Chattris is set to become home to a national museum early in the new year which aims to inspire youngsters and help fight knife crime.
From Hungerford to Dunblane, from early cars with gun holes to the current epidemic of knife crime, the Museum of Armed Policing, housed in the town’s former police station, has it all.
It has been set up largely by husband and wife team Mark and Debbie Williams, with the help of volunteers, and aims to highlight not only how armed policing has evolved over the years, but to also give an insight into what it’s like to take on the role of being an armed officer in today’s police service.
Mark, a retired Metropolitan firearms officer, and Debbie,a retired police officer, set up the Police Firearms Officers Association in 2009 and it has been based in Chatteris since 2015, from where it supports firearms officers and their families across Britain and the Channel Islands.
Mark explained: “We look after firearms officers from all government agencies, not just Home Office police forces, who carry a gun, but also the Ministry of Defence Police ,British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, and the National Crime Agency. In fact we have 8,500 members out of around 12,000 or 13,000 armed officers.
“We don’t just provide support when they have been involved in a shooting, in fact that is a very small part of what we do.
Most of our work is supporting families providing equipment or help in times of illness, hardship and that sort of thing.
“The museum idea came about a year ago and it has been a real labour of love. Debbie and I have done most of the work, but we have had some help. It is housed in what was an old garage.
It was very dilapidated and we have invested around £70,000 to £80,000 to make it useable,” said Mark.
Displays are taking shape, with not only static exhibits, but also interactive exhibitions with screens showing stories around armed policing.
Mark said: “This is not about glorifying guns, or armed police, we tell the whole story, we want people to understand the history behind where we are today.
“But the museum is about more than that, we want it to be used by youth groups and schools, which is why we have an exhibition focused on gang culture and knife crime.
“We want it to be a reality check to young people, so they understand what could happen. If we can encourage just one young person to turn their back on gangs, then that will be a success for us.
“If we encourage young people to think about joining the police service, or to have a better understanding of policing, that will be a success too.
“The museum is not going to be open all the time, people will have to book a visit, but it will be available to anyone interested.”
The museum will open to the public in January and those interested in booking a visit should email: museum@ pfoa.co.uk