Couple’s Second World War collection used for mobile museum

Mobile museum display
Mobile museum display

WHEN Paul Britchford was eight years old, he started collecting artefacts from the Second World War.

His collection began with old medals, but, over time, he developed a taste for larger items.

Mobile museum display at We'll Meet Again

Mobile museum display at We'll Meet Again

He now counts among his possessions a number of decommissioned weapons, military clothing and even an authentic army truck.

“There are thousands of items. I don’t think you could count them. I think it’s one of the biggest collections of its kind. I’m proud of it,” he said.

After years of collecting, Paul decided to put his collection to good use, and made the decision to take it into schools to give children a chance to learn about the Second World War by letting them touch and play with some of the prized items.

We’ll Meet Again mobile museum has now been running for two and a half years.

Paul Britchford and Linda Leighton at mobile museum

Paul Britchford and Linda Leighton at mobile museum

Paul, who lives in the Boston area with his partner Linda Leighton, told The Standard: “We had got this huge collection, and what’s the point in having a collection like this if you can’t share it?

“All of us only borrow history, so we might as well share it and understand it better. That’s what we try to do, and it works like you would not believe.

“You would think that if you give an average nine-year-old a gun they would go crazy, but they don’t. We’re trusting them with valuable artefacts they will never get the chance to experience anywhere else. This is history.”

Paul gave up the job he had been doing for 23 years to focus on taking the museum around schools, after realising what a valuable resource it could be. The idea grew after children would ask to play with the items he and Linda took with them to 1940s shows around the country.

He and Linda, who split teaching between the military and the home front, have now taken the museum to dozens of schools around the area, and they are getting more and more interest for the project. After working tirelessly for some time, the pair have now gained the backing of educational body the CfBT and have been working closely with other organisations to expand their work.

Some mornings they are up at 3am to load the truck and head to their destination to create the Second World War experience for their students.

Linda said: “It’s hard work, but it’s worthwhile. It’s so rewarding.

“It brings it more alive for them because it shows how it would have affected children that age. I’ve got toys they would have received. It helps them get an understanding.”

We’ll Meet Again has now developed a relationship with the RSPB at Freiston Shore, which retains some original defences. Paul takes children into the bunkers to let them experience the war in the buildings which would have been used.

In January, they set up the museum at the Freiston Centre for Environmental Education for two weeks, and Paul built an air raid shelter in the grounds, to give kids the chance to see what it would have been like to be inside an Andersen Shelter during a bombing raid.

Paul said: “This is history. If we’re going to teach Second World War history to people then do it in the buildings they would have been in.”

Paul and Linda are hosting an Invasion and Defence weekend at Freiston Shore on June 2 and 3. Visit www.mobileww2museum.co.uk for more information.