It being a rainy day in Essex yesterday, I decided a trip out to somewhere undercover would be a good idea. The Combined Military Services Museum opened up in Maldon seven years ago, just a year or too late for us to have taken our children there. I can unreservedly recommend it – even if you don’t have children!
The museum is well-signposted for those of you arriving by road – just follow the brown ‘tank’ signs. It’s about 10 minutes walk down the hill from the High Street, which will give those of you walking there an opportunity to admire some of the old buildings, and the river crossing.
You can’t miss the museum – a huge set of ground to air missiles in the car park is a bit of a giveaway. It’s a private museum, so you have to pay, but it isn’t expensive, and well worth the money. There’s a lot to see in side, and the attention to detail is impressive – it really rewards taking extra time to read the stories behind the things on display. One example is the bits of zeppelin that crash landed in Little Wigborough on 24th September 1916. The bits on display aren’t anywhere near as exciting as a lot of the other displays, but you get the full story of how the German commander set fire to the crashed zeppelin, and marched his men through the countryside until they found their way to the local police station. The local copper (thereafter nicknamed ‘Zepp’) pointed them to the military camp in West Mersea and accompanied them there. The locals were so taken by the event that it appears a child born a day or two later was named ‘Zeppelina’.
In addition to the huge military hardware on display, there are fascinating little gems, like the hollowed out coins that hid razor blades. A secret agent could drop the coin into a cup of tea, the hot water would melt the glue, the coin would split apart and the agent would have a lethal weapon to hand.
Whilst doubtless the boys will be impressed with things like the Blowpipe Anti-Aircraft Missile, there are other displays such as the twin-set outfit worn by a female operative when ‘behind enemy lines’ during the Cold War, and who was interviewed by the Stasi in Templehopf airport. The room dedicated to the art of spying, and the British soldier, Captain Peter Mason, who could have been the inspiration for James Bond, is fascinating.
There’s plenty there to see, and as you can hear in the video below, reckon on a couple of hours there. To make sure you don’t miss out on any special events happening in museums across Essex, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter!