From the desk of the Department of Artifact Processing
October 3rd 1995
Artifact: WWII-HF- 03976
Classification: World War II Home Front artifact
Status: Under investigation
Notes: Donated by Shelbrook Village Council, Shelbrook, Kent after the town’s 50 Years of Peace celebration. To be documented then returned to owners
Metal mailbox drilled shut to protect contents. Plaque reading:
“Shelbrook Time-Capsule. Sealed on September 3rd 1945”
– Letter of introduction
– Town census 1945
– Photo album
– news paper clippings
– metallic debris
– uniform pieces
– ration booklets
Recorded individually, see below
Recorded individually, see below
Transcript: WWII-HF- 03976- 01
Shelbrook at War: A time-capsule
Letter of Introduction
In July 1945, Shelbrook was recovering from six years of war. It had sent men and woman off to help the war effort, watched tremendous battles in the skies overhead and assisted with the evacuation at Dunkirk. Through the Battle of Britain to the Landings at Normandy, it’s residents did whatever they could to help their country. Of its 926 citizens, twelve had died in action and thirty two had been wounded. The village remained determined, between it’s active Home Army members to it’s persistent factory girls. When VE-Day came on May 8th 1945, there was a great celebration that the conflict was over. The work however wasn’t. It took another two years before the town returned to it’s pre-war glory. It was during this period that a young resident, Charlotte Bowen, began collecting items for a time-capsule. The idea caught on rapidly, and by September 3rd 1945, six years from when the war had started, it contained a contribution from every person living in Shelbrook. It was buried beneath a tree in the green of the main square. The ceremony was presided over by Ms. Bowen and the current mayor, Alan Fleming. Sealed instructions were placed in the village library as well as the council chamber, stating the capsule was to be opened 50 years from the day it was buried.
Transcript: WWII-HF- 03976- 07
Now that the war is over…
The war is over. When we heard it that night over the radio, we could scarcely believe it. In six years we had forgotten what our world at peace was. My brother Dan, with his injured arm still all bound up, called on the neighbours and made a bonfire near the centre of the village. Every one of our little town came to celebrate, with the meagre and mixed up rations we had. We stayed up till dawn, when the storm that had bombarded London made it’s way to us. The next morning we continued celebrating, dancing and singing in the streets. The recovery began soon after that, the slow return to normal. The war was over and I was happy. Or should’ve been at least.
That was two months ago. Our lives are nearly set straight, as long as you ignore the mines on the beaches and cars of soldiers driving by. Or the way people go quiet at the mention of a name, a memory, someone lost to the fight. I don’t think we’ll ever be over that. But we still hold on to what’s left. Susan has returned from the factories, with less work to be done and the men no longer busy at the front. The remains of the Home Army are dragging out the supplies we hid, and the boys are putting up signs now there’s no enemy to hide them from. Every day the school is filled with more children as they return from the country side. We speak of nothing but before the war and the future to come. We think of nothing but those we lost. We give thanks for those who were spared. And yet, sometimes I long for those days. Not for the weight that was always present, or the sinking feeling each time a letter didn’t come. But the purpose I had, the sense that I was a part of my country as we fought for it’s survival.
It’s terrible to think that, terrible to want that back. I feel monstrous just admitting that, occasionally, I miss the war. Most of the time its a relief that our lives are stable again. But when I’m no longer distracted by tasks and other people, I remember the fullness I felt back then. The place I had, the role I played. Maybe if I had been older when it started… I’ve grown from a bored twelve year old to a sixteen year old with goals and dreams. I was shaped by the conflict, formed by the world around me. Or maybe if I had lost someone close- that’s too dark to even imagine. I’m not saying I want it back, not a bit. But I found myself during the panic, the problems, the struggle. I’m the youngest girl of four siblings, in a small hamlet of England. Only during the war have I felt so needed, or part of something strong. Maybe that’s what I find so hard: how we were better people during the war. In those moments, I think of England, one nation of people working together, sharing everything, supporting one another. Each day, as I help with rebuilding the town, I can see that wholeness, dissolving, with fewer reasons to unite.
As I sit at my window this morning, I realize I want to save this. I want to remember how I felt in the last days of the war. How our town stuck it out till the end. I want to keep my village together for just one more day, or month or year. So I’m starting a time capsule. Every person will put something in, something that preserves our memories and our experiences. Then I’ll bury it in the green, under the tree that still glitters with metal that fell when planes fought overhead. We all need to move on, now that the war is over. But we all need to remember too.
Transcript: WWII-HF- 03976- 012
Fire at night and darkness through day
Neither helpless nor hopeless and yet we still pray
That ours will come home, that strong we will stay
Held together as one, our world in fray
Transcript: WWII-HF- 03976- 013
Ring the bells
Ring the bells not in alarm
Ring the bells not in sorrow
Ring the bells with relief
Raise your hands
Raise your hands not in surrender
Raise your hands not in supplication
Raise your hands and rejoice
Rise up not in rebellion
Rise up not in despair
Rise up so you may feel the winds of change
Transcript: WWII-HF- 03976- 014
Songs in the street , has some spell been broken?
Thawed are our hearts, has spring come at last?
Laughter and hope, has a miracle happened?
Light shining forth, has the storm really passed?
Dancing through town, has news been delivered?
It’s finally over, cries the joyful amassed!