University Internship at The Rifles Collection by Alexander Crisp

First of all, despite what the heading says I’m not Melanie. Instead allow me to introduce myself, my name is Alexander Crisp and I am the current intern at The Rifles Collection. As a part of my Masters degree course in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management (CHaRM) from the University of Winchester I am required to do a placement with a heritage organisation or other appropriate body for a total of 180 hours in order to allow me to gain some industry experience. With an already keen interest in military history (conflict archaeology is one my specialist fields having graduated in BA Archaeology from Winchester in 2014) The Rifles Collection offered me the perfect opportunity for a placement and luckily they were willing to have me. As such the first four weeks of my six that I have so far spent on my placement at the Rifles Collection have been a rather eclectic mixture of documenting, developing an educational plan and being able to attend various events both with and on behalf of the Collection.

One of the tasks that I have been set is developing an education program for the collection. As the regiment was formed in 2007 and the collection deals solely with the history of the current regiment as opposed to its antecedent regiments, the collection therefore does not fit within the framework of the Department for Education’s history curriculum. Instead the aim is to create a program aimed at Key Stages 3 and 4 based around citizenship as it is felt that The Rifles Collection, as a current and modern museum, can offer pupils an experience that they might not be able to gain elsewhere. One of the key means by which they will hopefully be able to interact with the collection is by looking at the way in which the modern British Army, and by extension The Rifles, contributes to British society and the role servicemen and women play in both civil and military life. The activities that they will potentially be set will aim to encourage critical thinking. For instance, one of the main areas that I have been focusing on is the notion of recruitment within the army, along with introducing ideas of propaganda and how this is used in recruitment posters to try and glamourize a life in the Army. From this a key area of debate for the pupils will focus on whether it is right to aim recruitment campaigns at such a young audience who might be more susceptible (for instance the current recruiting posters inspired by the Battlefield and Call of Duty video game franchises). In addition to creating an educational program for schools I have also been working on helping to put together short, 20 minute lectures for the Army Cadet Force (ACF) of which there are over 200 units that have an affiliation with The Rifles and wear the regimental cap badge. The aim of these presentation is that new recruits can, in a short, easy to digest lesson, learn about the traditions of their parent organisation and what it is that make The Rifles unique amongst the British Army.

One of the aims of the placement module is that I am able to gain experience with the documenting and recording side of working within a heritage body. As such I was given the chance to help with the cataloguing of the regimental newspaper archive. As an active regiment with links throughout the country The Rifles generates a huge amount of press coverage, especially with the reserve battalions (6 & 7 RIFLES) being a regular feature within the local newspapers such as the Exeter based Express and Echo. The process of cataloguing involves photographing each individual article, story or image, then recording the following types of information (the details are an example and not an actual article):

• Date: 27th August 2013
• Publication: Western Mail
• Title: City welcomes returning Afghan heroes
• Personnel mentioned: Rfn Smith, Sjt Jones
• Battalion: 6 Battalion
• Summary: Details the return of reserve personnel from a tour in Afghanistan.

While the task can be enjoyable, if laborious, it does sadly come with a more human element. The Rifles were formed in action as at the time of their foundation troops were deployed in Iraq, and since then the Rifles have, due its size, suffered the some of the highest casualty rates as a regiment from both the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. As a result, a large number of articles were unfortunately either obituaries, tributes or stories relating to the legacy and memories of Riflemen who died as a result of injuries sustained whilst on operations. It is noticeable that since combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan drew down and ceased the amount of articles has dropped off as the regiment suffers fewer casualties and therefore fewer instances are needed to be reported within the media. Instead the stories often are about reservists on exercise overseas and about the charity fundraising efforts of members of the regiment.

Another form of documentation that I have had the chance to get to grips with is Modes, a cataloguing system that allows curatorial staff to create computer based databases which will help to provide an easy to access catalogue for the Collection, thus making it easier to understand what is in the collection. Unfortunately, I have at the time of writing this post not been as able to access the collection’s own system as the laptop that we were using in the collection store decided to stop working, in effect rendering the computer useless. Luckily for the collection the Modes database was backed up on another computer and the data was recoverable and Luckily for me, the system is also used by Horse Power; King’s Royal Hussars Museum downstairs. As such they were kind enough to allow myself, under the supervision of the Rifles Collection’s assistant curator Evie Collins, use of their system to input some of their catalogue on the system. The system is fairly intuitive and while there are a great number of options available on Modes when creating a new record form, once you get the hang of the system the different names of data types are reasonably self-explanatory. So far I’ve only really had the chance to have a brief go on the system but in the next two weeks I hope to have more of a chance to get used to the system, which is one of the most widely used in the heritage sector, thus setting me up for using it elsewhere (that said each museum and store has its own unique way of doing catalogue entry so no two recording styles will be the same).

