World War One Shell Base

We have the base of a 1916 World War One shell in our War and Weaponry Collection.

Shells are projectile weapons which contain explosives. They are usually cylindrical with a 'nose' at the end to aid their ability to travel through the air.They were first recorded as being used in the Republic of Venice in 1376.

Shrapnel shells used in World War One contained lots of little bits of metal or bullets. These were fired out at great speed when the shell burst. Shrapnel could inflict enormous damage to soldiers, animals and equipment. It is estimated that throughout 5,000,000 tons of shells were used by the Allies against enemy positions.

Soldiers who had been subjected to continual exposure to shell-fire were in danger of developing a condition called "shell shock". The symptoms included tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches. Eventually many of these men suffered mental breakdowns, which made it impossible for them to remain in the front line. Between 1914 and 1918, 80,000 men in the British Army (2% of those who saw active service) were diagnosed as suffering from shell-shock.


World War Two Warden's Air Raid Whistle

This plated brass World War Two Warden's Air Raid whistle can be found in our War and Weaponry collection.

Air Raid Precautions (ARP) was an organisation in the United Kingdom dedicated to the protection of civilians from the danger of air-raids. It was created in 1924 as a response to the fears about the growing threat from the development of bomber aircraft.

Air Raid wardens or ARP wardens had the task of patrolling the streets during blackout, to ensure that no light was visible. If a light was spotted, the warden would alert the person/people responsible by shouting something like "Put that light out!" or "Cover that window!". They could report persistent offenders to the local police. They also patrolled the streets during air raids and doused incendiary bombs with sandbags where possible.

Other duties included helping to police areas suffering bomb damage and helping bombed-out householders. ARP wardens were trained in basic fire-fighting and first aid, and could keep an emergency situation under control until official rescue services arrived.


Roman Onager Shot

This stone onager shot is part of our Roman and Weaponry collection. The shot would have been used by a Roman siege engine called an onager, which was a type of catapult. It used the force of twisted rope to store energy for the shot.

It was called after an onager (wild ass) because of the kicking action of the machine.

The onager consisted of a large frame placed on the ground to whose front end a vertical frame of solid timber was rigidly fixed. A vertical spoke that passed through a rope bundle fastened to the frame had a sling attached which contained the projectile. To fire it, the spoke or arm was forced down, against the tension of twisted ropes or other springs, by a windlass, and then suddenly released. As the sling swung outwards, one end would release, as with a staff-sling, and the projectile would be hurled forward. The arm would then be caught by a padded beam or bed, when it could be winched back again.

The onagers of the Roman Empire were mainly used for besieging forts or settlements. They would often be armed with large stones that could be covered with a combustible substance and set alight. They could be outranged by bows.


World War Two Gas Mask

This is a 1939 Avon Gas Mask from our war and weaponry collection.

During World War I (1914-1918) many soldiers had been badly injured, or killed, when their enemies threw bombs at them which released poisonous fumes when they exploded. During World War II, Britain was very worried that these gas bombs would be dropped on the country during air raids and injure innocent civilians. So the authorities supplied everyone with gas masks so that they would be protected if this happened.

It was the responsibility of air raid wardens to ensure that everybody had been issued with a gas mask.

The gas masks had a filter near the mouth which prevented the gas from coming inside. The masks covered your whole face so your eyes were also protected.

Fortunately the gas masks were never used as no gas bombs were dropped in Britain during World War II.


Lithic Arrowhead

This arrowhead forms part of our wider collection of lithic tools. It dates to between 8000 and 4000 BC and comes from Southern Britain.

The earliest stone tools were recovered from modern Ethiopia and were dated to between two-million and three-million years old. They were made by hard rock being struck against the raw material in order to chip off large flakes and begin to shape the stone. After that, a soft hammer is used to chip away flakes with more precision.

This tool came from a period known as Mesolithic Britain. During this time, the climate was warming, and the Doggerland - a land bridge between Britain and Continental Europe - was being flooded by rising sea water. Tools were becoming more sophisticated, and the types of animals humans were eating were changing from reindeer and wild horse to pigs, red deer, wild boar and wild cattle, which required different hunting techniques.

 


Princess Mary Tin

This 1914 Princess Mary Tin is part of our War and Weaponry Collection,

It was Princess Mary's express wish that 'every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front' should have the present. The gifts were devised in October 1914 and intended for distribution to all who were serving overseas or at sea, in time for Christmas 1914.

It was intended to contain one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, Christmas card and photograph. However, quite early on, the committee in charge received strong representations that an alternative gift should be made available for non-smokers. It was then agreed that non-smokers should receive a packet of acid tablets, a writing case containing pencil, paper and envelopes together with the Christmas card and photograph of the Princess.