THE LATEST NEWS FROM SOLDIERS OF GLOUCESTERSHIRE MUSEUM
We have decided to start this newsletter as it has been identified that there are many of you out there who have an interest in the museum but for a whole variety of reasons cannot be involved as you’d like. Hopefully, you’ll find it brief yet informative, to keep you up to speed with everything happening at Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum.
At the time of writing, I have been in post for six months now and feel fully at home. Being a civilian I was slightly dubious as to the welcome I would receive but characters such as Rob Dixon and Martin Vine have been incredible in welcoming me to the community.
The museum is incredibly forward-thinking, which is not something I would always say. By their very nature, such institutions are quite conservative. Before I arrived, the Chairman of Trustees, Chris Ryland, came up with a proposal called 360-degree history that examines the various links our Regiments have had with different peoples, cultures and ethnicities during their existence. All museums must embrace such changes to survive in the modern world.
On the day-to-day front, I feel things have been going well. The summer holidays have not long finished (any museum's most important period) and although I don’t have exact figures, we are just about where I think we should be. Big set piece events, such as Tall Ships and Gloucester Day, were weather dependent but the museum is going to move towards putting on smaller but more frequent activities.
Probably the best time I have had in the post so far, was during Gloucester Day. I overheard quite a few Glosters saying “it’s great to be home” and that really is how members of both Regiments should feel. There are not many feats in life where one achieves enough for a museum to be built in one's honour. But members of our Regiments have this in the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, and it is a huge blessing for me to be responsible for telling these stories.
A question this museum needs to ask itself is this; once someone has visited, why would they visit again for another five years? We have now put in place an extensive temporary exhibition programme that should go a small way to addressing this. We currently have an exhibition on loan from the National Army Museum about the Irish Regiments, then another swiftly after looking at the Falklands War. Next year, there are many exciting exhibitions lined up, such as Jack Russell artist, Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, plus several others.
I certainly don’t have all the answers to success at the museum, and some of the changes I make won’t always please everyone. As such please do feel free to pick up the phone or drop me an email to discuss any ideas or concerns you have about what is happening at Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum.
Museum Future Events
Falklands at 40 Exhibition
8th October – 7th December
Discover the story of the Islanders whose lives were altered by the Falklands War.
This special display pays homage to the brave souls of the British Task Force, but also showcases the optimism and vibrancy of a community with a thriving future.
This exhibition is free with museum entry.
Halloween Children’s Crafts!
Weds 19th – Sun 23rd, & Weds 26th – Sun 30th October
10am-4pm each day, 75p per child
Paint your own wooden Halloween decoration to take home and display! Choose from bats, pumpkins, witches, ghosts, and many more.
Halloween Museum Trail!
Weds 19th – Sun 23rd, & Weds 26th – Sun 30th October
10am-4pm each day (last admission into galleries at 3pm)
Find the gold spiders hidden in the cauldrons around the museum galleries, and reveal the hidden word to claim your free prize!
General Sir Carton de Wiart, VC - A talk with Historian Len Evans about the fascinating life of General Sir Carton de Wiart, VC. 2ndNovember @ 19:00 (£5 entry, £2 for museum members)
The Rise and Fall of The Zulu Nation - A talk with Historian Len Evans focusing on the Zulu Wars. 7th November @ 19:00 (£5 entry, £2 for museum members)
The Archives and Research
by Lt Col Rob Dixon
If you are interested in history and all aspects of our country and county’s history then our Archives need you! We have a very small dedicated team of volunteer researchers and we desperately need more for our ambitious plans.
Since the start of the Covid era, we have handled 533 enquiries and have at least another 50 waiting.
They cover the complete spectrum of our history, from an enquiry about Colonel John Gibson himself through the Seven Years' War, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, Australia, Crimea, India, the Boer War, both World Wars Korea and since. Being a researcher is one of the most fascinating ways of becoming a historian, you learn something new every day and, to do it thoroughly, the answer must include the political and social climate of the time.