In addition to these activities, on the 18th of October I was given the opportunity to attend the 2016 Army Museum Ogilby Trust (A.M.O.T.) Conference in the City of London with both Melanie and Evie. Held at the Mercer’s Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral, the conference was a meeting of the majority of army museums in the UK, including the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, the Tank Museum and The York Army Museum. The conference had a more sombre tone, than I am told was the case in previous years, as it dealt in a large part with the ever looming spectre of museum closure. One of the most interesting talks was given a representative from the Museum’s Association on the ethics of museum closure and the aftermath. According to figures provided, since 2010 50 museums have closed within the United Kingdom and as cuts from both councils and the Ministry of Defence begin to impact ever more on the museum sector this number is likely to rise. An example that he made use of was the recent closure of all Lancashire County Council museums following a 93% cut in their museum spending (the remaining 7% is retained by the National Trust as LCC had to honour their agreed funding for Gawthorpe Hall). As a result of this the seven museums that had once come under the council’s ownership were closed and their collections put at risk. However the collections were, for the most part, saved as a group of now unemployed museum staff from the museums grouped together to form the Museum of Lancashire which will include both civil and military collections. Other interesting topics discussed included the impact on museums of Brexit in regards to changes in both EU and UK firearms legislation along with a more hopeful talk about the recent partnership between the museum of the Royal Fusiliers based in the Tower of London and the Scouts Association to tell the story of Roland Philips who was killed in action on the Somme and left a large house in London to the Scouts, thus endowing them with future funds for scouting activities. The conference provided a highly useful insight into the world of military museums, the particular issue sets that they face, along with the general state of the heritage and museum industry within the United Kingdom.

Another event that I was sent out to on behalf of the collection was the Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Big Theme Networking Event which was held at the Winchester Discovery Centre on the 26th of October. The event was set up by the Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) as a means of introducing interested bodies to the themes of various Big Themes that will be launched in Hampshire for the coming four years and to also allow representatives from the bodies to network and share ideas with other representatives. For those unaware of the Big Theme, each year there is across the board theme that is created by HCT with the aim that as many different museums and bodies in Hampshire may be able to join in with the overall branding and the opportunity to promote themselves that it offers. Of those present the type of organisation varied widely and included; Butser Ancient Farm, The National Trust, Burseldon Brickworks and HMS Warrior as well as various charities, youth organizations and industry specialists. The event which ran during the afternoon consisted of presentations along with networking workshops in which the attendees were given a theme of discussion, for example how to create events for future Big Themes which are:

2017 – Jane Austen 200
2018 – Creative Genius – looking at the various ways that Hampshire has contributed to science, art and culture.
2019 – Second World War
2020 – Diaspora (this is a working title) – focusing on the relationship with Hampshire being a gateway to the world with particular focus being on the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth.

As a result of the group discussions I was able to both help with suggestions to other bodies where they might be able to participate and on the part of the Collection come up with various ideas of ways and methods in which we might participate with the future themes which I have put forward to Melanie.

So to round up, my time so far with the Collection has been both enjoyable and also highly informative, allowing me an insight into the world and inner workings of a heritage organisation that are so often hidden from the public view. At times things have been slightly manic (the first week saw the office window crawling with flies and the temperature within the office does meant that one needs to wear a coat at all times, along with computers deciding to stop working). Despite these minor issues the people I have been working alongside have all been very friendly and have been readily willing to help offer useful constructive criticism that will help me to create better products at the end of my time with the Collection. Having come from a background of working as front of house staff at another museum, it has been really nice to be offered the chance to use my imagination and creativity to help put together something meaningful, and for that at the very least this placement has been a wonderful opportunity.

It’s National Poetry Day 2016!

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For National Poetry Day 2016, we would like to share a poem “To Reflect and Remember” by former Serjeant Paul Cocoran, which has been adapted for The Rifles today. Feel free to share your own contribution with us, using #nationalpoetryday #therifles to the @TheRiflesCol on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

To Reflect and Remember

The Officers and Soldiers we all once knew                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The good times the hard times the compo stew

The training was over for a posting no doubt                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Where are we going… don’t all shout out

The families officer and rear party our next of kin safe                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Keep your head down, soldier on and keep your faith

From the CO to the Rifleman we all did our bit                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Once more Infantrymen you were destined for it

Never mind the bullets, bombs and danger                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Keep on going said the Serjeant Major

We got on with our lot to see the job though                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thinking of our families as they are of you

I am counting the days till the end of the tour                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just one more patrol and I’ll be home that’s for sure

I would march 100 miles for a moment with you                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Its hard at the moment… but will get easier it’s true

The blisters last for weeks… the memories a lifetime                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     My service in The Rifles was simply sublime.

