S&W MUSEUM NEWS
Sadly, the Museum has to remain closed
until further notice ...
and we can offer no date before next spring
In these autumnal weeks when meaningful anniversaries come thick and fast, such as the 80th anniversary of that fateful September 3rd, and of course more recently, 'Battle of Britain Week', it is hard not to reflect that we should have been commemorating those notable anniversaries on our weekly Friday openings. We had even hoped for the occasional extra Saturday or so, such as was originally planned for August 15th and VJ-Day.
September 7th was the 80th anniversary of the death of F/Lt Pat Hughes DFC, an anniversary this museum has marked every year for some 20 years now. Pat is the Australian airman buried in our churchyard, killed when his parachute failed to open after he had deliberately crashed his Hurricane into an enemy Dornier bomber. He died fighting for our lives as well as his own in the aerial dogfights over southern England on the evening of the very first massed German attacks against London. It is assumed, having run out of ammunition, he rammed the German in sheer frustration. The records show that he had 'been up' several times already that day, along with his comrades of his squadron. It was a frantic time indeed. His parachute failing was simply what airmen then called a 'bad show' ... just bad luck. By doing what he did, Pat ensured that at least one German bomber did not make it to London ... and of course, we cannot know how many lives he saved when it was prevented from delivering its deadly load.
Only a few weeks prior to his death, just as the German assault on our airfields was gathering pace, Pat's squadron had been stationed in Cornwall defending the south and western channel approaches. He had met and married a local Hull girl, from up the road from here when he was briefly 'billetted' on James Reckitt Avenue whilst briefly based at Leconfield. Had he still been single, he would have been buried not so far from where he fell, near Sundridge in Surrey. But now he had a wife, a next-of-kin, and so he was brought back to her home parish of Sutton on Hull to be buried in St James' churchyard, where he peacefully lies still. Pat never knew about his DFC - it was awarded posthumously, and at the time of his death; aged just 23, he had been the highest scoring Commonwealth pilot ... a true 'Fighter Ace'. He was also later credited with downing the Luftwaffe ace, von Werra, but that is another story.
The full story of how this brave Australian came to be buried with us can be found by looking at our War Memorial pages, where there are several short biographies of other local men from both world wars.
So, with all these thoughts of those momentous events of 80 years ago, and mindful of how we would normally have been answering enquiries and showing visitors our war graves and family history records every Friday, all your volunteers are just itching to get back to work and do what we all love best.
Instead, your webmaster sits here at home, into forced submission by a foreign virus, contemplating his naval and wondering when, and even if, we will ever open our little museum again. It will be a sad loss to Sutton and Wawne villages if we don't, but we have to face facts.
If and when we do re-open, we are most certainly going to need a new influx of volunteers to do it. The original volunteers that started the place are, by and large, in their 80s and 90s, and even some of the newer ones - including myself in that having only been fully involved this past 10 years - are in their 60s and 70s. At the time of lockdown, we did have a couple of newer staff come aboard, who barely were able to start to know the place when, Wallop, the virus struck ... and that was that. I don't suggest for a minute that any of our existing volunteers would not want to help, the question is, when all health matters are considered, will they be able to?
I paid a brief visit to the Old School recently, primarily to collect a copy of a book by Andrew Suddaby that we had a mail order for, and to take some items up not required by ourselves, such as a replacement DVD player for the TV, (this time with a remote that works), plus a few things for our 'sale' stalls when we do get going.
It is very sad looking around the place, cold, unused, and gathering dust at an alarming rate. A huge amount of cleaning will be required when we do re-open, mostly to sweep up and rid ourselves of the inevitable cobwebs. Angela & Peter, our veteran and indomitable caretakers - both ex-pupils of St James' by the way - are looking after the place, keeping an eye on things, checking security etc, as well as their regular garden duties. They are both well into their 70s too, and of course, they have to be mindful of the restrictions and why we have them, and of the risks to their own health as they undertake their arduous and voluntary duties.
Recent national news is that the virus is creeping back, we are heading back to where we were in March and April, and at an alarming rate. Never mind the politics, medics are telling us we will as likely as not have a second wave through the winter, and more virulent than ever. The omens for a spring re-opening are not good at all.
In short, the main obstacles against our re-opening will be not enough volunteers, a good cleaning regime required, all volunteers and visitors to be required to wear masks, and have to keep 2m apart into the bargain. If all those requirements are still in place, we will be in a right old fix and no mistake. Other museums have opened, in most cases I suspect because they must, or die, their dwindling finances being the driving force. We are luckier than most, we don't pay a rent as such, and have the Old School for our exclusive use on Fridays. So we can all stay safe, but only by not opening at all. Frustrating is not the right word!
I say all that whilst bearing in mind, yes, many thousands of folks have already died, even more have lost their jobs and incomes, and a good many businesses have failed altogether. And there will be a great deal more of all that before this is over. In the wider realm of things, our troubles are small beer, and we'll get no sympathy from those who have already lost a great deal, nor seek any.
