Earlier this year I went to Salute to the 40s for the first time. This amazing event is held yearly at The Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. I went with Rob and the girls and as soon as we arrived we were transported back in time and it was fantastic.
The event is on a wonderfully large scale with so much to see and do, lots to eat and plenty to keep the whole family entertained. There ares a variety of stages with various types of live music and lots of opportunities for dancing.
For naval history fans there were loads of amazing ships from a variety of eras, which are housed permanently in the dockyard and were open on the day to be explored. We ran out of time to see them all this time, but will definitely have a better look next year.
The girls were really keen to go inside the submarine, not the easiest thing in a dress, but it was absolutely fascinating. Both girls were really engaged hearing about life inside the submarine and they couldn’t believe how cramped the conditions were.
We then had a little wander around, looking at all the amazing vintage vehicles and ships. It was also impossible not to admire everyone’s fabulous outfits. This is one event that people make a huge effort for, and many of the attendees looked like they’d stepped straight out of the 1940s.
It was then time for the main highlight of our day – the air raid experience. This cost a small extra fee on top of the event and it was worth every penny. Once the group had gathered, an air raid siren sounded across the site. This felt so poignant and also quite alarming, it was loud and gave us all a huge sense of foreboding. It really brought home how frightening it must have been every time the siren sounded during war time.
We were then escorted to an original air raid shelter, which is not usually open to the public. It was laid out exactly as it would have been. We all sat quietly on wooden benches, and an air raid warden reenactor spent a good 40 minutes, talking us through what people at war time would have experienced down there.
The talk was so interesting and also very humbling. We were given a real sense of how much people suffered at the time and it definitely got us all thinking. We left with a huge sense of gratitude for what we have now and an even bigger respect for the people who lived through the war. This is one part of the day I would definitely recommend.
After this we went to the canteen for some lunch. There were quite a few choices of venue for food and drink and the canteen was affordable and a great choice with kids. We than played on the original penny arcade machines with the girls.
We then went to explore the rope works, an incredibly long building where ropes were made at the dockyards. This was really interesting and the sheer size of the building was impressive in itself. There were people doing demonstrations of how the rope was made.
Another highlight of the day was the homecoming parade, where all of the military vehicles drove down the dockyard. I really enjoyed seeing the wide variety of cars and trucks and all the people driving and riding in them looked amazing in their period costumes.
Of course no vintage day out would be complete without a little shopping. There are loads of fabulous stall holders, selling a wide selection of vintage clothing and homeware. Definitely a great place to stock up on the finest forties attire.
I ran in to my lovely friend Pauline, who always looks amazing and is an absolutely lovely person too. It was great to catch up with her and as always I swooned a little at her outfit. Her home made dress and vintage accessories looked fabulous.
I wore a vintage Swirl dress in a fruit print. These dresses were made in America in the 40s and 50s. I think next time I’ll make a little more effort to go for a really British 40s look, but as I’d just bought this dress, I wanted to give it a spin while it was still warm enough to wear it.
The mixture of living history, stuff to do and see and the effort that everyone made with their outfits, makes this a truly special event. I really couldn’t recommend it enough, especially for family. Despite me being the only history geek and vintage enthusiast in the family, a good time was had by all. I absolutely can’t wait to visit again next year.
Find out more on the Historic Dockyard Chatham website.
*Thank you to the organisers for giving us a family ticket so we could visit the event. All opinions are my own. Photos not to be reproduced without permission.
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