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The Guardroom






Thursday 4th November 2004

Local News

3/11/2004 - REPLICA SALUTES A MILITARY LEGEND by Steven Hughes


FLOODS of memories poured back for ex-soldiers on Monday when a replica building of Arborfield Garrison’s most famous guardroom was opened at the barracks’ REME museum. Funded by developer Taylor Woodrow, the replica of the Poperinghe guardroom will be the new main entrance to the museum, and houses a café, gift shop and a historical centre that demonstrates the important role the room played over the years. Poperinghe camp, which is named after a town in Belgium, was one of two opened in Arborfield in 1939 to house units of the militia. It became a training centre in 1946 and finally closed in 1977, during which time some 100,000 soldiers had passed through the barracks.

Though many of the buildings had been demolished, the guardroom, which is commonly viewed as a symbol of discipline, remained intact until it was pulled down in 2002 after an unsuccessful attempt to move it to the REME museum site. In 1999 the original site was sold for housing to Taylor Woodrow and, as part of a planning permission agreement, the developer paid for the replica. Lt Col Bill Cleasby, director of the museum, said it was important that the camp was not forgotten, and this tribute went some way to ensuring that. He said: “It’s an important part of the corps so that old and young can have an understanding of how the garrison ran. “It’s only through things like this that we can give time and thought to those who have gone before. “The Poperinghe guardroom was really the heart of the training centre and it also promoted discipline — that’s why it’s important to remember it. “We’ve paid great attention to detail and none of it would have been possible without the financial support of Taylor Woodrow.” Malcolm Pink, managing director of Taylor Woodrow (South), was there on Monday to open the guardroom.

Mr Pink said: “What we like to do is contribute to the communities in which we build, and I hope this is seen as a positive contribution. “When you think REME is a regiment of technicians and engineers, this building enables them to have a 21st century entrance to their museum.” A number of ex-servicemen were invited to the grand opening. One of them, Major Ron Carter, was guard commander of nearby Hazebroukes guardroom when it was attacked by the IRA in 1955. The 74-year-old was one of a number of ex-servicemen who was consulted about the old building. Maj Carter said: “This is such an excellent memory raiser. It’s fantastic because the museum needed somewhere for the shop to go and they’ve made it so beautifully.” Brigadier Arthur Reading, who was commanding officer at the barracks more than 40 years ago, said: “There has been a lot of history restored. “I think it keeps people in touch with the past and recalls some of the sacrifices of the old generation. “It was from here they were posted to the Far East and in the days of National Service the numbers increased. “It’s a little more embellished than in my day but the outside is identical and I think they’ve made the most of the facility.” Brian Boxter, technical historian and ex-deputy curator at REME, was delighted with the new building, not least because it provides more space to make the museum bigger and better. He said: “Externally this is a fairly accurate replica. Inside we really are making this best use of a new building that we can. “The historical part gives the flavour of what went on here, with a simulated sentry and prisoner. “The great advantage is that the replica has been built to modern standards — the old building wouldn’t have had that. “In practical terms this is a far better building. It gives us the added advantage that we can fill up the area in the main museum where the shop is. “We have large amounts of artefacts that never see the light of day.” Among those at the opening was Cllr Malcolm Bryant, chairman of Wokingham District Council, and town mayor, Cllr Danny Miller.


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Newspaper report contributed by Trevor STUBBERFIELD 52A



Updated information on the Poperinghe Guardroom is available from  HERE.



First Published: 19th September 2006.

Latest Update: 15th September 2011.