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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 February, 2005, 12:14 GMT
WWII display targets the young
WW2 ration book exhibit

Thousands of Welsh schoolchildren are set to have a living history lesson in the horrors and hardships on the home front during World War II.

An exhibition touring over the next 13 months will include war veterans giving their first hand accounts.

Organisers said the event, marking the 60th anniversary of war's end, may be the "last chance" to reach youngsters.

Visitors will also be able to have WWII artefacts of their own photographed for the National Library of Wales.

Dozens of schools have already signed up to visit the Imperial War Museum-run, Their Past - Your Future, event.

WW2 exhibition poster
People have given their own material for the displays

The bilingual commemorative programme is held at Merthyr Tydfil's Rhyd-y-car Leisure Centre until Easter, before transferring to seven other towns across Wales by April 2006.

The display of replica artefacts, case studies, images, printed and audio-visual materials relevant to Merthyr Tydfil aims to give young people in particular an insight into how the war affected their community.

In addition to displays about how life affected children and young people in their area, the exhibition will also include talks by British Legion members with wartime experience.

One of those at the exhibition's launch was Gwendoline Prosser, 78, who was a teenager in the women's land army when she met the Merthyr Tydfil man whom she later married.

She said: "I had two friends, and the three of us were known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

WW2 exhibition artefacts
Equipment and clothes used in the war is on display

"I was Pip and worked in general farming. The other two were milkers and they had to milk the cows three times a day.

"After going through all that, Wilfred caught TB from one of the cows and died.

"I lost a lot of friends. I think of them a lot of these day and I'm glad to be alive."

Other stories in the exhibition include the tale of Jimmy Ritchie who, aged nine, was evacuated to Wales with his brother and, more than 60 years later is a Welsh-speaking farmer.

The display also includes pictures made by former art teacher Dewi Bowen, 77, one of 48,000 Bevan Boys who were sent to work in the mines as part of their call up.

Mr Bowen, from Cefn Coed-y-Cymer, drew sketches during his time at Elliot Colliery, New Tredegar.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan with mannequin at WW2 exhibition
Mr Morgan remembers seeing Nazi prisoners-of-war in Wales

The exhibition was launched by First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who was born in the first month of the war and clearly remembers hearing air raid sirens and seeing Italian and even high-ranking Nazi prisoners-of-war.

He said the evacuees and refugees in his home village, Radyr, made the local school like "the League of Nations".

He said: "The Second World War is very popular option at schools. This is the thing to bring it to life for the younger generation.

"This is the last chance. The generation which served in the war will not be with us for ever."

Their Past Your Future is open from 1000 GMT to 1600 GMT seven days a week at Rhyd-y-car Leisure Centre, Merthyr Tydfil until 29 March.

It will also display at Haverfordwest Library, Chepstow Education Resource Centre, Galeri, Caernarfon, Wrexham Arts Centre, Swansea Museum Swansea, Old Library, Cardiff and The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

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16 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
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06 Jun 04 |  Wales
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