Visit to Imperial War Museum

ON the hottest April day for 70 years, six intrepid Rotarians visited the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth. The journey to London was uneventful, but when we left Victoria Station to get the bus to Lambeth we found the whole of the surrounding area completely snarled up with traffic. This was due to various road closures and re-routings to permit the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference at Buckingham Palace. After a 15-minute wait for the 148 bus in Victoria Street, which then completely disappeared from the indicator board, we decided to get the underground to Lambeth North Station instead. This tube station is just a short walk from the Museum.
After the almost compulsory group photograph next to the two enormous naval guns outside the main entrance to the Museum was taken, we decided that after our journey the most important thing to do before looking round was to have lunch in the Museum's excellent restaurant. Thus restored, we decided which parts of the museum to visit and when and where we should meet up again should we get separated.
The decision to establish a national War Museum was taken by the Cabinet in 1917. The purpose of the Museum was not to be a monument of military glory, but a record of the toil and sacrifice made by the ordinary men and women who took part in the various wars. The Museum originally sited in Crystal Palace was opened by King George V in 1920. In 1924 the Museum moved to the Imperial Institute Building in South Kensington, which is now the site of Imperial College, part of the University of London. These premises proved to be rather cramped as the Museum's collections continued to expand, and in 1936 the Museum moved to its present site, the former Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as St Mary Bethlehem, Bethlehem Hospital and Bedlam) in Lambeth Road. Over the years since 1936 the Museum has continually been redeveloped and expanded. In 2010 plans were announced to completely revamp the gallery dedicated to the First World War in time for the conflicts centenary in 2014.
In addition to the First World War gallery, which includes a recreation of what life was like for the soldiers living in a trench, other galleries are dedicated to the Second World War, Secret War, and the Holocaust. The Holocaust Experience gallery includes original German film footage of their appalling treatment of the Jews, a scaled model of the extermination camp at Auschwitz, and various personal artefacts appropriated from the Jews in the camps. In addition, the Museum includes exhibitions of war time paintings, and service medals. The current art exhibition includes paintings from 9/11 to the present day.
After visiting the galleries people wanted to see, we all met up again in the restaurant for afternoon tea, and then got the underground back to Victoria and the train back to Seaford. Although the weather was rather warm the Museum itself was pleasantly air conditioned, as were the trains from Lewes to London and back. So, everyone really enjoyed their day out and said they were looking forward to the next trip.

posted: Thursday, 19 April 2018

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