Saturday, 30 July 2016

One Day In London - Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum is on most peoples 'must do' list when they visit London, and I think we all know someone who's been and loved it.
The museum opens at 10am, and you may be surprised to see that it's situated inside a park and has it's own beautifully landscaped gardens with roses, lavender, and carefully trimmed lawns. You will instantly know you're in the right place from the imposing double cannons that greet you.

The large main hall that you first encounter contains a 'heady' mix of vehicles and exhibits from a variety of eras, on the ground, hanging in the air, and even perched precariously through spaces in the walls of each floor.

On the floor stands an impressive Soviet T-34 tank, an army field gun, armoured land rover and even the mutilated shell of an Iraqi civilian vehicle destroyed by a suicide bomber on the streets of Baghdad and turned into an art exhibit to demonstrate the horrors of war. All have interesting history and stories surrounding them.
Flying over your head are various suspended planes including the iconic Supermarine Spitfire and Harrier.

Still on the ground floor, I head to the World War I area. It's only been very recently that I have developed an interest in this period, but I'm now fascinated to learn more. Who was fighting who? and why? How did the soldiers live and cope with the hardships they endured? What weaponry and tactics were employed?
 All of these questions and hundreds more are answered in the most engaging way.
I particularly enjoyed walking through a simulated trench with shadows of my comrades around me, a British MK.IV tank appears above me to my left, as a Sopwith Camel flies over all to the battlefield noises of explosions and shouts. It's hard to imagine how the soldiers coped with the noise, disease and horrors.
Moving up to other floors, the exhibitions appear to follow a chronological path. There are extensive  World War II displays. You will see exhibits as diverse as a Rolls Royce Merlin aero-engine, a 25-pounder field gun, BMW R75 motorcycle and sidecar, Clarkair bulldozer to name but a few.
Around the main exhibits are other displays such as photographs by Cecil Beaton, paintings by various war artists, and even a skull and crossbones flag with a homemade 'Shit or Bust' motto used on a Landing Craft.
Further floors have exhibitions of modern conflicts including Suez, Korea, Cypress, Falklands & Yugoslavia
On the forth floor you encounter the Holocaust exhibition. This is an experience you will take away and never forget, as the history of the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators is told with photographs, words, and film. The sheer enormity and evil of events is powerfully portrayed. Testimonies from survivors bring a moving perspective to exhibits. At the end of the exhibition, a model of Auschwitz-Birkenau demonstrates the extent of events that occurred.
This is but a taster of the Imperial War Museum, which has many more floors, areas, and exhibits that I simply don't have the time to catalogue here. You really do need a full day here, and even then I guarantee you will leave wishing you had spent longer in certain areas.
Also, there are different ways to view the museum. On this visit I photographed as much as I could, both exhibits and information cards so I could read and view them at my leisure at home on the laptop.
Next time though I might just leave my camera at home and copy the many students who were sketching and writing copious notes about everything that interested them. Photographs, of course, can always be found online. 
Oh and did I mention, admission is free.

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