Monday – after the museums!

This Monday we have the tale of two museums. Both small, both costing about a fiver to enter, both housed in brutal concrete buildings, both rather out-of-the-way in Suffolk.

Our first stop was Bentwaters Cold War Museum where they appeared to be at pains to represent every single group who’d ever been stationed there – and there were a lot of them. As a result, there was no coherent story told – just an awful lot of ID patches and photographs. This was a real shame as they’d had the A10 “Warthog” stationed there (and there is one of the few surviving examples in the grounds). An iconic aircraft designed as a tank destroyer with the sole purpose of protecting the vast plains of Europe from being over-run by Russian tanks – yet it appeared entirely incidental. The oddest part of the whole chuck-it-all-in mentality was the mock-up of an alien located right at the entrance, as well as a ‘missing in action’ table.

As we sat outside eating one of the best burgers I’ve had in years, I pondered that it’d felt more like a venue for a reunion. Even as a lover of personal history, this bunch of photos which meant nothing except to those who’d been stationed there, made the visit a real disappointment – brilliant burger notwithstanding.

On our way to Bentwaters, we noticed signs to Bawdsey Radar Museum and, having seen a documentary on radar recently, we decided to pop in. Oh what a difference! This museum has been assembled by some very knowledgeable and keen volunteers who, having benefitted from proper funding, put together a very professional show. Little remained of the original equipment other than the switchgear and one tower, but the story told was a fascinating one. There was a blend of solid history and personal stories, with some lovely little displays including my favourite – a mock up of how radar worked using little paper aeroplanes. Anyone – children included – could ‘fly’ a plane and watch the sensors pick it up, noting the difference in read-out depending on speed and height. Simple but fascinating!

Bawdsey Manor itself is a rather gorgeous building (as you’ll see from the header photograph) but was sadly off-limits, as it now hosts adventure holidays for children. Still, it’s a gorgeous location, right on the water where they still run a ferry across – one which allowed those working at Bawdsey on radar all those years ago to link up with the bus into Felixstowe for a night out!  Do drop in for a visit if you’re in the area.

The difference between the two museums was stark and due – in large part – to the availability of funding. But, as important, one had a great, coherent story to be told – which is probably why it received the funding and the other did not.


© Debra Carey, 2018

2 comments

  1. If the figure with the yellow background in your first set of pictures is meant to be the ‘alien at the gate’ then it seems to me to be more an example of the flight suit worn by supersonic flyers so that they can maintain consciousness at high G. Otherwise blood pools in the legs and the pilot (and crew) blackout – which is not optimum when flying a high-tec aircraft!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re spot on Alan, that’s a Russian G suit. The lacing was rather fine I must say.

      No, the alien was a hollywood-esque shrivelled brown creature like ET 🙄

      Like

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