Thursday, 21 May 2009

Artefacts of War

A significant part of English history is marked by its involvement in numerous wars. Over the years the victories, defeats, triumphs and tragedies on the battlefield have all added to the British psyche and have no doubt helped to shape the nation. Therefore, it is understandable they have chosen to remember and commorate times of war through a variety of significant museums. One of the best would have to be the Imperial War Museum in London that focuses primarily on modern warfare and in particular the two World Wars. As Jules was not particularly interested in this aspect of British history, she left me to my own devises for several hours to wander around the various floors and view the massive range of exhibits. Coming up from the Lambeth North underground station, it was a short walk past William Bligh’s house (of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame) to the museum. The architecture of the building was most impressive and as I made my way toward the grand entrance, I passed by two enormous fifteen-inch naval canons. Upon entering I walked into a huge atrium area that housed numerous tanks and canons from different eras, while overhead a diverse range of aeroplanes attracted my attention upward. The tanks from World War One showed just how primitive the technology was in those days, as well as the obvious hardships the soldiers faced. Similarly, the interactive display of trench warfare gave me some idea of the misery of the battlefield. On the second level there was an opportunity to view early bi-planes and the famed ‘Spitfire’fighter at close range. You could also the climb into the cockpit of a Lancaster bomber then view the wreckage of the plane used by Rudolf Hess in his ill-fated flight to England to broker a peace deal midway through the second World War. Especially moving was the Holocaust exhibition that included photographs, documents and artefacts covering the rise of Nazism and their persecution of the Jews. Other display cases including items collected from Hitler’s bunker including his appointment book, which I found particularly interesting, as it seems that he had bookings right up to his last day. Another area of the museum was devoted to post 1945 conflicts and includes an extensive collection of spy material from the cold war. The hours slipped by quickly with so much to see and it was probably better that I was alone with so much to take in. Being particularly interested in modern history, the Imperial War Museum was certainly worth a visit and the displays were done very well, as you might well expect from the Brits.

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