Mark and I visited the Imperial War Museum before the COVID lockdown, hence the Winter attire, lack of masks and lack of social distancing but I wanted to make sure I shared this great London spot before the photos got lost in my archives. The museum is only 15 minute walk from Waterloo on the south Bank of England and is so jam packed with history it starts outside. At the front of the museum is one of the museums most famous artefacts, British naval guns with 15-inch barrels. In 1914 these guns were the newest and largest guns on any of the Royal Naval battleships and during their tenure were placed on more than a dozen different ships. The photos do not really do justice – they each way more than 100 tons and the shell of the bullet that goes in them is nearly 2,000 pounds each. And bullets that size can travel 16 miles!
Inside the museum the great hall opens up to a five story hall with planes and rockets suspended from the ceiling and with so much going on, it’s hard to decide where to start. The ever efficient American tourist, I asked at the information desk and armed with a map we followed the suggested route of starting at the top floor and working our way down.
It turns out the top was of the most interesting spaces – the fifth floor is comprised the Lord Ashcroft collection of medals of men who served in the British Army spanning more than 150 years. The oldest one I saw was from the 1850s in India and included unique ones, like a a war 1900 war in Rhodesia i had never even heard about. Then the medals went through both World Wars and through to modern day, the most recent I saw was 2006 Afghanistan. I was wondering how all of these came to be here and a plaque answered my question – The gallery was possible as a result of the donation by Lord Aschroft. he donated more than 160 Bacteria Crosses and their accompanying medals and memorabilia – a collection he has been building up since 1986. And to complement these medals The UK Government Identity Scheme helped to identify people and add details.
Then we continued down the floors as instructed. On the 4th floor there was a memorial to the Holocaust and as much as i hate “no photo” signs, i especially respect them when it comes to this somber event. The exhibition was laid out chronologicallyAnd was an interesting, albeit sad, British perspective taking you from the end of WWI through the full holocaust and how it effects all Groups – not only the Jews but also the Gypsies, Soviet’s, homosexuals, and mentally handicapped. The Holocaust exhibition continue down to part of the 3rd floor and the rest of the 3rd floor is the refugees exhibit which is being redone and was planned to be reopened in April 2020.
Then to the second floor of the Imperial War Museum which was titled “Peach and Security” covering the years of 1945 to 2014. This floor featured everything after the bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of WWII bombs to the war in Cyprus (something I learned a ton about when I visited the country last year) to a feature on the DMZ in North Korea. And there were also features on modern warfare times like an Afghanistan suicide vest or British surveillance drone. The first floor covered the Second World which the Brits date from1934 to 1945 (very different than US text books which say it stared in 1941) and covered it from a variety of counties perspectives. There was American combat gear, for instance, along with Nazi memorabilia from the ranks, and even the tenants of a Japanese fighter plane. Lastly, the museum ended with a feature on The First World War on the ground floor where the most realistic part was a recreation of the French front line trenches you could walk through and learn about the “war to end all wars”.
The plane below is the remains of a Mitsubishi A6M fighter which was a plane used on aircraft carriers. The knick name of the plane is a Japans Zero Fighter that was found on a Pacific island 50 years after the war, badly damaged from combat, not only from the crash but also with patched bullet holes!
I find it quite interesting that the museum opened 100 years ago but the UK government has committed to adding to it and keeping it up to date to truly reflect the countries history. If you want to visit now, which I do recommend, the museum is still free but you need to book a timed admission slot to help aid in crown control with COVID.
Would you want to visit the Imperial War Museum?