A watched phone never rings.
I’m waiting for a colleague to ring me back because I want to take a picture of him with a hat. Not very exciting, you may think. But it’s not just any old hat. It’s a World War 2 steel helmet of the type worn by all branches of HM forces as well as the police and emergency services, including civil defence personnel (the Home Guard – unfairly dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’) and air raid patrol wardens.
The helmet was found at the bottom of Apsley Lock 66, Grand Union Canal, when it was drained in preparation for replacing the gates. While the lock was empty, we held one of our weekend open days and more than 1,200 members of the public came and had a look at some of the things we do to keep 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in working order.
Throughout the day groups of visitors were shown around the chamber of lock 66 by staff and volunteers. As well as free lock tours there were children’s activities run by education volunteer co-ordinator Elaine Stanley and her Explorers team, an opportunity to try fishing under the watchful eye of match booking organiser Dick Pilkinton and national angling development manager Becca Dent, boat trips, and guided tours of Frogmore Mill. National volunteering manager Ed Moss and volunteer leader South East Miriam Tedder had made sure there was a heavy volunteer involvement on the day. Despite the cold January weather, there was a real festival atmosphere.
Anyway, back to the hat. Down in the lock, the helmet – which was thought at first to be a theatrical or fancy dress prop – was shown to interested visitors. Because of the queues of customers waiting to go down into the lock, I was using the ‘family hold back’ philosophy, so I didn’t get the chance to take a close up of the chap who found the helmet – which has now been verified as the genuine article by the ‘Curator Uniforms, Personal Equipment and Flags’ no less, – that’s a great job title isn’t it? – at the Imperial War Museum! I hope my colleague rings back soon…
Liz Waddington is editor of The Source, the Canal & River Trust’s monthly staff newspaper. She has been in love with canals and their industrial heritage since her first holiday on the Grand Union Canal when she was 10 years old. Liz likes nothing more than getting out and meeting her colleagues on the cut.See more blogs from this author