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Step Back in Time.....
Eden Camp (North Yorkshire)
Member Name: cstag
Eden Camp (North Yorkshire)
Advantages: Excellent recreation of life in WW2 Britain
Disadvantages: Not much Shelter from the Rain
I recently went to visit Eden Camp Museum in Malton, North Yorkshire with my friend who is a primary school teacher. Her class was planning to study Britain during World War Two the following term and she wanted to check the museum out before she took them there on a school trip. I have a background in historical studies so am always interested in trying out a new place - geeky girl that I am!
Eden Camp Museum is set on the site of a former Prisoner of War Camp. It had originally been built in 1942 and housed Italian and German prisoners until 1948. In 1986 a local businessman discovered that the camp was still intact and that 33 of the original huts that housed the prisoners remained in the same condition that they had been in when the prisoners left in the late 1940's. He bought the site and started the redevelopment of the area in to the museum that it is today.
Eden Camp is not like any museum that I have ever visited before. On arrival you immediately notice original military airplanes, vehicles and tanks restored from World War Two. This sight sets the scene for what you will find through the gates into the grounds of the museum. On entry to the site you see the huts that had formerly housed the prisoners in the 1940's. A perimeter fence surrounds the camp grounds which reminds you that this did use to be a prisoner of war camp and that you are standing amongst the grounds of a little bit of history.
Each of the 33 huts within the camp houses a different part of the exhibition. The huts are numbered and the idea is that if you follow them chronologically - you follow a historical timeline of events during the war. Each hut is fascinating and the exhibits have been recreated using lighting, sounds and smell to create very life like scenes.
Hut 1 - Charts the historical events leading up to the declaration of World War Two. It focuses on the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party and includes playbacks of the dramatic broadcast that announced the declaration of war in 1939.
Huts 2 and 4 - focus on the Home Front and Britain's preparations for war. This includes children being evacuated and clothing and food rationing being introduced. Hut 4 shows the introduction of gas masks and air raid shelters. A full sized example of a Morrison shelter is recreated in a 1940's front room demonstrating how they became commonplace.
Hut 3 - Focuses on the Merchant Navy at war and how the German U Boat proved to be a deadly weapon against great British ships. The whole hut is recreated to look like the insides of a submarine.
Hut 5 - is especially eerie and shows the true devastation of the blitz. In this hut you can actually hear the sounds of an air raid attack and actually smell the burning rubble. There is a very authentic reconstruction of a bombed out street whish shows the results of a direct attack on mainland Britain.
Hut 6 provides some lighter relief after the recreation of the blitz in Hut 5. This is the Eden Camp music hall where you can hear radio broadcasts which would have been popular during the period. There is also a wartime production of a puppet show in this hut - with performances shown several times a day.
Huts 7 and 8 - again focus on the Home Front during the war. There is a recreated street showing the types of goods which would have been on sale (which is a good way to demonstrate the limitations due to rationing).
Hut 8 focuses on the role of women during the war, we are shown a munitions worker in a factory and land army girls.
Hut 9 shows a bomber commander room which a huge map in the centre and staff around the outskirts planning their war strategy
Hut 10 focuses on the prisoners of war and gives a real insight into the history of Eden Camp and what it would have actually been like during the 1940s when it did actually house prisoners of war. You lean that Eden Camp occupied Italian and German prisoners from May 1942 to 1948. There were 64 prisoners to a hut (which gives you an idea of the condition that the prisoners lived in as the huts aren't actually that large!)
Hut 13 - gives a more up to date perspective on wartime focusing on conflicts from 1945 to the present day. Information on conflicts such as the Gulf war, Korean War and Falklands is given.
Hut 18 - consists of war news reading room - where newspapers from virtually everyday of the war can be browsed through to see what is happening.
Hut 20 focuses on conscription and national service as well as conscientious objectors and the role of religious organizations like the Salvation Army and the YMCA during the war.
Hut 21 looks at Civil Defense - you can see the tea wagon, the first aid post, fireman and the Red Cross all try to restore a sense of normality after an air raid.
Huts 24, 25, 26 and 27 - focus on the political and strategic aspects of World War Two and focuses on the major battles and campaigns and how events led to the war becoming global. This is an interesting section of the museum as instead of focusing on the 'people' involved in war - it is more about the involvement of countries. D Day, the Normandy Landings, the Balkan Campaign, Pearl Harbour, VE day, the Holocaust and the nuclear bomb are also included in this section.
There is also a model of the tunnel used by the escaping POWs (of which the film 'The Great Escape' is based.
The Eden Camp Chapel of Remembrance is located in Hut 29. This includes memorial plaques and allows visitors a quiet place to reflect on what they have seen in the museum.
Other amenities on the museums site are also housed in the huts. Hut 15 hosts the souvenir shop where you can buy various memorabilia and souvenirs from Eden Camp. Items such as postcards, newspaper facsimiles, books, as well as reproduction ration books and identity cards are all available. Huts 16, 17 and 19 all host a canteen, tearooms and a bar area. Huts 30, 31 and 32 are the mess huts where visiting school children can sit and eat their packed lunches.
The museum also has a large collection of military vehicles which are great to have your photo taken next to. These include Sherman tanks as well as Spitfire and hurricane aircrafts and V1 doodlebug flying bomb.
Wow! What a Place! This museum has won numerous awards for tourism and I can see why! The exhibitions are fascinating and very well put together. The moving figures, authentic smells and sounds utilize all your senses and transport you back in time to the British Home Front.
The exhibition is carefully constructed with historical accuracies - for example a reconstructed blitzed street and a living room of a typical 1940s home to name but a few.
Eden Camp isn't like other military museums in that instead of focusing on battles and military strategy - its emphasis is on the 'people' during the war. The majority of the huts examine life in Britain during the war and the sacrifices made by the people. Because the exhibits focus on people you can identify with them a lot more, feel sympathy for what they went through and admire their spirit and the way they all adapted and got on with what would have been devastating events in their lives.
There really is something for everyone here - young or old. It is very educational and very realistic and would certainly appeal to people of all ages.
The only negative I could find is that on the day I visited it was raining and I got a bit wet walking from hut to hut.
Location and Opening Times
Eden Camp is located in Malton, North Yorkshire. It is open daily from 10 -5 o'clock with last admission at 4 o'clock. The museum is open all year round from 2nd January to 23rd December. It costs £5 for adults and £4 for children and senior citizens - which I thought was a really good price for a museum of this calibre.
It takes approx 3-4 hours to get round but as this museum is extremely popular with visiting schools groups it may take a bit longer.
A Brilliant Place!
Summary: Offers Something for Everyone!
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