Yesterday, I and Jess of www.jicsisjewellery.co.uk went to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens for their VE Day Celebration Weekend. I'd never heard of the place but Jess had been before and we'd seen posters advertising the event. With VE Day having felt rather overshadowed this year by the general election results day, it felt nice to go and do something VE Day related.
I really wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a lovely setting with lots of stalls set up with various things in them. There was a stall offering 1940s hair-dressing, and plenty of stalls with vintage items for sale.
One of the most interesting things I saw came from the chap below. His name was Harry and he showed us his ration book from the war, and an aerial photograph taken of Castle Bromwich by a German spyplane. He pointed out his house on it and told us that in all likelihood, he was in his house at the time the photo was taken.
He showed us some gas masks too and told us that when the cardboard box they were supplied in inevitably fell apart, people would store them in empty milk tins. I remember when I was young, my parents showed me a gas mask they'd found in a cupboard in our flat when they'd moved in. It's immaculate and in a milk tin just like the black-painted one you can see in the photo of Harry.
He also showed us a child's mask that was red and he said it was designed to look a bit like Mickey Mouse to make it less scary.
Something I'd never seen, though, were the baby gas masks which are more of a full-body affair with a little pump to one side that someone would need to manually pump while it was worn. It looks terrifying!
We got to play at being shopkeepers with this glorious till...
There were cars, Jess got to play at being a '40s housewife, and there was a Spitfire flyover. We were sat in the cafe at the time and on the sound of the engines, everybody shot up and ran outside and it all felt a bit of a panic. I tried to imagine how terrifying the sounds of plane engines overhead like that must have been during the war.
A few years ago, I'd been inspired by the Women of War to draw this picture, and we also saw plenty of people dressed up in overalls and headscarves. It seems the war, devastating though it was, really did do wonders for women for a while and gave them a much-needed chance to be allowed to step forward and begin showing what they could do when allowed to.