Not surprisingly, World War One enquiries still hold the lead, followed by WW2 and then Korea. But there are some fascinating ones in between such as several from Australians tracing their links back to the 28th Foot, from their time there in the 1830s having escorted the convict ships.
Our archives are a wonderful resource and the link with the Gloucestershire Hub (Gloucestershire County Archives) whereby we have the loan of a professional archivist for one day a week has paid dividends. We thank Ally McConnell who has been with us for the last 18 months but is sadly leaving on promotion to Head of Research at Wiltshire Archives and we welcome John Shepherd in her stead.
The research team are now also engaged in assisting with adding additional background on the multi-media screens. The first project is underway to cover all holders of the Victoria Cross with Gloucestershire connections and will be followed by introducing themes on casualty treatment, the role of women in the army, Intelligence gathering and Life in Gloucestershire at the time. There will be other themes and we do not underestimate the task in hand. Again, we need more volunteers.
On the physical side, we will be assisting Matthew Holden in some physical changes within the Museum. We intend to move the Colours display to the main staircase, to be replaced by more on the military history within Gloucestershire, expanding on that multi-media screen. The Northern Ireland display will be moved out of its lift lobby and expanded within the special exhibition room. Considering it has been at least a 30, or perhaps 300, year campaign, it deserves more space!
Exciting time lies ahead, so come and join us whatever your background. You will be given full training and support and although previous knowledge is useful it is the enthusiasm to embrace a new hobby and learn that really counts.
Head of Research
by Maj Gen Robin Grist
In 1991 when the Museum opened it was called the Regiments of Gloucestershire Museum. Three years later the name was changed to the Soldiers of Gloucestershire on the advice of a marketing company who thought it more appealing to the public. The change did allow the scope of the Museum to be widened and over the last thirty years there have been occasional discussions about how to do this given that space is limited. One persistent idea was to recognise in the Museum those soldiers with links to Gloucestershire who have been awarded Victoria Crosses. Research has now revealed a total of 48, although some of the links are tenuous, but include one of only five civilians ever to receive a VC and two are sailors acting as soldiers. It would be possible to use the interactive screens in each gallery to produce a pen picture of each for visitors at relatively little cost. 16 of the pen pictures have been written so what happens next? The Museum Trustees need to agree the project should proceed; the remaining pen pictures should be written; a volunteer identified to put the text onto the screens and a way found to inform visitors of their existence. It might be worth using modern methods of low cost publishing to produce a small book to sell in the Museum although doing this involves a good deal of work. Until August 1902 the medal could not be awarded posthumously. What is clear is that it is much harder to win a Victoria Cross today than it was in Victoria’s time. After the Indian Mutiny each regiment and corps was asked to nominate two members for the medal. Colonel Deacon, who was commanding the 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment, would not recommend anyone saying “everyone had done their duty” thus establishing a tradition in the Regiment that any recommendation would be for a truly exceptional act of courage.
Gloucester Day Parade 2022
by Mark Stevens
Well, what a great day we all had, hundreds of veterans marching in the city and many thanks to the Regimental Museum team who provided us with a bar and hosted the Falklands Friday SAS presentation by our own Mark (Splash) Aston.
This year we were honoured with the presence of HRH The Duke of Gloucester. It was a great honour for us to salute, indeed the Duke will surely not have been saluted by that many Glosters in nearly 30 years; I think he was as proud to see us, as were to see him.
Here's a brief history of how it all started.
Some years ago I was chatting with the City Crier, Alan Myatt, who mentioned that he wanted to bring back the Gloucester Day Parade (stopped before WWI )as an annual event and would my guys be interested in getting in on the act.
Well, to me it was a no-brainer, pretty much all of the old regimental activity had stopped, and I thought it would obviously be a great opportunity for us to come together in our home city of Gloucester.
We could come together as a Regimental family, not in remembrance or thoughts of past battles (which is very important to us all), but this instead could be a happy day when we can just enjoy being together as a greater Glosters family in our Glorious City of Gloucester.
