Donations to the museum make up a key part of the museum’s collections, and to enable visitors to see more of the items that we are acquiring before they go into the stores we have set up a ‘Recent Acquisitions’ display to the right of our Exhibition Gallery. As a Collections and Interpretation Officer an important part of my job is processing the new artefacts that come into the museum – ensuring that they are recorded on our collections database, given a unique museum ID number, and stored or displayed in appropriate conservation conditions – and of course that interpretation is provided when they go on display. Through this Collections Acquisitions Diary I am hoping to provide wider access to the new collections, and for this first diary post for April 2014 I have included information on the two objects currently on display, as well as other recent highlights from the additions to our collection.

World War II Army Penknife

This army knife belonged to a World War II soldier and was found during 1943 or 1944 following a fatal accident.  It was around midday when the donor (a child of 10 at the time) and his friends heard an army convoy coming towards them down The Street in Rayne, heading towards Dunmow. The first vehicle in the convoy had a green flag on the front and within the convoy was a lorry pulling a four-wheel trailer with a large gun on it. As it got towards the end of the village smoke started emitting from the back of this lorry’s canopy from a stove lit by the soldiers to keep warm. Whilst the group of boys were watching the lorry caught fire and quickly spread. The two soldiers had to quickly jump out and sadly one was run over by the wheels of the gun trailer and killed. The lorry driver stopped and jumped out to see what had happened. One of the dispatch riders that always accompanied the convoys on a motorcycle told the driver to pull the lorry off the road into a nearby field. The driver hopped back in the cab and did this quickly, before jumping out of the cab and running for it, fearing that the vehicle might explode. The boys and other bystanders were asked to leave and a solider was put on guard to look after the lorry. The boys tried to visit the site the next day but it was still guarded. A week later, once the lorry and body had been cleared away, the boys were able to get close. They found lots of army penknives which had had the sides burnt off and were useless. However, as the donor moved the ashes with his foot he found this penknife, which he has kept to this day.


The World War II army penknife

Having looked after the penknife for 70 years he has now donated it to the museum so that the story of this incident in Rayne can be remembered.

The Crystal Vase

This Dartington Crystal Vase is one of several thousand given to each employee of the Eastern Electricity Company in December 1990 to mark the flotation of the company on the International Stock Exchange in London. 70 company employees from Braintree received a vase, with an estimated value at the time of £39.  The donor worked at the Braintree branch between 1974 and 1995.


Dartington Crystal Vase, 1990


I hope you find it interesting to be able to see both of these objects, on display to the right of our Exhibition Gallery.

Other Recent Acquisitions

Other recent acquisitions have included a World War II Anti-Gas Eyeshield, a Royal Naval Association shield from the Braintree branch, and a large donation of items relating to Manor Street School including photographs and oral recordings.


World War II Anti-Gas Eye Shield Mark II, 1942


Shield of the Royal Naval Association, Braintree Branch








Jennifer Brown