If you, re thinking about becoming a 1940 re-enactor but not sure where to start, then the Possnet family may have some of the answers, Caroline Chadderton went along to meet them.
Amanda and Jason Possnett, and their daughter Lauren, who is , 10 have been re-enactors members of UKHomefront for abouttwo and a half years their son 20 month Alfie, for not quite so long!
We been to France and toured museums about the war and seen some of the American memorials says Amanda.
Then I happened to see a television programme about re-enactors, so I looked it up on the internet and found an event near Barnsley – a family fun day so off we went.
We met members of the UK Homefront group there and that's really how we started.
Amanda goes on, I've always had an interest in living history, which is why, as a student, and I used to work as a volunteer in Blists Hill Victorian Museum in Ironbridge.
I dressed up in costume and helped out in the bakery and the candle-makers it’s a working museum, “yes Amanda likes dressing up says Jason”.
It’s Jason who is particularly interested in the 1940s “I come from a military family background, and when we were at Elsecar, I was told that the RAF is a good starter for a new re-enactor.
That settled it, because my uncle was a Rear Gunner in a Lancaster, so I chose to be a Rear Gunner too, as a tribute to him”
Amanda thinks it’s important to stress the point that there were so many special people who did their bit during the war and re-enacting for her is her tribute to them.
And she says it’s important for our daughter to learn what went on during the war and what people went through because time is ticking on, and we can help people appreciate how much they have now.
Jason agrees, and one of their own family stories will certainly be remembered for weeks, Amanda's Nan had what she thought was a dummy bomb on her mantelpiece. That is until the Bomb Disposal Unit got word and told her it was live and she been polishing it for weeks.
Jason alternates being a Rear Gunner with a member of the Home Guard, to play a civilian role as well.
We needed to do a lot of research and talk to others re-enactors to get the clothes right we referred to books, old photographs and the internet. I bought my clothes and equipment from various sources mainly from events, where there are stalls to buy from, and also from possibly the biggest military uniform shop in Wales, Soldier of Fortune, although it is mainly male uniform.
That’s where I bought my Home Guard uniform. “The Home Guard outfit was expensive because of the all the bits and pieces of equipment to get it right. But you can buy it second hand.
The RAF gear was about £70 for the basic suit but then maybe you need to change the buttons, insignia and forage cap”.
Jason emphasises that it a big learning curve, making the uniform as accurate as possible, “you think you've got it right and someone will say “well I was there “and this or that is slightly wrong. But people are generally very helpful.
So much for Jason and his roles, but the others members of the family! Lauren Alfie are evacuees, but Lauren says she doesn't always have to wear a label round her neck, Amanda plays a housewife ,but now also plays Land Army girl.
She just got the jodhpurs, which need a small amount of altering, good job she handy with a needle.
Amanda also talks about a newer role that she involved with “I've just set up a Girls Guides section in our group, along with others mothers and Lauren will be a Guide.
We going to the re-enactment at Pickering in October and we’re planning to march as a vintage Girl Guide Group.
As well as Pickering, the Possnetts go to around 10 re-enactment weekends a year, although at the moment they just go for the day because of the youngest member of the family. Both Amanda and Jason say that there’s never any pressure to stay, as UK Home Front, is very much family orientated.
“One of the nicest things about re-enactment for us is the social side and we made some good friends” Amanda says “To get started “Jason adds, “all you need to do is what we did, visit an event or you can contact one of the organisers.
You don't necessarily have to dress up to go but you can get a flavour of what goes on. And you don't need to be an extrovert, you can do as much or as little as you like.
Some people just like to stand back and enjoy the atmosphere; you can just stroll round and enjoy the trade stalls and displays or join in a drill or scenario.
As Amanda says, we just love the fact that we are taking part in living history and keeping the memory of those remarkable people who served in the war alive.
Coventry Market has once again been pulling in the crowds even though they may have been a little smaller than usual.
Only in stature rather than in number that is – as Coventry market has been host to a number of primary schools from around the area.
This event was part of “Coventry Remembers the Blitz”. Season commemorating the worst of these bombing that occurred on November the 14th 1940.
Once the school children were in the market they were taken to a specially designated spot all dressed up with wartime memorabilia – even including an air raid shelter.
Once there they were guided through a series of anecdotal tales, songs, and games with Ian and Sandra Day from the organisation UK Homefront.
As well as specialising in school education they also advise on film and television programmes which are set in war time Britain.
The children were in awe as they were taken on a journey through the ins and outs of daily life, rationing, songs, and games.
John Lewis CHEADLE & TRAFFORD CHRONICLE .
LIFE ON THE HOMEFRONT
Michelle Bridges has an unusual historical hobby with a Glamorous alter-ego, at weekends Michelle lives life on the UK Homefront.
With weekends of red lipstick, stockings and a nurse’s outfit, you could be forgiven for thinking Michelle Bridges is something of a dark horse.
But Michelle a Gift List Partner and Partnership Councillor at John Lewis Cheadle is championing a much more honourable cause through ‘living history’.