So as we remember quietly in our own ways the terrible sacrifices that were made to keep this country free, today is very poignant, in more ways than one. For instance, on the very day war against the Nazis was declared, their reply was to sink a passenger liner, the 'Athenia' just a few miles short of the Clyde estuary and kill 112 civilians just like that, no warning. They started as they meant to go on, as our forefathers were soon to find out. It always was going to be a gigantic uphill struggle right from the very start, and September 3rd was just the start of it. 28 of those passengers were American -- it does make one wonder now what took the US so long to get involved?
The writing was on the wall from day one. If we move the calendar forward to the first real victory that turned the tide, we would mark loss on loss, disaster after disaster, month in and month out, for the next THREE YEARS ... it will be October 2022 before we will be able to ring our church bells to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the victory of Alemein. It was no small victory, it was a game changer. From then on, we started to win, but it would still take almost another three years again before it was all done and the war 'won'. To put it in context, the 'Battle of Britain' was an early victory yes, of course it was, but it was only a holding operation - it did not in itself win the war, but it did eventually enable us to win it.
That was the six years out of the lives of our parents and grandparents generation. It started officially that day, the day when their lives were put on hold, and for so many, such as the family who lived in this house where I write now, would have their lives lives cut tragically short nearly two years later - as did another 1,300 or so Hull citizens. But they did not know that on that fateful day in 1939.
The date, no doubt, was passed by most teenagers and students of today, unnoticed and unmarked. But that doesn't make it any less important in this country's history, just as important as October 21st in 1805. It's a date that the naysayers, deny-ers, history re-writers and others of their sad ilk cannot deny. It's a firm date, irrefutable, and embedded in the stones of our history. It happened. Our parents know what is true. The tragic family of three, a mum, dad and their 18-year old daughter who were killed in this house where I write now certainly found it to be true. Ironic that their son survived - because he was away serving in the RAF.
There were those that lost their lives ... and those who had six years stolen out of their lives. They survived, and were grateful for it, but it was still a loss.
We will remember them .. ... all of them.
All the best to Everyone, wherever in the world you are, from all of us at the Sutton & Wawne Museum.
It is very quiet in the Old School Museum
Even the mice have gone to sleep
Nothing moves, and all is still .. ..
No sounds, no laughter, not even a peep.
But hark, is that a creak .. ?
Of a squeaky floor or a wooden door ...
... a softly closing desk lid enhancing
the echos of children, long, long, past -
in gentle laughter and the joys of dancing.
For if we stand, and listen, so very quietly
We can hear in those very rafters
their joyful songs, and a glee that lasts
and will still be sensed by those
who come here in years long after ...
long after we all have long since passed.
© 2020 . . . Sutton & Wawne Museum
These images were taken by Eric Johnson for the Dominoes series
of teaching books. Our own collection of the series is incomplete, and so these have been supplied from scans done by Amanda Denwood who now lives in Cumbria. Amanda visited the museum last year, and noted which books were missing, and offered to scan the missing ones for us from her own collection.
For folks longing for a semblance of the past,
even the distant past in that far off childhood country
called Nostalgialand, we have a few copies of a new
book to offer, by former Sutton resident and long-time
friend of our museum, Andrew Suddaby.
More general to Britain, but with nods to some
Hull memories that are not specific to Sutton,
this short book in a nice sized font for easy reading
is a general tour of what we did, watched,
and listened to in the UK years ago.
Priced at £7.00 including UK postage only
it will be on offer inside the museum for £5 when we re-open.
Sorry, overseas postage cannot be offered right now,
and in anycase, the cost would probably exceed the book.
BEWARE SCAMMERS ... THIEVES ... VAGABONDS !
Seriously, I kid you not. Thieves are already hard at work trying to defraud and cheat older folk, and all others having to self-isolate, out of considerable amounts of money. And they are succeeding!
Gangs have been working in some areas, posing as Red Cross or other charity workers, knocking on doors and offering to do the shopping. You may guess, you will get no shopping. Trust no one you do not know, or anyone you cannot quickly trace to a local address or business.
Likewise, with this new contact tracing situation, a 'service' that is ripe for exploitation and vast amounts of thievery if ever there was one. We have to have it, no question about that, but don't fall for phone call tricks telling you that you need to isolate, but first 'need to ring a number' for further details. There's plenty of advice online as to which numbers are genuine, and if you do fall for a scam, ringing 'their number' will cost you a pretty penny, make no mistake. The genuine number is 0300 013 5000.
Similarly with phone scams. If you don't know the number, then don't pick up. If you don't have Caller ID, listen carefully and do not give away any personal details whatsoever. Not banking, not even your address. If you are already ex-directory, these scammers do not know where you live, unless you tell them. All they have is a number to ring and try their luck. Even if you are in the book, they will still not be sure they have the right number, as a lot of them are using old and out-of-date lists.
IF YOU DO NEED HELP, with shopping or anything else; my best advice and your first ports of call should be:
have lots of options for help.