Back in 2002 when we bought the shop in Coldstream the basement was little more than a dark damp crowded storage space. Then in 2005, having settled in ‘upstairs’ with the retail side of things we decided it was time to move operations into the basement.
Over the years we have been very blessed by generous donations of WW1 & 2 militaria, and up to that point these had been in the shop upstairs, but always felt they deserved a dedicated space. Having made the decision to develop the basement we had already a good set of things to display. And so was born…
There appeared to be one main room downstairs which immediately lent itself to being the heart of the operation. Having cleared out all the storage shelves we discovered a lovely open fire place which was once equipped with a cast iron range. It is still possible to see in places some traces of the attachments. There is also a rather neat bread oven which is now behind a WW2 transmitter. The Opp’s Room now houses the various bits of WW2 militaria including the ‘B’ handset to a field telephone which can be operated between 2 people, the other handset being in the shop upstairs and visitors are welcome to communicate ‘send reinforcements we’re going to advance’ messages. In here we also have an original officers field bath and sink, period radio sets and much more.
In order to develop the basement the council were involved to ensure compliance and as we took down the old celling to install a current fire regulation celling, we knew there were ‘candle smoke graffiti’ initials, much the same as Berwick barracks** have on the ceiling of one of there rooms. Sadly it was not possible to keep these and they were all destroyed in the refit.
We were informed by the local policeman, who owned the shop before us, that the ‘candle smoke graffiti’ was made by soldiers of the Coldstream Guards when they were billeted in the town many years ago. We understood the ‘Opps Room’ used to be the ‘cookhouse’ which was evidenced by the presence of the bread oven and the open fire.
There is an unnamed unadopted lane to the rear of the shop and off this is a small yard where it has been understood the officers kept their horses. Very happy to point this out to visitors.
Anderson Shelter room
Following the successful opening of the ‘Opps room’ we then decided in 2011 to create an ‘Anderson Shelter’, not to scale sadly. This houses a dvd of period public information films of WW2 which visitors are welcome to sit and watch for a while. We have found this an immensely enjoyable, if sometime poignant reminder of times gone by, and has been cause of much discussion between families as they are reminded of their own war experiences in air raid shelters. So do come and pull the ‘blast curtain’ across and sit a while.
This was complimented by a display of other WW2 ephemera and the very popular plane identification game. In here we also have a super large framed picture and letter written by “Monty’of Alamein” Also a signed letter from 10 Downing street written in 1943 and a list of bombs dropped in our local area during 1943.
We do not charge for the museum but invite donations and we use these to continually buy new items and add to features. One such item we bought was an original ‘Air Raid Siren’ which again visitors are welcome to use..Please remember to stand on base when winding and not to stop it but just let it wind down by itself. Oh and it’s very loud!!
In 2016, thanks to a very generous gift we were grateful beneficiaries of a 1:35 scale model of a ‘DORA’ gun. This now has 6 hidden commando saboteurs. (Anyone who can find all 6 is welcome to a free lolly, that includes the adults!)
In 2017 we got to work on the WW1 ‘Trench’. Thanks again to a donation of pallets from a local man were able to bring some authenticity to the project with wooden ‘duck board’ effect floor and walls. In here we also have a small collection of battle field relics inc a Luger pistol, several Trench art items, and a personalised Lea Enfield stock.
To commemorated the centenary of WW1 in 2018 we introduced a memorial board. Everyone is invited to leave a tribute on the board as a reminder of a fallen relative. We now buy, (not from the donations,) and lay a wreath at our local war memorial to include all the names of those left there.
On the wall outside the trench are some original WW1 barb wire piquets (These held the Barbed wire on no-mans land.) Now visitors can touch and feel the intimate details of the war at close hand.
Thanks to everyone who has helped us get this off the ground.
We appreciate this is not all true to scale but we have tried to display items donated, and those we have bought with donations, to their best advantage for all to enjoy, and where possible in an interactive way.
We hope all visitors enjoy spending time listening to the 1940’s songs and having a flash back in time.
And best of all..IT’S FREE!!
** We can highly recommend a visit to Berwick Barracks…