In 2019, a small display in the foyer of the Museum showcased examples from the collection of artistic endeavour during World War Two. While the Museum is closed, we have been busy updating the information of objects as part of our ongoing collections audit, including those from that display. To highlight some of this work, the display, Wartime Creative: Personal Ingenuity in World War Two, is now available in blog format for you to enjoy.

World War Two brought out peoples’ creativity and ingenuity. However difficult the circumstances, their imagination turned whatever scrap was at hand into something meaningful. Whether for artistic expression or functional need, Prisoners of War (PoW) and civilians tested their ingenuity making these items; whether made for loved ones, themselves or even prison guards.

Prisoners of War

Statuette, William the Conqueror - Made from a wheelbarrow handle for PoW J Scarth by another prisoner, Ledgerton. While a PoW, J Scarth defaulted to REME from Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1942. 1999.4270.2. 

Mandolin, 1942 – Made with wood, metal and goatskin by Captain Murchie of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps. He was a POW in Italy at the time. 2006.4810.

Cigarette Case and Lighters – Metal engraved cigarette case depicting a Mosque; a Map of Africa is engraved on the reverse. Two lighters accompany the case. Made by a German POW. E:1196.

Clandestine radio receiver, 1940 to 1944 – A secret radio used by the Vroomen family in occupied Holland. Parts were stolen from a Philips Factory in Eindhoven. The radio was concealed in a wooden cigar box. E:07.0853.

Charles Alfred Felstead

The following objects belonged to Charles Alfred Felstead. They were gifts from German Prisoners of War, 1944 to 1946. Some are personalised with family names.

Sketches, 1945 – Drawn by G Kothe, a German Prisoner of War. The portraits are of Felstead and his wife. 2015.8487.3 and 2015.8487.4.

Sewing Box, 1944 to 1946 – This box was made for Felstead’s wife, Josephine. 2015.8487.2.

Lighter, 1944 to 1946 – This windmill, made from scrap metal and wood by a German POW, conceals a cigarette lighter. 2015.8487.11.

Collections Audit

These items were uncovered while Museum staff were conducting an audit of our collection: an in depth inspection of the items we look after. If you would like to find out more about our collections audit, why not check our Behind the Scenes: The Great Artwork Audit blog post?