Friday, August 24, 2012

Imperial War Museum

Our apartment in London was quite close to the Imperial War Museum - I couldn't wait to go! I was quite beside myself with excitement when we arrived. In the main hall they have tanks, mini submarines, a V2 rocket, airplanes and artillery guns. We saw Monty's tank! I peered inside a Lancaster flown by the RAAF. It was just amazing to see. But there were lots of kids climbing on things and it just felt a bit odd. I must say, I don't think it's exactly a place for children. They had an exhibition on the homefront and what it was like living through the Blitz. They'd recreated rooms from a house and I was in heaven! Given what we've seen of the rather reserved and disobliging British character you can understand how they look back on the homefront as a special time, when people really pulled together. It just seems like a remarkable achievement.

There was also an exhibition on the secret war - which I find just fascinating. I saw an Enigma machine! Shoelaces saturated with invisible ink, radio transmitters hidden in suitcases and encoded messages. There was also an extensive exhibition on the Holocaust. It spanned three floors, was extremely comprehensive and confronting. It was really well done and forced you to face extremely horrifying facts. Tremendously moving. I left quite shaken.

From the IWM it was a brief tube ride to Churchill's war rooms near the Treasury in Westminster. The entrance used to be flanked with sand bags but now, sadly, has a proper grown up museum entrance. I'd seen the rooms in documentaries but to be there was simply thrilling. After the war they'd simply shut up the rooms as they were, using some of them for storage. Maps were left hanging, with drawing pins marking positions. Someone's sugar rations were found in a desk drawer. The original furniture is still there. It's a real rabbit warren with barely space for two people to move down some of the corridors. They've expanded the exhibition space with a museum on Churchill. It was all a bit new interactive display for me - but big thrill - I saw Churchill's purple velvet siren suit!

An absolutely amazing day, full of highlights!

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