Our 2016 exhibition 'Wartime Advances, Peacetime Applications' came to an end on Wednesday 28 September.
Over the last three years, our Exhibition has marked key events in the centenary of World War 1. In 2016, we continued to chart the course of the war, concentrating on 1916. Special features included the 'Y' Service stations of Beaumanor and Forest Moor and the decryption at Bletchley Park. We also commemorated the major battles and events of 1916:- Verdun, the Somme, Jutland and the sinking of HMS Hampshire, with the loss of Lord Kitchener.
1916 witnessed the debut of the Tank and was the year Kitchener drowned. It was also when conscription came into force. The Photophone (which featured in the Exhibition) was perfected in Aberdour in 1916, along with ASDIC in the same year. Great technological advances occurred during the inter-war years. We demonstrated these by comparing like objects from both wars. We also continued the story throughout the post-war years ... Much of the technology that we use today originated during the two World Wars.
The stairwell was dominated by a 12 foot long model Zeppelin. This is at the scale of 1:36! These monsters were at least the length of two football pitches and had a top speed of 53 mph. The gas-bag (which often leaked!) contained about one million cubic feet of hydrogen. It is well worth remembering that the Wright Brothers had made their very first flight only eleven years before the start of World War I! The role of women in war was depicted on the stairway. On entering the main Exhibition Hall, the sick bay on the right, illustrated medical treatment of the time.
MAIN EXHIBITION HALL
Proceeding clockwise round the exhibition, the first bay on the left illustrated communication technology prior to World War 1. Prominent in the display was the Murray Optical Telegraph (1796), designed for rapid communication in the event of a French invasion. Chains of Murray's shutter telegraph stations were built linking the Admiralty in London with Great Yarmouth, Sheerness, Deal, Portsmouth and Plymouth. The stations were mounted on hill-tops, all within line-of-sight and capable, for the first time in history, of transmitting, complete messages over long distances at great speed.
Another replica on display was the diamond shaped, electric, 5-needle, alphabetic telegraph, devised by Cooke & Wheatstone in 1839 and incorporated into a stretch of the Great Western Railway. There was no GMT in those days - noon was when the sun was at its zenith wherever you were! No problem until the railways came on the scene, but then there had to be some method of alerting stations along the route of an approaching train. Time had to be standardised to become the same at all stations in order to eliminate potentially dangerous confusion.
The rest of the left hand side, concentrated on the War on Land in 1916, describing the battles, trench warfare and details of the tank. The top bay depicted the course of WW1 at Sea and in the Air. The next bay illustrated interception and decryption activities in WW1 (Room 40) and WW2 (Beaumanor Hall/Forest Moor and Bletchley Park). A hands-on interception and decryption exercise was available for schoolchildren and any other visitors.
The next bay highlighted technological advances made in the two World Wars. By 1939, the lumbering Zeppelins and primitive aircraft of World War 1 had long gone! Far deadlier air power had become crucial to the success of attack and defence. The World War II Spitfire, Messerschmitt ME 109 and Lancaster showed how aircraft design had progressed in a mere 20 years.
The final bay explained post-war technological advances that have helped to shape the modern world. It also featured the Photophone, a method of transmitting sound by light, based on an invention by Alexander Graham Bell and perfected in 1916 by a group of scientists, working on submarine detection at HMS Tarlair (Aberdour). They successfully transmitted messages from Aberdour to Inchcolm Island (a distance of about 2 miles!) via searchlights.