Monday, May 30, 2016

The Natural History Museum in the World Wars

1. Natural History Museum, London
[Originally a separate site of the British Museum]
[First opened at this site in 1881
2. Hintze Hall, Natural History Museum, London
[A replica Diplodocus (‘Dippy’) is displayed]
3. The 1914 – 1918 “Roll of Honour”:
Museum staff who served with the Armed Forces
[British Museum and Natural History Museum]
[Located in the entrance hall, Natural History Museum]
4. 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945 memorials:
Museum staff who died in the World Wars  
[British Museum and Natural History Museum staff]
[Located in Hintze Hall, near the main entrance]
5. ‘Spirit of Resistance’ (S.O.E. WW2 memorial)
S.O.E. Station XVB was located here (1942 – 1945)
[Unveiled by H.R.H. the Princess Royal in 2004]
For additional information, click on ‘Comments’ below.



Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Introduction: London’s Natural History Museum

London’s Natural History Museum has been based at its present site since 1881. Originally the natural history collection was part of the British Museum, Bloomsbury. In 1881 the natural history collection was moved to its present location at South Kensington.

The original purpose built museum building [seen from the outside in photograph No. 1] was designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse and built in a round-arched, Romanesque style. Although the building has had some changes over the years, there has always been a combination of large, well-lit exhibition halls, laboratories, store rooms, as well as library and archive space. For example, at the time of writing Hintze Hall, the large space in the central hall of the museum has a full-size replica of a 150-million-year-old Diplodocus dinosaur [Photograph No. 2]. Known colloquially as ‘Dippy’, this replica fossil is a firm favourite with young and old alike.

Yet, if this is a museum dealing with science and history over hundreds of millions of years, what connections are there with the World Wars of the 20th Century? With a little keen observation, it is not too difficult to find the connections.

Immediately after entering the museum into the central (Hintze) hall and facing ‘Dippy’ the dinosaur is a “Roll of Honour” commemorating the staff of the British Museum and Natural History Museum who served in the Armed Forces during the 1914 - 1918 World War [Photograph No. 3]. Also in the central hall are two metal tablets listing the names of the museum staff who died in the 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945 wars [Photograph No. 4].

However, it was during WW2 that the Natural History Museum, with its large galleries, exhibition spaces, laboratories and office rooms came into its own as a hive of clandestine wartime activity. For, between 1942 and 1944, some of the museum’s space was requisitioned to become Station XVB of the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.). For many years, the museum’s link with the S.O.E. was little known and shrouded in secrecy. In April 2004, a memorial plaque remembering the ‘Spirit of Resistance’ was unveiled [Photograph No. 5].

Let us now look at each of the memorials in turn.

Monday, 30 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The British Museum and Natural History Museum “Roll of Honour”

The “Roll of Honour” listing the names of the staff of the British Museum and Natural History Museum who served in the Armed Forces in WW1 [Photograph No. 3] is at the entrance to the central exhibition hall (Hintze Hall).

This is the main wording on the memorial:

The following members of the staff of
and have been absent on duty with the
Naval or Military Forces of the Crown

(Sir Frederic C. Kenyon, K.C.B. and over 100 other names are listed)

(70 names are listed)

Monday, 30 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

‘In Memoriam’ for museum staff who died in the World Wars

There are two memorial tablets remembering the Natural History Museum staff who died in the two World Wars [Photograph No. 4]. The 1914 – 1918 memorial is mounted above the 1939 – 1945 memorial.

The WW1 memorial reads as follows:

1914 – 1918

Edward A. Bateman
Frederick J. Bean
Thomas Douglas
John Gabriel
E. George Gentry
Duncan H. Gotch
Charles Hill
I.J. Frederick Kingsbury
George Pagnoni
John H. Smitheringale
Robert J. Swift
Stanley T. Wells
F. Gilbert Wiltshear

The WW2 memorial reads as follows:

1939 – 1945
George Alexander Bisset
Alfred Henry Brown + Frank Raynor Bryson
William John Mitchell
William Edward Rowe + Reginald Robert Smith
William Luttey Sclater
Douglas Shipton Wilkinson

Monday, 30 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The S.O.E. memorial

The S.O.E.’s Station XVB took over a number of rooms and galleries at the museum including a ‘Demonstration Room’. There was a ‘Camouflage Section’ to develop weapons that could be used by agents in the field. It was also a training centre for agents and a briefing centre for officials.

Among the camouflaged weapons developed at Station XVB were plaster cowpats, camel dung, dummy rats and plastic coal. During the war, the King and Queen and Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the S.O.E.

The S.O.E. memorial was unveiled in 2004 by H.R.H. Princess Anne, the Princess Royal. It reads as follows:


This plaque is dedicated to all the men and women who served with the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) at home and overseas during the Second World War.

The S.O.E. was a British wartime secret service organisation established to conduct irregular warfare. Its mission was to ‘aid and encourage all resistance to the enemy in the occupied territories’.

From 1942 to 1945, S.O.E. Station XVB, known as the Demonstration Room, occupied three sealed galleries in this part of the Natural History Museum. Here, specialised military equipment was displayed for briefing British and Allied staff and S.O.E. field agents.

Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the galleries on 1 March 1945.

Unveiled by H.R.H. The Princess Royal on 20 April 2004.

Monday, 30 May, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


This article is dedicated to the staff of the British Museum and Natural History Museum who lost their lives in the World Wars and the men and women of the S.O.E. who died in WW2.

Laurence Binyon (1869 – 1943) worked at the British Museum and volunteered as a hospital orderly in 1915 / 1916. However, he is not listed on the “Roll of Honour” seen in photograph No. 3 because he did not serve in the Armed Forces. Laurence Binyon was also a well-known poet. His best known poem, ‘For The Fallen’ was written in September 1914:

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


Monday, 30 May, 2016  

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