Britain At War Experience review
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Is it possible to feel nostalgic for something you've never experienced? Because that's what I felt like when I visited Winston Churchill's Britain At War Experience today. It was well good -- much better than the Imperial War Museum. It only focuses on World War II, and only does the Home Front stuff (there are no tanks, guns, trenches, or anything like that) but it is miles better than anything inside that other place.
After that you head into the museum proper, and it's actually pretty small, but there's so much stuff crammed in there you can easily spend an hour walking round it. They've got everything from the Theatre Royal's dressing room, to a 1940s shopping street complete with shop fronts filled with old clothes and price tags. One of the displays was a Christmas stocking for a ten-year old kid. There was no Nintendo in those days, it was all cut-out cards and spinning tops.
They've got a few good set-pieces too -- the first one was an original Anderson air shelter which you can climb inside and listen to the bombs dropping on your head. It's pitch black inside (darker than dark) and the sound is blasting from a speaker in the ceiling. You can hear planes roaring through the sky and the doodlebug's engine cutting out before it lands in the garden. It's similar to the war museum's "Blitz Experience", but a lot better done.
If you like war (and what's not to like?) I'd recommend this ahead of the Imperial War Museum any day of the week. But the Cabinet War Rooms still come out on top.
[Edit: This museum has now closed down, due to redevelopments at London Bridge station. There are no plans to reopen it, which is a great shame.]
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