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The Gillingham Historian April 2024

The Newsletter for Gillingham Local History Society and Museum

March 2024 Volume 14 Number 4

7.00pm Tuesday 16 April at Wyke Primary School (doors open at 6.30pm for refreshments)

REAL DORSET a talk by Jon Woolcott.

In this talk, Jon Woolcott, author of Real Dorset, will take us on a whistlestop tour of some of the hidden parts of Dorset's past and present.

The talk promises to be informative, entertaining and ccasionally  controversial.                       

Jon Woolcott is a writer from north Dorset. He writes regularly for The Guardian, Caught by the River, Echtrai Journal, Slightly Foxed, and many others.                                               


His book, Real Dorset, was published in 2023 by Seren Books. He is editor of the forthcoming anthology of writing about nature and place, Going to Ground. He works for the Dorset-based independent publisher Little Toller Books.

 (photo credit: Helen Baker)

 Copies of Jon’s book ‘Real Dorset’ will be available at our meeting - price £10


Visitors welcome - donations appreciated


SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP - If you are a follower of the Historian, and not a member, you can join the Society via the website or request an application form from the museum. Please support the Museum which is entirely run by volunteers.    


Future Gillingham Museum Displays

Museum volunteers are currently working on a new display about local ‘Trade and Technology’.

Also in the pipeline is a display in connection with the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Do you have any memories recorded by your parents, grandparents, great grandparents?                                   These memories could relate to local events in 1944 or those servicemen or women who were serving at the time. There may be memories of soldiers billeted in Gillingham in 1944. Photos or memorabilia could be copied for display and retained for the Museum collection.

 Please help if you can.


The Gillingham Operatic Society 1924

In early April 1924 the Western Gazette reported that The Gillingham Operatic Society which has gained such an excellent reputation by the brilliant success of its productions in the past, promises another fine treat throughout the week commencing 28 April when it presents Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe at the Market Hall.

The photo above shows the cast of Iolanthe.     The report following the production mentioned that Gillingham welcomed Iolanthe with great enthusiasm. The opera was admirably staged, the dresses were remarkably attractive, and the acting and singing good. As for the music under Mr C.E. Maloney’s baton, the beauty of the familiar and fascinating melodies were brought to the full. The Society is fortunate in having an influential list of patrons and hon. members and great support from local people. One improvement seen was the provision of a new proscenium and fittings, which will be a great asset in the future.    However, the expenses of Iolanthe were considerably over £300 leaving a deficit of £40 11s 9d. on this production.


Museum Stewards Needed

 Due to long-serving volunteers leaving, we will be very short of people to keep to the existing Museum opening times. The normal Museum hours are 10-00 to 12-30. The duties are not demanding but involve being present to welcome and provide information to visitors, and also to open and close the premises as needed. Full guidance will be provided. We are looking for people prepared to commit themselves to a regular time, but it might be possible for a time to be shared on a rota basis.

A total of 824 hours were given by volunteers in the last 12 months - a big ‘thank you’ to those involved.

 Please remember that as members of the Society this is YOUR Museum, and unless someone is prepared to step up to these needs, our opening times and activities will have to be considerably curtailed.

 Anyone who feels they might be able to take on this role should contact the Museum  by email at, and John Porter, our Assistant  Curator, will respond.


80th Anniversary of D-Day. - Do you have any memories, mementos, or photos relating to personnel serving in the forces with connections to D-Day or anything relating to life in Gillingham in 1944/45?

In April 1944 a unit of the American Army camped in Gillingham in preparation for the June invasion. Their full title was ‘Charlie Battery, 554th AAA AW Battalion’. They left Gillingham on 13 June - destination Normandy.  Were there any local romances at that time?                                             

Photo below: Americans on parade on Wyke Road.

The 1st Dorsets were on the Normandy beaches on 6 June. Were there any soldiers from Gillingham? There were a number of soldiers from our locality in the 4th/5th Battalions, part of the 43rd Wessex Division - the 5th Dorsets landed on 22nd June and 4th Dorsets on 23rd June.





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