Search

Home Front comes to life

PUBLISHED: 07:08 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:58 22 October 2010

Re-enactor Theresa Meltonville in the living room of the second world war prefabricated house at the East England Military Museum at Barnham.

Re-enactor Theresa Meltonville in the living room of the second world war prefabricated house at the East England Military Museum at Barnham.

It's 1944, your house has been destroyed by Nazi bombers and your family has been relocated to an asbestos-clad prefabricated building.

It's 1944, your house has been destroyed by Nazi bombers and your family has been relocated to an asbestos-clad prefabricated building.

The fittings and furniture are salvaged wreckage or secondhand and the only entertainment is an old Bush radio, a pack of cards, or a copy of the bible.

It is an image usually confined to second world war history books or the memories of Home Front mothers and children.

But a military museum near Thetford is now able to give modern families a taste of what it was like to live in wartime emergency accommodation 60 years ago.

A year after a derelict Arcon house was rescued from a jungle of weeds, the East England Military Museum at Barnham has restored the 1940s building to its former glory. The two-bedroom home comes complete with emergency utility furniture, old OXO tin boxes, Ewbank carpet cleaner, mangle, scrubbing boards and other wartime relics.

Museum trustee Shaun Hindle said the new exhibit, complete with the door number 49, would take veterans down memory lane and teach schoolchildren about the Home Front.

"From 1944 to 1945, thousands of Arcon houses were erected as emergency housing for people that were bombed out. They were only meant to be temporary, but you still see them today as sheds, garages and office buildings."

"It was quite a big building, designed for a family of four. A lot of people said that they were an improvement because they had an inside toilet and it was new."

Museum officials spent six months restoring and refurbishing the Barnham building, which was a former office, with the help of a £8,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund's Home Front Recall programme.

Mr Hindle said visitors had been "amazed" during the Arcon's first public inspection at the weekend.

"When you walk through the door and smell the furniture and leather and see there is no television or telephone, it is an era that a lot of people have not experienced."

"We have had several local historians coming though, who have seen the project from start to finish, and we are beginning to get inquiries from local schools."

One of the bedrooms will soon be turned into a lecture room where schoolchildren will be able to get up close to 1940s objects like gas masks and evacuation labels as part of the national curriculum.

Mr Hindle added that the house was one of only three Arcon Mark V types preserved in the UK and that the museum was "very grateful" for donations of wartime furniture and memorabilia, which has become very popular with collectors.

The museum also plans to erect an Anderson bomb shelter and refurbish a 1939 Morris E series car to complete the Home Front recreation.

The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm. Anyone with donations can call 01842 890600.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press