Today, I travelled to Pontesbury to visit four different people who own World War I objects (all of which who had been interviewed for the History Makers project). Today, I have seen a huge variety of things from victory medals to hand-written artefacts (including an autograph book from a convalescence home) and from flare guns (made of solid brass) to ornamental shell cases. I have been touched by the objects.
The second person I visited had a really impressive collection of objects which he’d amassed himself via purchases over the Internet. His collection was fascinating and I enjoyed the chance to touch and handle these objects, the sorts of things only normally found in a museum and behind glass. The objects he has include: a periscope, a telescope, a leather wallet for keeping horse shoes in, an air dart, a bullet pencil, a flare gun, a metal post for tangling barbed wire, a huge German shell case, a German belt buckle and a number of bayonets.
When I left his house, I was very conscious of how my hands smelt: very acrid, of metal and leather. The smell was very strong. By handling these objects I had picked up the smells of the First World War and a century since. How could those objects still have such a strong smell after so much time? Where has that smell gone now? I guess it dissipated into the air after I left his house.
These objects hadn’t been handed down, the owner had acquired them more recently. So I wonder who owned them originally? Why were they sold / given away? Nobody will ever now know who first owned them. The stories of these objects are now lost.
One of the other people I visited today showed me, in addition to a lump of rock from the bottom of the Hawthorn crater, his Tower of London poppy, which I couldn’t resist photographing. It is a thing of beauty, and peace.