Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Royal Gunpowder Mills. WW1 event, 31st July to 1st August 2010



Friday 30th: Knowing that we were going to be staying over for this event we got to the Mills nice and early to set up camp, once past the newly refurbished electronic gate we were met by Paul and Dave of the 7th Dragoon Guards. There seemed to be some doubt about where we were going to camp and where we were going to be displaying. Having looked at a couple of sites it was finally decided to put us next to ‘Croix de Guerre’ otherwise known as Paul and Debby. I must admit that, for some reason, I always thought that there were more of them; it must be a charismatic thing that makes you think there are more Paul n Debby around!

While the spot we were on was flat and sheltered it was not very good for display, the public had to come down a slight bank and, more importantly, it was very Dr Tooms unfriendly, since I had visions of him rolling back like a defunct Weeble it was decided that in the morning we would return to L168.

Tracey, who we had met in Schoenenburg last year found a feather which she asked me to identify for her, it was a green woodpecker primary from the left wing, Heilbron Chris thought that my reply had been rather slick! We settled down for an evening of campfire chatter that, as I recall, went down the usual route of extreme body functions. Later I got out my bat detector and soon won over any doubts about my sanity as we all sat and listened to common pipistrelle feeding overhead.

Saturday 31st: Well the weather did not look all that great this morning so I set off in search of space in L168; as it turned out we had been a bit misinformed about setting up there. When I spoke to members of ‘The Great War Society’ I was told that there were going to be several other groups in there. Since the weather was looking rather wet we would have preferred to be inside. As it turned out we ended up in the Guy Faulkes room of the long building overlooking the display area, we even had our own veranda on which to sit, drink mint juleps and watch the world hurtle by…steady on old chap, it’s not past 10:00!

We had been told that this WWI event was going to be rather special, as it was, there was already an excellent turn out but there was more to come; a real camel and an aircraft display on the Sunday. The camel, a dromedary, arrived with its head poking out of the trailer; it must have been an odd site on the motorway. Once Alistair of Severn Wye Llama Trekking had set up below us we popped down for a closer look. I must admit that I have never been close and personal to most Camelids and have always treated them with a certain amount of suspicion; perhaps the reputation for spitting on you before they tear out your throat sort of thing may have had something to do with it.

Of course all that stuff camels going for the jugular is just bad press. Jasmine turned out to be very gentle and well mannered as we posed for photos with her, I even got to lead her about a bit. Jasmine was just coming out of her winter coat and Alistair groomed her constantly, I collected some of the incredibly soft body hair. I wondered what sort of trout flies it could be used for, it would certainly make great dubbing material.

The rain had eased off and the day set for being very pleasant but there seemed to be no one about, one group of people who came to see us appeared to be the only visitors around and we were soon sitting on the veranda, dozing and pondering on that mint julep.

I took a breather and went to look at some of the displays at the 14-21s, I ended up chatting with Nigel who offered me a bowl of cabbage soup with chicken dumplings in…how could I refuse!?

From our vantage point we could at least watch some of the displays; Ian went through some of the uniforms and weaponry of WWI, amongst these was Patrick’s bright, almost napoleonic, uniform, a rather odd little Poilu, Turkish, British and Russian including a member of The 1st Russian Women's Battalion of Death…did we just really hear that!? The Imperial Camel Corps took some time to bump start as Jasmine was determined not to move from her little patch of grass, every time the trooper got anywhere near mounting up she moved. The whole thing turned into a challenge of patience and invention, finally using a combination of straw bale and picnic table the trooper was in place and the two set off to find the enemy. If this is a typical camel stubbornness I wondered how anyone ever got a machine gun on such a beast. I seem to have a vague memory of James Garner in a movie with a camel in it…or perhaps I dreamt it.

During one of my infrequent talks I realised that the Piltdown Man is new for most people, they have simply never heard about it, one of the most incredible, and rather silly, hoaxes of the last 100 years is fading into obscurity.

In the evening the 14-21s provided lots of food for everyone and we all settled down for a very pleasant social…And so it finally came to pass that a GTTM Magic Lantern Show was put on, we had planned this for some time since it was, after all, Paul’s birthday and to mark this day we finished off the show with a fetching slide. The photo had been taken at Newhaven and, in all fairness to us, we had asked Paul to put on a ‘battle face’, what we got was a Gallic Shrug of epic proportions and it was this image that now looked down on the audience saying “That’s all folks!”. A moment of silence turned into a good larff as Paul, head in hands groaned and said…”You bastards!”

Sunday 1st: Something, hopefully a deer, had been lurking outside my tent last night and this morning I got woken up by a persistent tapping against the canvas, I could hear a pair of magpies and it seemed that one of them was trying to break in and abduct me.

As the morning progressed we could see that the visitor numbers were well up on the previous day and we ended up with an excellent turnout of visitors. I think that we were, perhaps, a bit out of the way as we still never got a roomful of people. We did, however, get to meet small numbers of individuals who were very pleasant to chat with, including a couple of regulars, including young collector girl and her mum who are always a pleasure to talk to.

One good thing about the room was that we could close up and go for lunch which, on both days was very kindly provided by Debby decked out in her Alsace national dress. I went along and watched the 7th Dragoon Guards showing off their horsemanship by attacking hordes of screaming, scowling, rebellious melons. As a volley went off during a firing display a single stock dove took off from a nearby tree and flew up the field dodging invisible bullets.

The grand finale, so to speak, was a dogfight over the Mills involving a Nieuport 17 and a Fokker Triplane, or DR1, made famous by von Richthofen, it is probably the most iconic plane of all time but sadly the Sopwith triplane on which it was based hardly ever gets a look in.

Many thanks to Ian for sorting out arrangements and Debby for looking after us and providing lots of yummy grub, we hope to see you soon.

This is Prof Grymm setting off with a Gallic shrug atop a dromedary into the sunset…that’s all folks!