VE Day: Care home creates museum based on residents’ wartime experiences

A care home in Ipswich has created a unique museum about its residents’ remarkable wartime experiences.

Staff have collated letters, old photographs and military uniforms from people living at Anchor’s St Marys and their families for a moving installation.

The museum is uniting residents in sharing memories of their Second World War experiences during the challenging modern times, including 79-year-old Bernard “Sam” Lambert who was born under a table during an air raid.

To help mark VE Day for the public, artefacts from the museum will be available to explore online.

As well as being a way to bring residents together, the initiative has uncovered some incredible wartime tales.

Rosemary Martin, 98, was 19 when she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and played a remarkable role plotting British bombers as they left the coast.

Coronavirus – Fri May 8, 2020
Rosemary Martin, now 98, was 19 when she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) (Handout/PA)

She remembers the time with great pride and talks fondly about the friendship and camaraderie in the Air Force.

She said: “I went into the WAAF a girl and came out a woman.

“It was so disciplined, we all worked together, and I’m proud to have supported the country.”

When the war broke out, Violet Barke, 88, was evacuated from London to Haverhill in Suffolk.

Coronavirus – Fri May 8, 2020
Beryl Burley looks at a picture of her younger self (Handout/PA)

Some of her dearest memories are from her time there, living above a sweet shop, playing in the countryside and joining an entertainment group to dance for the community and the troops.

Her son, Dean, said: “She had the time of her life and kept in contact with the Sizers [her evacuee family] right up until they passed away.

“They loved her too. It was hard for everyone when she had to return to London and the terror of the ‘buzz bombs’.”

As a teenager during the war, Beryl Burley, aged 93, worked in the Cadena Cafe in Gloucester with her younger sister Sylvia.

Coronavirus – Fri May 8, 2020
Beryl Burley, now aged 93, worked in the Cadena Cafe in Gloucester (Handout/PA)

They enjoyed chatting to American servicemen who frequented the cafe, and who supplied the sisters with nylons and items that were hard to get hold of during wartime.

Ms Burley continued working at the cafe after the war ended and met her husband there. They named their first house Cadena to honour the place where they first met.

On Friday, the care home will be marking VE Day with wartime food, films, dances and poetry readings.

Kristy Smith, manager at the care home, said: “I am so proud of the museum, and how it has evolved with input from residents, relatives and colleagues.

“It is lovely to see residents engaging with their past in such a personal way, and it’s providing great comfort at this challenging time.

“For VE Day itself we have lots of plans to evoke memories and nostalgia.

“Our residents have been so involved and loved every minute, building aeroplanes and decorating the home. We hope the public enjoys touring our virtual museum as much as we enjoyed curating it.”

To visit Anchor’s VE Day museum, please visit: anchorhanover.org.uk/veday

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