Royal Engineers Museum Library & Archive Newsletter - November 2018

RE Museum
The Robert Napier School in Gillingham  Remembrance Day Project
5000 Poppy Display at RE Museum
Photo 5 Brompton Play Club pin cushions
Photo 6 30 Feet Below Belgium theatre poster
Publication Date 
18 Nov 2018

RE Museum Newsletter (Remembrance)

Edited by Rebecca Blackburn (Visitor Engagement Manager)

The Museum was founded over a hundred years ago as a place of education and also memory. Many of the very first items donated to the collection represented the place, actions and events witnessed by Royal Engineers.

We have decided to use this edition of the newsletter as a way of saying thanks to those of our visitors and supporters who have helped us commemorate the Royal Engineers who served in the First World War.

Rebecca Nash

VC: For Valour - Sapper VCs of the First World War

This exhibition has been the main focus of our World War One Centenary commemorations. It has given us the opportunity of looking at ten men singled out from the millions of others who, across Europe, left school, work, families and peace to find themselves on the battlefield of the ‘Great War’.

Displaying their original Victoria Crosses and with objects from the families of VC recipients Brett Cloutman, James McCudden and Cyril Martin this is a unique opportunity to reflect on and remember what was asked of the men that went to war.

The exhibition runs until 21 December.

Schools Remember:

As part of the VC: For Valour exhibition and project, the exhibitions and learning teams have teamed up to do some local outreach. In September, we took James McCudden’s Victoria Cross out to to speak to the Year 9 History and Art students.

All of the students were given the opportunity to get a close look at the VC, and some of them were even able to hold it - something that really is a privilege. James McCudden was born in Brompton, just a stone’s throw from the Museum where his medals now rest, and we are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for giving us the means to be able to take James’ VC on the road and tell his story.

The Art students planned an exhibition in the Museum based around the theme of Remembrance, displayed in the Museum galleries.

5000 Poppies:

We would like to give a huge thank you to those who have once again picked up the knitting needles and contributed to the amazing display of poppies now adorning the front of the Museum and the Open Gallery.

Working with the amazing people at Nucleus Arts and Medway Fun Palace, hundreds of visitors contributed poppies made at home and in the Museum to this international project of remembrance.

It is a poignant but also hopeful and inspiring community exhibition and should definitely be seen in person.

First World War Hearts:

Brompton Play Club have created military pincushions, based on the decorative pincushions made during the First World War. Queen Mary encouraged injured soldiers and sailors to make the pincushions to express their love for home and country, as a form of occupational therapy.

Sawdust from the Carpenters and Joiners' workshop and fabric from the Regimental Tailors was used to create these modern-day versions, which are on display in the Corps Today Gallery.

Thirty-Odd Feet Below Belgium:

On Thursday 22 November the Museum will be hosting a preview production of the play Thirty-Odd Feet Below Belgium, An affair of letters in the Great War 1915 – 1916

Based on the true story of Edith Ainscow & Geoffrey Boothby

“When Arthur discovered a locked wooden chest filled with letters in his late mother’s home, an unlikely tale of love was uncovered…”

Tickets are available through our website and are limited, so book yours today! The event will run from 18.30 for 19.00 and includes a post-show discussion with the actors and directors. This will also be our final remembrance themed activity.

Researching Your First World War Ancestors:

With the Library and Archive now in its new but temporary home we have been able to open our research and enquiries service. It has, unsurprisingly, been swamped with requests for information on Wartime Royal Engineers.

Museum staff are happy to advise on the best way to approach such family history research and strongly suggest that a check of the records held by the National Archives is undertaken before contacting us. Unfortunately, we do not hold personal service histories and it may take several months for us to get back to you.

The National Archives can be found at

A Lasting Peace for Medway:

We are also pleased to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to fund a new year-long project: ‘A Lasting Peace for Medway’. This will take the shape of twice-monthly art and meditation workshops at the Museum, with the aim of helping our participants to find a calm, peaceful space. These workshops will be followed up with an exhibition at the end of 2019, so if you are interested in finding inner peace, or just having your work displayed in the exhibition, please just turn up to one of our workshops, or get in touch: .


The Museum still actively collects material from all areas of the Corps’ history. This year any new acquisitions from the First World War have had added significance. Only a few days ago the Museum received three (empty) chlorine gas cylinders. These were excavated two years ago by a French farmer from trenches which ran through his land and were used by the British at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Illustrating one of the most brutal aspects of fighting in the War, there is strong evidence that these cylinders were some of the first ever used in battle by the Special Brigades RE.

If you have material that you may which to donate to the Museum please contact staff via our website.

Dates for your calendar:

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