Tank Museum fires wartime memories for Dorset care home residents

Second World War memories were rekindled for residents of a Dorset dementia care home thanks to an outreach talk from Bovington Tank Museum.

Ex-army accounts clerk Edna Cooper and former Land Girl Mary Keefe were among the audience at Colten Care’s Fernhill home in Longham.

Objects brought along by the Museum’s Education Officer Claire Cooper included ration books, identity cards, clothing tokens, gas masks, a powdered milk canister and even a defunct incendiary bomb.

The visit, the last in a long-standing programme of care home outreach by the Museum, was designed to prompt reminiscence and discussion.

It certainly brought back memories for London-born Edna, 94, who spent the war in the army’s clerical accounts service in a break from her civilian job as an insurance claims secretary.

Edna said: “It was frightening when the war was on but as a young person you also felt it was an exciting time. I remember the ration books very well. My mum fretted about losing ration books just as much as I fret about losing my handbag. Without them you couldn’t eat.”

Claire said: “Objects such as ration books and gas masks are emotive for people who lived through the war. Giving the residents here the chance to hold and talk about them is a great way to stimulate conversations.”

Fernhill Activities Organiser Ann Marie Knight said: “The visit was an ideal, hands-on chance to discuss and reminisce, something we put great store on for the benefit of our residents.”

Reflecting on the military theme were visitors from the Dorset Royal British Legion which has a community partnership with Fernhill and two other local Colten Care homes.

Grant Parrott, Chairman of the Legion’s Ferndown branch, said: “It’s always wonderful coming in and meeting the residents, some of whom are service veterans, and hearing their fascinating experiences of life.”

The visit also gave an opportunity for the Legion to announce a gala dinner and dance in support of people living locally with dementia. The event takes place at the Legion Club in Ferndown on 18 February. For more details, call 01202 877706.

UNLOCKING MEMORIES. With ration books in hand are Fernhill residents Edna Cooper, centre, and Mary Keefe. Joining them are Legion respresentatives, Grant Parrott, right, and standing from left, Michael Deane from the Legion, Ann Marie Knight, Fernhill Activity Organiser, and Claire Cooper, Education Officer from Bovington Tank Museum.

UNLOCKING MEMORIES. With ration books in hand are Fernhill residents Edna Cooper, centre, and Mary Keefe. Joining them are Legion respresentatives, Grant Parrott, right, and standing from left, Michael Deane from the Legion, Ann Marie Knight, Fernhill Activity Organiser, and Claire Cooper, Education Officer from Bovington Tank Museum.

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