Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Eden Camp

The mis-named Eden Camp is more like an introduction to Inferno.  30plus close-packed wartime  huts that originally housed PoWs, now containing themed displays on various aspects of WW2.  The Home Front,  Blitz, U-boats, Bomber Command, air raids, fire-watching, rationing, ATS, WRNS, Dunkirk, Eighth Army, Burma, SOE, PoW escapes, D Day, War Trials and an assortment of hardware including Spitfire, V2 rockets and something labelled Nuclear Warhead. 
I  frankly did not expect much from Eden Camp somewhere north of York, and the grand-daughters agreed mainly to please the grand-sons, who had brought a large arsenal of nerf guns on their visit.   So it's pleasant to report that the museum of unpleasant themes is very effectively organised. Each hut features a different topic,  only clearly evident when one opens the door. Many start in darkness, suggesting the descent to Avernus and creating a mystery tour, in narrow dog-leg passages between waxwork scenes with historic items, dramatic sounds, smoke and smells, and simple but  gruesome special effects.   The wall-cases are packed with objects, posters, photos and personal items but you don’t need to linger to look at it all, and you are back in the open air well before overload.    Nothing very high-tech – indeed, rather endearingly low-tech -  and all the more effective  for children accustomed to electronic games and violent videos with endless explosions. In fact, the younger children were sometimes too scared to go right into the hut, and the older ones were swift to spot the mock-ups of twitching body parts and drowning submariners.   Unlike films and games, this place definitely unglamourises war.
The food ration lists made a big impression, as did the morse-code signals.   Visitors were more or less equally divided between boys and grandparents  (who could probably remember rationing and air raids and dads in uniform, and were not attracted by the basic menu and cooking smells of the wartime-canteen style café).    Bafflingly, there’s no information on who owns, runs and devises the museum: it seems to have sprung from or settled in farmland rather in the manner that the camp was first placed there.

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