Veterans Awareness Week: The Living Museum

By Caroline Lewis | 30 June 2005
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Shows a photo of two veterans, one facing the camera.

The first national Veterans Awareness Week will be celebrated with a temporary museum dedicated to the Second World War. Courtesy IWM.

The Royal British Legion is coming together with veterans organisations and museums to celebrate Veterans Awareness Week at the Living Museum in St James’s Park, London.

The Living Museum will run from July 4 to 10 (National Commemoration Day), 2005, with exhibitions put on by the Legion and roughly 30 other organisations and museums.

"The Legion and its fellow veteran organisations are delighted," said Stuart Gendall, the British Legion’s Communications Director, "to have the strong support of the Big Lottery Fund to enable us to showcase our welfare work, to educate and inform and to enable people of all generations to mark this important anniversary."

Shows a photo of a veteran talking to a group of school children

Their Past Your Future has focused on telling the story of World War Two to young people. Courtesy IWM.

The Legion’s exhibition will be staged in conjunction with 20 other veterans’ organisations, standing close to the official Veterans Centre in St James’s Park.A grant of £117,500 from the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), announced on June 29, supports both the Veteran’s Centre and the Legion’s exhibition.

“We are delighted to announce today’s award to the Legion and its fellow veterans organisations,” said BLF Chief Executive Stephen Dunmore. “They have been central to the success of our Veterans Reunited programme.”

“The special veterans centre which today’s award helps to provide will offer a welcome haven for many ex-service men and women attending the national, important events for Veterans Awareness Week, and will also provide a focus for information and exhibitions for every generation.

Shows a photo of two veterans, a man and a woman, sitting at a table with two children, who are wearing World War Two tin helmets.

Both re-enactors and veterans will be at the Living Museum. Courtesy IWM.

Museums are also heavily involved in the week of celebrations, with the unique collection of Second World War exhibits taking in everything from tanks from the Tank Museum at Bovington to a steam train from Rutland Railway Museum. There will be veterans on hand as well as costumed re-enactors and a facility for people to bring in their WWII memorabilia for identification.

Impact: 1945 is the title of the Imperial War Museum’s area at the Living Museum. The exhibition will look at the way the Second World War shaped British life, with costumed characters, personal stories and objects from the time, including a 1940s bus. Second World War veterans and family history experts will staff the area, and visitors will be able to share their thoughts and feelings on the Reflections Wall.

Shows a photo of two veterans, one is holding a flag.

Veterans Reunited has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund and gives veterans opportunities to return to the places where they saw active service.

The touring exhibition, Their Past Your Future, will also be displayed in the IWM area, looking at the wider context and timeline of events. Their Past Your Future is the name of the educational strand of the Veterans Reunited programme, which has been funded by the BLF to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

The British Postal Museum & Archive will reveal the incredible story of how the Post Office went to war. The GPO was the largest employer in the country in 1939 and controlled telephone as well as mail and telegram services. A third of its workforce (roughly 73,000) went to serve in the forces, but it was vital to keep communications operating, so those workers who remained were both dedicated and brave.

Shows a black and white photo of two postmen trying to collect mail from a pillar box buried under rubble.

Postmen carried on collecting post in streets reduced to rubble; operators kept telephones working even during air raids. Courtesy BPMA/ © Royal Mail.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to commemorate the outstanding contribution to the war effort that was made by GPO staff,” said BPMA Learning & Outreach Officer Libby Buckley, “and to remember those who gave their lives. Their contribution served as a life-line to military operations, morale and business, and should never be forgotten.”

The Living Museum will be open:
Monday July 4 14.00 – 20.00 (last entrance 19.00)
Tuesday July 5 – 8 12.00 – 20.00 (last entrance 19.00)
Saturday July 9 11.00 – 20.00 (last entrance 19.00)
Sunday July 10 09.00 – 14.00

For more information on opening times and exhibits, call 020 7218 5639 or 020 7807 8935.

For more information about VE day celebrations in the capital and other parts of the UK visit the Veterans Awareness Week website.

Visit the main 24 Hour Museum VE Day index page to find out about Their Past Your Future Events and to explore World War Two-related resources - including trails, features, news and reviews.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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