuees and hear their stories first hand.”

The event will also feature an exhibition about local people's experiences during the war entitled Woolwich and the Blitz. Firepower's own living history team will be on duty for the event so visitors can meet and talk to a wartime ARP air raid warden, two Royal Artillery Gunners, soldiers manning an anti-tank gun as well as Local Defence Volunteers - the forerunners of the Home Guard made famous in BBC TV's Dad's Army. Archive films will be shown in the Museum cinema and the Museum will be open as normal.

Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum is based at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich - the birthplace of the Royal Artillery which was founded there in 1716. The Museum tells the story of the Gunners - the men and women of the Royal Artillery, and the part they have played in history and their role today in the front line with the British Army. Tales of extraordinary heroism and endeavour are presented alongside explanations the technological and scientific advances driven by the development of artillery from Roman times to the present day. Experiences at Firepower include the ground-shaking Field of Fire audio-visual show where visitors are put in the midst of battle as shells and aircraft fly overhead and guns roar all around, giving an insight into the experiences of an artillery gunner.

Wartime Evacuees Day – Saturday 5 September
Admission: Discounted family tickets £12.00, Adults £5.00, Children £2.50, Concessions £4.50.
Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London, SE18 6ST

For more information about Firepower visit www.firepower.org.uk , call 020 8855 7755 or email info@firepower.org.uk.

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