I was looking forward to revisiting the IWM as last time I was only able to cover
the First World War section. This time there was a bonus as there were
celebrations of VE day seventy years ago. Consequently it was very atmospheric
but more busy than usual, particularly in the gardens where there is a Soviet War
Memorial. They were marking the 70th Anniversary of the Allied Victory over
Fascism with speakers, medals, presentations, prayers & wreath laying by
dignitaries including local mayors, MP’s, and in particular Soviet War Veterans from
Russia & Latvia. This was followed by an impressive display of marching and flag
flying by several national armies.
Then I went into the museum and headed towards Floor 3 to see the British Art
display and how it captured the scenes of the trenches & war-wounded soldiers.
There was one full length picture about 25ft long & 8ft high depicting blinded,
gassed men being led to safety all in a long line, holding onto the man in front.
Another set of paintings was by Stanley Spencer of the workers in the Clyde ship
yards. Then I went for a closer examination of the models of rockets & aeroplanes
in the main halls. I was particularly impressed by the Secret War section and the
use of diaries used by agents, having just read the book ”The Secret Ministry of Ag
& Fish” by Noreen Riols.
I then worked my way down to floor 1 & the whole story of WW2. This brought
back memories of my London days during the war with vivid accounts of air raids
the blitz, with damaged buildings and streets. Collecting shrapnel was a fun
pastime. I was at boarding school in Gunnersbury and coming out of our shelter, I
did see, at the age of 10, a doodlebug flying over before the engine cut out and it
fell behind a block of flats. On another occasion while I was sleeping in the shelter,
in the middle of the night, a doodlebug hit the stables of the United Dairies, which
were close to the school. Coming out of the shelter in the morning, I found the
school playground covered in horseflesh and rubble (in those days milk was
delivered by horse and cart). However I did not feel the shelter rock as I slept all
the way through the raid! When I stayed at home in central London, we slept in
Goodge Street underground station during raids.
With so much war history still to learn and so many memories evoked, we are both
planning another visit to this superb museum in the near future.
Michael Cary