Paul ‘Coco’ Cocoran

 

Rifleman with rifle aimed into the distance

Rifleman with rifle aimed into the distance

 

 

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‘19240: Shrouds of the Somme’: 6 RIFLES Mark the Battle of the Somme 100 Years On

1st July 2016 marks the centennial anniversary of the Battle of the Somme; the bloodiest day in the British Army’s history. There have been many events across the country that have marked various anniversaries from the First World War, and in particular, the Battle of the Somme.

In April 2016, HQ Company 6 RIFLES were tasked with providing seven soldiers to unveil a national art project at the Exeter Guildhall, Devon. Each soldier took up position around a union flag which was laid in the Guildhall. As part of the ceremony, the union flag was raised by the soldiers of 6 RIFLES to reveal 100, 12inch shrouded figures, arranged neatly into rows. These 100 figures represent just 0.52% of the 19,240 figures that were to be displayed in Northern Hay Gardens on 1st July 2016 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The artist, Rob Heard, wanted a strong military involvement.

WO2 Elliot Drake, 6 RIFLES, states that the artist, Rob Heard, and the battalion formed a special bond throughout this experience, which continued into the following year. The Battalion was invited to black tie dinners with the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club, where they were privileged to meet both Exeter Chiefs and England international rugby players. The Battalion also visited many schools in the Devon area to spread the word about the battle and the art project ‘19240: Shrouds of the Somme’.

6 RIFLES continued to assist with the art project into 2016 by picking up the installation from the artist’s home in Somerset, to the Northern Hay Gardens in Exeter in time to mark the historic anniversary. The Riflemen, along with local veterans, the local community and the local fire service, spent 11 hours laying out the figures.

At 07.28am on 1st July 2016, the time at which the whistles were blown in 1916, sending thousands of soldiers ‘over the top’, many of which would not return. WO2 Elliot Drake walked out to the centre of the installation and laid the last of the 19,240 figures, each representing one soldier who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Following the Last Post, 30 whistles were blown for three seconds to mark the ‘going over the top’ and the opening of Rob Heard’s art installation.

During the 7 seven days of the opening of the ‘Shrouds of the Somme’, it was visited by 50,000 people and had approximately 1 million hits globally on social media.

The Rifles antecendent and founding regiments lost the following men on the first day:

33 Queen Victoria’s Own Light Infantry     –    1

Devonshire Regiment                                     –    394

Dorset Regiment                                              –    70

Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry                –    2

Durham Light Infantry                                   –    209

King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry           –    771

King’s Royal Rifle Corps                                  –    60

King’s Shropshire Light Infantry                   –    7

Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry                   –    6

Rifle Brigade                                                       –   198

Somerset Light Infantry                                   –   282

Wiltshire Regiment                                           –   7

shrouds-1    shrouds-2   shrouds-3   A ceremony in Northerhay Gardens remembering the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 men were killed on the first day. Artist Rob Herd spent 3 years making 19,240 shrouds one for each life lost to commemorate 100 years since the battle Richard Austin Pic: Richard Austin Tel: 07831 566005

For more information on the 19240 art project, please visit www.thesomme19240.co.uk

Getting the Museum ‘Squared Away’

After the rush of the school holidays, we are taking a moment to catch our breath and giving the collections some much needed TLC. Whilst the fingerprints on our cases are a testament to the enjoyment of our younger visitors have found amongst the displays, they can be disruptive for our other museum visitors.

So volunteers Rachel and David joined museum staff, Melanie and Evie, to clean the display cases inside and out. The objects inside the cases were cleaned inside and out. The objects inside the cases were cleaned, as well as our mannequins wearing the uniforms of Riflemen past and present.

Although not the most glamorous of tasks, this type of housekeeping gives us a really good opportunity to get up close and personal with our artefacts, and you really start to notice some interesting details. For example, Melanie observed that the previous owner of our Taliban motorbike had attempted some repairs to the handlebars. Evie also polished the bugle, our Regimental symbol, keeping it up to standard.

We have also taken the opportunity to put out some fresh pest traps in some of our cases. It is an unpleasant fact of museum life that there might be something trying to eat your collection, so we place little sticky traps to keep tabs on what is around so we know if we have a problem – the only creepy crawlies we want in our museum are the ones we are planning as part of our Halloween craft activities on 28th October 2016!

