Curator’s Pick: The Gallantry Paintings
As REME Museum prepares to open its doors to visitors, Curator Jennifer Allison has compiled ten of her personal favourite objects from the Museum that sum up the story and spirit of REME.
The new Museum displays have been organised into seven galleries. One of these focuses on remembrance and includes items from the medals collection and a large model of the Lenham Gates which was created to mark the biggest loss of life of REME soldiers during World War II.
Also included in this gallery are four paintings of some of our gallantry award recipients. These are Corporal Adam Miller, Conspicuous Gallantry Cross; Corporal Craig Comber, Military Cross; Corporal Richard Street, Military Cross; and Sergeant Michael Dowling, posthumously awarded the Military Medal.
All of the paintings are very different in style but all created by contemporary artists. This modern element is one of the reasons why I think they are such a key part of the Museum collection as they help to show a modern aspect of the Corps.
With my Art History background, I’ve enjoyed the process of how we’ll arrange them and how we’ll draw out the key message. I also enjoy them as works of art: some of the details which have been included have their own story and make them more engaging, such as figures and animals in the background.
One of the most interesting parts of working as the Curator for the REME Museum is that while the key mission is to preserve the heritage and history of the Corps, there is also a contemporary aspect to it. Within this gallery, by having the juxtaposition of medals awarded during World War II with the paintings of gallantry awards given in the 2000s, this brings home that REME is still an existing and developing Corps, with soldiers facing the same risks and showing the same strength of character as their predecessors.
The paintings were commissioned by the Corps and then donated to the Museum so that they can be seen by as many people as possible. They help to show some of the contemporary history of the Corps, and something which they and the individuals can be very proud of.
The gallery also gave us a chance to look at other gallantry award recipients of which the Corps has over 50. And while we don’t have paintings for all, they also deserve recognition and we have been able to include citations which visitors will be able to read.
All four paintings will be on display in the Museum and prints of three are available via the REME Shop and will be available in the Museum Gift Shop once open to the public.