This is another entry in the occasional single item blogs from LondonLivingSue aboutLondon’s major sights. This week we are visiting the Imperial War Museum but don’t be put off by the title as I have been for a while as it sounds like it’ll just be for war buffs. When you get there you found it’s a great place and really reaches out in its exhibits to appeal to a very broad range of visitors. Arriving at the museum you cannot miss the impressive building and its immediately military approach as the 2 huge guns in the photo face you! As you enter you come into an enormous hall full of planes, guns, buses, tanks and a good cafe! They have some amazing items from history which blow you away (perhaps not the best choice of phrase!) There is the motorbike which Lawrence of Arabia was driving when he had his fatal accident, which looks brand new! There is a genuine Enigma machine which was so vital in the work at Bletchley Park decoding German messages. The Germans thought the enigma codes were unbreakable so used them for important secret mesages and being able to read them is believed to have shortened the Second World War considerably.
There are a couple of ‘experiences’ sections: one for the First World War trenches; and, one for the London Blitz. The trench experience is a dark section where you walk through trenches towering above you with spooky sound effects and a few bodies which was really quite scary, giving an excellent impression of the claustrophobia of the tunnels and the awful moment of having to ‘go over the top’. The Blitz experience is rather different as they run on a schedule and once your slot arrives, you gather in a small dark room with fellow ‘blitzers’ and realise you are in an air raid shelter. Then the raid starts and the room shakes and the loud and ominous sound of bombs falling really makes you jump – just imagine that for 57 nights in a row which is what happened in London in 1940! After the all clear sounds you walk out through another dark section which aims to give an idea of what it would be like to emerge from an air raid shelter into a badly damaged London. Both ‘experiences’ are well worth doing but worth asking about suitability for younger children.
What else? Lots of planes and guns and you can even walk through the cockpit of an old bomber. Loved seeing the elegant Spitfire and the much older bi-plane.
There are a couple of very sobering sections: one being the Holocaust Exhibition and the other the Crimes Against Humanity. The Holocaust Exhibition traces the rise of Nazism and the growing anti-semitism through to its horrific conculsion in the death camps, using a range of photos, testimony, maps and individual stories. The Crimes Against Humanity shows us some more horrors with a series of films and a timeline of endless crimes. Terrifying, sad and very important stuff. This photo shows one of the propoganda moves that were part of the Nazi war machine.
And last but not least and on a much lighter note – the shop! It’s brilliant and is full of history and books and biographies, cards, toys, information, silly presents and things that bring home the wartime privations as with this tin of tea. The contents of this very small tin are the weekly tea ration in the UK during the Second World War and it’s not much at all, cuppas must have been very weak!
I’m sure I’ve missed loads out so why not go for yourself and make sure you allow plenty of time…
Bye for now,