Together with her husband Bill, Michelle is a member of UK Homefront, a group of historical re-enactors who specialise in the 1940s.
“We’re part of a group of like minded people, celebrating the forties”, Michelle told the Chronicle.
It’s not about glorifying war, but about recognising the Homefront and what people did during the war.
Living History brings history to life, an historical re-enactment that like live- action role –playing within a historical context.
The activities are held at venues such as steam railways, country parks and sometimes whole towns throughout the country.
Looking the part, acting out scenarios such as air raids and explosions, and living an authentic forties lifestyle the group try to engage the public with the Second World War period.
“It’s about educating the public and making them aware of what went on in a way that they can understand because they can see it for themselves” added Michelle.
“It makes it much more real for kids, and adds to what they learn at school”.
Michelle and Bill got involved in the re-enactments following Bills love of the clothes & fashions of the period. An internet search put them in touch with the group, and the rest is history.
Michelle’s Brother and Sister in law, Niece and Dad also now join in, and most summer weekends find them travelling all over the country.
It’s nice to meet others from the outside world, as well as meeting veterans which is nice, she explained. “It’s educational and a great laugh too, we’ve made lots of friends and we just have a great time”.
“I am fascinated by the period as a piece of history but the best bit is I just love the fashions”.
“You have to dress up”, she grinned “it’s all about the glamour with gloves, hats, shoes, and stockings with seams”.
Michelle now has a wardrobe full of 1940s clothes and handbags, gathered from trade fairs and charity shops.
“Lots of the genuine clothes are hard to get hold of in good condition because they were only made in cheap material so they don’t stand the test of time that well” she admitted.
But you can also get items from the trade stands.
“My favourite is a genuine district nurse’s outfit which my dad bought for me”.
Michelle is so enthusiastic about her costume, that she spent the last two years growing her hair, just so she can wear it in authentic rollers.
“Its takes me about an hour to get ready“, she added, “and you just have to wear the right makeup, eye shadow, rouge and of course, red lipstick! I just love the red lipstick”
Whenever Sandra Day starts feeling down it’s out with the dolly tub, washboard and mangle. Not for Sandra, 52, a visit to the doctor or an energetic workout in the gym.
Instead she turns back the clock to the Forties. For together with husband Ian 54, she’s doing her best to keep memories of the 1940’s alive.
The couple’s home, Hall Cottage in the picturesque North Yorkshirevillage of Melmerby is a shrine to life in wartime Britain with artefacts, furniture and décor just as they would have been more then 60 years ago.
She says “I remember spending a lot of time in the washroom of our home in Liverpool. We lived in Scotland Road and just like everyone else we had a tub and mangle. There was a real community feeling and all the families would look after each other. My grin would have me listen to people like George Formby and Arthur Askew, as she told me stories of what life had been like during the Second World War.
I find myself sitting on CC41 utility furniture, so called because of its basic construction approved by a special wartime advisory committee. It’s actually very comfortable. There also a wonderful old gramophone with a pile of Gracie Fields and Vera Lynn records, together with an old radio set.
“We moved to Yorkshire when Ian was working as a policeman says Sandra.” On his retirement we thought about taking up collecting antiques, though I soon realised it wasn’t for me.
Then we met some people from a historical group in Hull. I was invited to set up a group of my own and that’s when we decided to leave modern day luxuries behind. In the kitchen Sandra has a 1936 Electrolux vacuum cleaner by Royal Appointment of the King, still in perfect working order. There are green gingham curtains, old fashioned pots and pans, a traditional larder, Belfast sink and of course Sandra’s pride and joy – the mangle.
As part of UK Home Front a group which re-enacts the Home Front during Britain’s finest hour, the couple take part in various displays as well as giving talks to schools and community groups.
It’s all about keeping history alive for the future generations to enjoy without glorifying it in fact there should be a national monument for all those people who gave their lives, say’s Sandra.
“Younger children especially are fascinated by how household jobs were done even down to making tea with tea leaves instead of bags”.
Of course, there was good and bad just like at any other time, but I think they had more respect for each other in those days.
Both Sandra and Ian scour shops for any items from theThirties and Forties, but the lady of the house reveals she has her own personal favourites; “I love the clothing of the era.
The historical aspect is important, but to be honest .we’re just happy living in our own way; Give me 40s anytime.
Ian and Sandra Day live each day as if they‘re still in the midst of world war two.
The North Yorkshire couple would rather listen to Vera Lynn records then watch T.V. and cost their shopping in pounds shillings and pence.
"We don’t like modern things" mother of two Sandra told the weekly news.
My son has just bought a freezer but I've put a blanket over it. When I tried a Dyson vacuum cleaner I didn’t think it did a good job as my cleaner and my Ewbank carpet sweeper instead.
We also have a washing machine. However I prefer to use a dolly tub and my mangle. As there is nothing wrong with a bit of elbow grease, and it keep me fit at the same time.
