The Imperial War Museum

Got up about 8 and was ready to head off about 9:20 , taking a leisurely stroll through Elephant & Castle and surrounding areas to get to the IWM about 9:55, waiting for its 10 am opening.

The last time I was there, in 1988, it was in the throes of a refurbishment and 90% of it was blocked off. You wandered through narrow passages of plywood with the occasional display visible through handy, but small, holes and the atrium, where the bigger items were, was also mostly closed off.

Evidently there have been (according to the staff) at least two other refurbishments or reorganisations since then and, indeed, it’s in the throes of another, which is supposed to be complete by 2020 or 2021 … fortunately, this time, 95% of the museum seemed to be open!

It’s not as big (or doesn’t seem to be) as the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra and the displays, while impressive, are not as extensive. Unlike the AWM, for example, it doesn’t have anything much about pre-WW1 conflicts … just a single small section tacked onto the beginning of the WW1 section which had very little.

Don’t get me wrong, the displays are well done, very well done, in fact, but the expanded AWM is more impressive – probably because it doesn’t have the space limitations.

For example, the Atrium is the only space where really large items can be displayed – and it has a battle scarred 13 pdr field gun used in WW1 (part of a battery which earnt 2 VCs in one early action in 1915), a Landrover used by Journos in the Middle East (battered and bullet/use scarred), a cutaway V2, a V1, a Spitfire and a Harrier as well as a T-34/85 captured by the Israelis in the Middle East … but their Lancaster is just a cutaway section of the nose of one, to just behind (I think) the Radio Operator’s position … not like the full catastrophy of the entirety of the AWM’s G for George.

V-1 with a partly cutaway V-2 behind it … showing just how cramped the Atrium is!

The WW2 display was also well done, but limited … and the postwar (Cold War, Korea etc) area also quite small, ditto the section on Northern Ireland.

Harrier with part of Spitfire in the foreground … and the entry to the building in the middle rear. Really cramped space.

The most impressive section of all, however, was the Holocaust display, which was quite comprehensive (and just as depressing as the ones in the US and Berlin).

Anyway, all that took me through to about 4 pm when I headed back to my room, as my legs were starting to cramp a bit, probably from the narrow seat-beds BA has … ghu knows what they’d have been like if I’d flown Cattle Class.

I’ll see about posting some photos, but probably to DropBox as, as I noted earlier, posting them here on WordPress seems to be excessively complex and counterintuitive.


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