Help needed on the home front

Marie Paton modelling some of the air station's 1940s clothing.'Staff photograph
Marie Paton modelling some of the air station's 1940s clothing.'Staff photograph

STAFF at Montrose Air Station Museum are appealing for civilian clothing to cap its collection of 1940s memorabilia in one of its most popular exhibits.

In particular they are keen to track down one of the era’s most essential ladies’ accessories - hats - which would be added to its 1940s house which is proving to be an attraction for visitors of all ages.

Furnished and equipped authentically as it would have been during the war years, it is also a valuable addition to the museum’s education resources and is used by local schoolchildren studying that period of history.

One appealing element is that children can interact with the exhibits and dressing up in period clothing is part of that.

Curator Daniel Paton said the room has been a source of surprise to youngsters who get a taste of what life was like almost 70 years ago.

He said: “Older visitors indulge in a bit of nostalgia, young ones find it strange and exotic. Typical comments from school children are, ‘was this really the way people’s houses looked in the war years?’, ‘Where is the TV?’ and ‘No ‘phone, so did they use their mobiles?’

“At the Heritage Centre we encourage them to get their hands on exhibits, provided it is safe. In the 1940s house they like to wind up the gramophone and put on a 78 or test their skill at bagatelle. It’s all so different from iPods and Nintendo DS.

“Most of all they like to dress up. We have enough uniforms, hats and steel helmets to equip a small army, or airforce, so there is no shortage of military clothing to choose from. But when we get into the civilian area of the 1940s house we are not so well off and especially we suffer from a lack of hats.

“Women no longer wear hats unless it is a very special occasion, but in the 1940s no respectable woman would have been seen outdoors without her hat. Our girl visitors like to try on the real fur coat but there is nothing to cover their heads and achieve that authentic wartime look.”

Dr Paton also said there is a shortage of other ladies’ apparel including fox furs and pinnies, both of which were extremely common in the 1940s. While period clothing is available from specialist suppliers, it is expensive so the museum is appealing to people to check their cupboards and attics to help out on the home front.

He said: “Is there, tucked away in dusty attics, hats or anything else to delight our young Mrs Minivers? Alternatively, does anybody have the skills and patience to make replicas?”

Dr Paton can be contacted at the museum, which is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10am and Sundays from 12 noon on 01674 678222.