I was close to my grandmother when i was a child, so I am used to the old fashioned household fitting and feel at home with them. It’s the same when I go shoppingmy children wont come with me as I convert new money into sterling and won’t buy a loaf of bread for more then 15 shilling’s that is 75p in today’s currency.
Ian and Sandra are founders of UK Homefront a 45 member wartime re-enactment group which stages regular weekend gatherings that give a flavour of life during WW2. Our motto is “Bringing History to life" added Ian. We don’t glorify war, but we what to pay tribute to the brave people who lived through that terrible time.
Each year we put on displays at museum and at events all over the UK. Where members can dress up as a variety of characters. These include munitions worker, Government officials, A.R.P. Wardens and even spivs, complete with Clarke Gable Moustaches.
They‘re backed up with a selection of contemporary artefacts such as gas masks , ration books, ID Cards, and toys .
We can also stage a wartime washday where volunteers can help to wring out on the mangle or a wedding display including an authentic bride’s dress worn in 1942.
We like to visit schools and give the youngsters a feel of what life during wartime was like, added Sandra. Sometimes I put on my WVS outfit and a snood while Ian wears a genuine period Royal Navy uniform. We take along a 1939 pram filled with a baby and teddy bears and also hand out carrot cookies and have a sing along to Vera & Gracie Fields.
Everyone, teachers included can try our 1940s fun quiz, - and lie on the floor when the air raid siren sounds.
The only modern gadget we make use of is a computer on which we’ve built up our www.ukhomefront.co.uk website It has personal wartime memories as well as household hits on problems such as cutting hard butter and getting rid of lipstick stains, and a pin up page which would have been considered racy at the time, but looks very innocent now.
A section for children features a touching Evacuee’s poem and original party games.
Our recipe corner includes Meat Roll, Jam Roly poly complete with the original prices of all the ingredients and other items such as cigarettes at 10 for 9d. Maltesers 2d per packet and a small bungalow for £ 250.
Schools seeking a visit from ukhomefront can call on 01765-640643 or visit our web site at www.ukhomefront.co.uk
TRANSPORTED BACK IN TIME BY CLASSIC CARS AND PERAMBULATORS
Cars classic and not so classic drew in hundreds of admirers at one of south Yorkshire top vintage vehicle rallies.
Wortley Hall was the picturesque setting for the 10th annual event run by the village Rotary Club with all proceeds going towards WestonParkHospital.
A 1940s living history group (UK homefront) also helped create an air of nostalgia at the popular event.
Men donned military uniforms from World War Two while women wore dresses from the 40’s and even pushed prams from a bygone era.
In previous years the rally has raised more then £36.000 towards local charities, around 130 vehicles drawn from far and wide ensured a healthy total was guaranteed this time round too.
It just gets bigger and better ever year said one of the show organisers Malcolm Webb.
We have cars dating back to the 1920’s right up to the 1990’s cars which aren’t classics yet but soon will be. Some of the cars seemed very familiar like an early 1990; s Ford Sierra but then again aren’t as common as they used to be.
Exhibitors have come from places like Lincoln, Wakefield, and Oldham; many just turn up on the day with their pride and joy.
MUSEUM FOCUS ON WARTIME.
Life in the Second World War took centre stage in EllesmerePort.UK Homefront a Second World War re-enactment group. Brought to life soldiers stories, transporting people to the historic canal port back to the 1940s.Visitors to the museum on Sunday and bank Holiday Monday were also able to discover more about the difficulties faced by ordinary men and women.
There was entertainment for all the family with costume parades, children’s wartime games, activities and quizzes.
The site was also flooded with sounds from the past with music and songs from the 30s and 40s.
Steve Maris. General; manager of the museum operated by the Waterways Trustsaid As well as watching the Second World War re-enactments, visitors were able to see how people would have lived during the 1940s at our preserved dock workers cottages.
BERWICK TODAY NEWPAPER
RESIDENTS SEE WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE ON THE HOMEFRONT.
Last weekend, hundreds of people, locals and visitors, came to the gymnasium gallery at Berwick Barracks to enjoy another successful living history event organised by Berwick borough museum.
Life on the HOMEFRONT PROVIDED an opportunity to learn what life was like for those left at home during the Second World War. Members of the homefront section of the frontline Association brought the 1940s to life, treating visitors to displays and demonstrations of wartime washdays, rationing, and everyday objects including children’s toys. Full army kit was laid out for inspection and complete range of royal navy uniforms were also on show.
Outside, the blitz experience was recreated as A.R.P. wardens hurried the public into a tunnel under windmill bastion which was used as a shelter during the war, while a series of short talks helped bring home the realities of this period.
Berwick Borough Museum Curator, Chris Green said I am delighted to see so many people come to the gymnasium gallery, which is an ideal location for an event such as this.
Following the popularity of this event and the recent Jim Walker photographic exhibition, I hope Berwick museum can work with English Heritage to stage future similar events.
Bringing History to Life
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