GDP weekend has now turned into an annual reunion, Glosters come from all over Britain and Northern Ireland and some from other parts of the world. In fact, we have had guys come back from Cyprus, Germany, Canada, Jamaica, and even as far away as New Zealand!
The first one, in Sept 2009, there were just 6 of us, we had a Gloster flag on a clothes prop and after that parade and falling out the guys, I said 'if you all bring someone next year there will be 12', when in fact 80 turned up! And it has grown year on year, this year was our 14th GDP.
I also remember on the second or third GDP, as we were just marching over the Cross, I heard a young lad say “who are these men Dad?”, to which his dad replied "they are the Glosters son", to which the old vets straitened their backs and grew 6 inches taller.
Over the ensuing years, we have raised thousands of pounds for military charities and of course, the Regimental Museum. The date for next year is the weekend 1st and 2nd of September 2023.
See you there!
by Guy Woodcock
It's great to be involved with our wonderful museum, which in my case goes back over three decades, well before I became a trustee. As a bit of fun, have a look at a couple of clippings which I set up in 1990 with the Daily Telegraph and locally as well, shortly after the museum was launched in its then new building in The Custom House. Those were the days of Lt Col Henry Radice as Regimental Secretary and Christine Beresford, the museum's first-ever professional curator.
Today, in my capacity as a trustee, I'm delighted to retain a duty of care and oversight of the museum's operations, a role which allows me to draw on the resources and expertise of my own marketing communications and PR business, Montpellier, whose staff members are familiar to Matthew Holden and the rest of the team at the museum. Much of the work goes on behind the scenes and won't always be immediately apparent, such as backend web services associated with the museum's online collection, but is important nonetheless because it hopefully reduces some of Matthew's workload and improves the visibility of the museum as well as the customers' experience online. At the moment, my team are replacing and upgrading part of the website's software which manages the soldier search and the collection database, which involves uploading some 49,000 soldier records and 17,000 items in the collection. No small task.
Other work ranges from producing leaflets and flyers, banners for events and the building itself of course, and from time to time press and media relations. Last year we were heavily involved in promoting the Imjin 70 commemoration events and then Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in London, which meant attracting regional as well as national TV and press. Getting BBC anchor news presenter Sophie Raworth to interview legendary Korean veteran Tommy Clough live on BBC was a real high spot.
The publicity is good for the profile of the museum, as well as recognising the incredible achievements of our veterans, and indeed the people running the museum on a day-to-day basis.
Without the work of the veterans and other volunteers, the museum's offering to the public simply couldn't happen and it's a joy to see the fruits of their work recognised more widely through PR and publicity whenever we can achieve it.
SOGM Financial Status
As this is the first of what will now become a regular newsletter to our friends, supporters and volunteers, it's important that from time to time we provide you with a commercial and financial update. It's also important to allay any concerns, as we have been aware of some recent misunderstandings amongst some of those in our veterans' network.
The first is that SOGM has never been more financially secure than it is now, due not only to rigorous controls and business planning, but also because the charity business is now in a position where it owns the Custom House building, a copper-bottomed asset on our balance sheet, and a building free of rent and without obligations to MOD.
This is due to the initiative of one of our senior trustees, for which we are all extremely grateful and which has given the business a real boon and confidence for the future.
Although we no longer receive any financial support from MOD resources, we have the freedom from their bureaucratic constraints. Indeed, whilst many other military museums are awaiting with trepidation the results of a review on future funding, we are free to plot our own course, and we are doing so with optimism and confidence, and also through the grit and hard work of our management team, led by Matthew, and our amazing network of volunteers.
In sum, we are running the museum as a robust, commercial enterprise with our eyes focused not just on covering our running costs, but making a decent profit that will enable us to raise our game, widen our displays and improve the customer experience.
It goes without saying, that the financial support given to the museum directly and indirectly from our friends and network of veterans is greatly appreciated and is playing an important part in the future of a terrific military museum of which we are all hugely proud.
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