This is an on-going task, so watch out for members of the team cleaning the cases or checking up on the pest traps throughout the year. There is always plenty to do, so if you are interested in helping out, feel free to contact us at museum@the-rifles.co.uk to find out more…

 

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Rachel cleaning our modern Rifleman uniform mannequin and David cleaning our ‘Rifles in Iraq’ case.

Getting Ready for our Touring Exhibition

We are thrilled to announce that to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Formation of The Rifles, we are planning to send a touring exhibition across the UK. Within the exhibition, we hope to feature stories and objects that reflect the ethos of The Rifles from the past 10 years. We are currently looking for contributions or suggestions from across the Regiment and those connected to the Regiment. If you have a contribution to make to this exhibition, please contact us on museum@the-rifles.co.uk before Friday 30th September.

 

If you would like to volunteer or support this project in any way, then please do get in touch at the above email address. We would be delighted to hear from you.

 

The Rifles Collection Proudly Presents…

Our new Afghanistan Gallery!

We have been working hard over the past months to design and re-display the Afghanistan exhibition in the museum. We have put new text panels up telling the story of The Rifles in Afghanistan and the numerous operations they were involved in, as well as introduce new and exciting objects for you, our visitors, to see.

One of the highlights of this new exhibition is a motorbike used by Taliban insurgents. It is the only piece of enemy kit exhibited in the museum, and one of only two motorbikes linked to the Taliban on display in the UK; the other is located in the Imperial War Museum, London.

Taliban Motorbike

The Hampshire Chronicle has featured the opening of our new exhibition this week, which can be seen here.

We hope you come down to the museum and see our new gallery soon!

 

Donate or sell? Why not do both?

The Rifles Collection, as the  Regimental Museum of The Rifles, is always keen to acquire new items relating to The Rifles. However, we understand that sometimes these items have a monetary value outside of the Regiment, such as paintings and medals. This can sometimes make the choice between donating an item to the museum or selling it on for cash, a difficult decision. However, the museum can offer far more than these two options. With more resources available to possibly purchase these times, loaning and donating are not the only options open to you.

  1. We can take the item on loan for a set number of years, giving the public the chance to view a key part of the Regiment’s history, before returning it to the owner. Your ownership of the item is not affected in any way.
  2. If the owner definitely wants to sell the item and we think it is a worthwhile item for the museum, we can offer to purchase the item through applying for grants and fundraising to its correct assessed value. This would take us usually a few months to raise the necessary funds, but the item would be well cared for and maintained for perpetuity for the public to view and learn more about.

We can also discuss customised options suitable for each object and owner, so please do not hesitate to contact us.

The Rifles Collection’s ‘Acquisition’s Fund’

For those of you that have visited the museum are aware, we rely heavily on grants and the generous donations of our supporters, and are trying to do as much as possible with our limited Ministry of Defence funding to tell the story of The Rifles, which is why we are appealing to you to support us.

We are hoping to raise the funds to purchase a medal set, to secure a piece of The Rifles Heritage, to protect it and display it in the museum for future generations to come and see.


We have set up a JustGiving page that we urge you to visit. Our ‘Acquisitions Fund’, although inspired by the sale of this medal set, is not solely about purchasing this object. As the Regimental museum of The Rifles, we want to put in place a way of being able to raise funds so that, if this was to happen again, we could save the object relating to The Rifles!

The Rifles Collection wants to take this opportunity to appeal to Riflemen and those with objects relating strongly to the Regiment to come to the museum to discuss parting with these objects. We do not want you to feel that private sellers are your only option for disposal. The museum, which adheres to best practice, would be able to safeguard and share these regimentally significant objects with future generations, and use them to tell the story of The Rifles.


Please click on the link below. We thank you for your generosity and support.

The Rifles Collection’s ‘Acquisitions Fund’

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Gallery…

This month has been an exciting start to 2016 for The Rifles Collection. We have been working hard to re-design and re-develop our gallery space to bring new objects and stories onto display. The gallery itself has expanded so that we can tell our visitors more about The Rifles and the work they carry out.

As 2016 continues, we will also continue to develop the museum. We plan to take social media by storm and to share the story of The Rifles even more; as well as continuing to host a range of activities throughout the year, including Armed Forces Day on Sunday 19th June.

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Images taken of the new gallery.

Please see our ‘Your Visit’ page for more information of all our activities.

Happy New Year from The Rifles Collection

Happy New Year from all of the staff at The Rifles Collection!

2016 looks to be another exciting year for the museum. Keep checking our website for updates on all the events we are hosting at the museum throughout the year.

We have recently updated our website, adding new and exciting features for you to enjoy.

We are taking social media by storm in 2016, so like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to check out our Pinterest page.

 

Let’s make this year a good one!