About this blog
I’m going to try and visit every attraction in London (even the rubbish ones), and every big event like 'Trooping the Colour' as well. But it will probably take me about ten years to complete because I’m too lazy to get out of bed most days, so I hope you stick around until the end.
Where I’ve been…
These are the top 25 things that I’ve enjoyed the most:
>Imperial War Museum
Visit London Drum’s YouTube channel for more videosI quite like the Second World War. It seems like it was a lot of fun, getting a boat across the channel and giving the Hun a good seeing to etc. Take that Hitler! Take that you evil Nazis! Maybe I watch too many old war movies, but my visit to the Imperial War Museum today just made me like it even more. I think if I had a time machine I'd hop aboard and travel back to 1925. That seems like the perfect year to be born.
When you step inside the main hall the first thing you see is a load of old tanks and planes swooping down from the ceiling. And they are all full-size too -- proper old battle tanks like the Sherman and Mark II. You can't go inside them, or even look inside them, which is a bit of a shame, but it's nice to get up close. You always see the soldiers riding on the tank tracks in 'Band of Brothers', sitting up there and having a fag whilst they trundled through the towns, and you almost want to jump up and do it too. But they'd probably have you shot -- maybe by one of the big field guns and artillery pieces they've got alongside.
Another little thing they've got in the main hall is a couple of one-man submarines, which are unbelievebly small. The guy must have had to lie down on his stomach to drive these things, in a space not much bigger than my shoe. It's hard to imagine him slicing through the pitch black and choppy freezing sea for 500 miles. He must have been nuts.
They've got a few rockets too -- an unexploded V2, which looks big enough to land a man on the moon, and a black and white Polaris. The V2, especially, is gigantic. It's big enough to blow a hole in the world.
If you look up to the roof then you can see a few planes suspended on chains: an early Sopwith Camel - which looks like it's made out of balsa wood and string - a Mustang, a German Focke Wulf, and a full-size Spitfire Mark 1A.
Once you get past the main hall you get to see the little stuff -- the guns and grenades, medals and memoribilia. I have to admit that I skipped a lot of the World War I exhibits, and therefore I missed the "Trench Experience", which was a bit of a blow. I didn't even know it was there until I read the guidebook on the way home. Apparently you can walk through a life-size mock-up of a World War I trench, complete with smoke and sounds and Madame Tussauds soldiers. It's sounds good... but I didn't see it!
I did manage to find the "Blitz Experience" though, which was a ten-minute event for about 20 people. Luckily there was only 4 people when I did it, but two of them were chatty women who didn't shut up the whole time we were in it. If it was a real air-raid then I think I would have taken my chances out on the street, just to escape their natter.
First of all you get ushered into a tiny brick air-road shelter, just like the real thing, which has been done up so it looks like you're underground. They turn out all the lights so it's darker than night (so you can't even see your hand in front of your face), and then a old guy and his missus come on the speakers as if they are chatting by your side. It's like you are eavesdropping on their conversation in the shelter, whilst they sit chatting about the bombing raids. Eventually the bombs drop down and the mechanics shake the seat you're sitting on (that's when the two women screamed), and you get up and go into the "street". The next section is done up to look like a bombed-out street with debris strewn across the road, lights and smoke are dotted about for dramatic effect.
The whole thing was okay, but it would have been much better if they had a couple of actors in there playing the part of the old folks.
The museum exhibits in the Second World War section are pretty good. You've got all the normal kind of stuff in there that you'd expect -- lots of uniforms, medals, guns, knives etc etc. But they've got a few stand-out pieces too, like an Enigma machine and the actual iron Eagle that stood on the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. You can even see some bullet holes in it from where the Russians and Germans did the street fighting.
One of the bits that I found the most interesting was a room full of old newspapers and radio broadcasts. You can follow the entire course of the war through the headlines, and listen to Churchill's speeches.
The best thing of all, in my humble opinion, was a full-size house from the 1930s, which they've rebuilt inside the museum. It's actually full-size! You can peer into the living room, the kitchen, the hallway, and then go up their stairs and have a look at the bathroom and bedroom too. It's all kitted out in period detail with stuff from the era...everything from the carpet and furntiture, to the clothes, books and music playing on the wireless. It's quite dark and gloomy too, which only adds to the atmosphere when they've got the proper music piping through the rooms.
The exhibits continue on through the 1950s with the Suez crisis, and all the way up to the Falklands and the Gulf.
After that it gets a bit depressing because it's upstairs to the Holocaust exhibition. It's not exactly a barrel of laughs, as you can imagine. There's a big sign out the front saying it's not suitable for kids, but there's stuff in there that's not suitable for adults either. They've got pictures of the dead and dying, and people so starved that their bones are showing through their skin. They had one big pic of a Russian so desperate to leave the camps that he'd jumped onto a barbed-wire electric fence. They've got shots of the ghettos, and big pits they've dug and filled with corpses. Another one showed a firing line, the moment before they pulled the trigger. One victim seemed to be begging and crying for his life, whilst another one just stood and smiled and told them to get on with it.
I thought the most profound exhibit in there was a huge model of Auschwitz, about fifty feet long. They had every little detail done to perfection, from the train driving in, the little tiny bits of razor on the barded-wire fence. You could see thousands of little model people disembarking off the train (literally thousands), and the barracks where they sleep. And when you walked up the end you could see the little building where they cooked the bodies, and smoke circling out the chimney. If it was anywhere but Auschwitz, you'd think it was the best model railway you'd ever seen.
[Edit: I've since been back to the Imperial War Museum and seen the Trench Exhibition. It's pretty good... it's like a long, dark, life-size trench in the middle of the night. And you walk through it and hear the bombs overhead and soldiers on their radios. You can look into the little rooms and see people on the buzzer talking to the boss behind the lines, and soldiers peering over the edge of the trench, stuff like that. Unfortunately, I noticed that they've also demolished the 1940s house -- and I thought that was the best bit! They've replaced it with a dry exhibition instead, with all the furniture, books and items placed behind glass cabinets. Definitely not good. Let's hope they bring back the house again.]
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