The unusual story of Enham Alamein village explored in Andover Museum exhibition

By Richard Moss | 22 October 2010
a black and white photo of seated men on a bank being addressed by a standing man
Disabled ex servicemen on lunchbreak at Enham Village Centre, 1935© Enham Alamein Community Heritage Project
Exhibition: Enham Alamein Community Heritage Project at Andover Museum until November 13 2010. 

A new exhibition exploring the work of the Enham Alamein Community Heritage Project, a local collaboration set up to explore the history of a village unlike any other in England, is now showing at Andover Museum. 

In 1918 the sleepy cluster of hamlets then known as Knight’s Enham was the setting for a new charity, set up with the backing of businessmen and the king, to provide a 1,000-acre estate for the housing and rehabilitation of disabled and shell-shocked soldiers returning from the First World War.

Enham became a groundbreaking scheme, designed to be the first of many, that saw several of the men remain in the area following their rehabilitation.

Sadly it was the only one of its kind in the UK, but with the outbreak of the Second World War the Enham charity mobilised itself to become Enham Industries and the victims of war began helping the new war effort by producing barrage balloons and Nissen huts.

As the war progressed the connection with disabled servicemen inevitably grew stronger as more houses and facilities were established to support their rehabilitation. The work reached its zenith with an influx of injured soldiers from the Eighth Army’s pivotal 1942 victory in the North African campaign, the Battle of Alamein.

In November 1945 after a public subscription in Egypt raised £600,000 to thank the people of Britain for its part in ridding Egypt of Axis forces a sum in excess of £200,000 was gifted to support the important rehabilitation work in Enham. In recognition of the gift the village appended the words Alamein to its name.

Today the Enham charity continues to offer housing, support and employment opportunities to a wide range of disabled people and is the leading disabled services organisation in the south of England.

a photograph of a display case with a shell case, plaque, bell and photos in it
WWII North African campaign artefacts on display in the exhibition© Enham Alamein Community Heritage Project
This unique history has been explored by the Lottery-funded Enham Alamein Community Heritage Project (EACH). Over the last eighteen months an alliance of school pupils and local people has been cataloguing historical items relating to village and the charity, conserving artefacts and conducting oral history interviews with a wide range of local people.

The results of this community celebration can be explored in the exhibition at Andover Museum.

Disabled clients of the Enham charity, pupils from Smannell and Enham Church of England Primary School, and University of Winchester students have all contributed to the display, which includes a documentary film and extracts from the interviews with local residents past and present.

The exhibition showcases many interesting artefacts from Enham’s collection, particularly memorabilia from the North African Campaign.

Included is a shell case from the Battle of El Alamein, transferred to Enham Alamein after the war from the Cairo Alamein Club, a bell from El Alamein railway station and a range of objects made or collected by men serving in North Africa between 1940-43, such as medals, works of art and German Afrika Korps memorabilia.

Visitors can also handle everyday objects used by soldiers of the Second World War and see the documentary filmed and narrated by the school pupils and disabled clients from Enham’s Route to Independence programme charting the history of the Enham charity and the village of Enham Alamein.

For more about the Enham Alamein Community Heritage Project and the history of Enham Alamein see the project website, www.enhamalamein.wordpress.com
 

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