Remembering World War One

To mark the centenary of World War One, the History Society planned a trip to London to commemorate. We started the day by visiting Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – the famous installation of Poppies at the Tower of London. I have seen so many breath-taking photos of the piece and really think it is a beautiful and thought provoking way of remembering the fallen. I was therefore thoroughly looking forward to seeing the Poppies for myself. Unfortunately the installation is a victim of its own success. There are hoards of people who flock to the Tower, eager, like myself, to get a glimpse before they are all removed on the 11th. This meant you were continuously battling through crowds of people and forever conscious you were in someones way or that you should move so that someone else could get a look. Even with all this kerfuffle, I still didn’t get a great view, for that you have to join the huge queue that snakes down into the moat (even then it didn’t look as if people were guaranteed a good view).

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Disappointingly, that was the best I got – it certainly doesn’t do it justice.

We all then fought our way back through the crowds and headed to the Imperial War Museum. I had visited its sister site at Duxford, Cambrideshire many times, yet this was my first visit to the London museum.

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The main reason for our visit was to see the newly renovated First World War Galleries. Similarly to the Poppies, the crowds tainted our experience slightly, this time endless primary school children. However you could not escape that the gallery is fantastically put together and tells the history of WWI in the most engaging manner. Like I said, it was just a shame that we all couldn’t wander around freely without fear of tripping over some seven year old.

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I often find that the use of interactive media in exhibits can be a bit gimmicky but I really thought it complimented the more traditional display in this sense.

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With plenty of time left to spare we looked at the Holocaust section. Even after visiting museums dedicated to the genocide all over Europe, they never fail to shock me.

We also managed to whizz around the Secret Service section which was fascinating. I just wish I had time to learn more about the real James Bonds from history!

Like all of the main museums in London, the IWM is far too vast to conquer in one day. Even if your legs have the stamina to look around all day, I’d be surprised if your brain could take it. The museum is so thought provoking that I don’t think I would have been able to take anything else in if we had stayed longer.

To lighten the mood we spent the evening at the theatre. But not wanting to ruin our theme for the day we chose to see The 39 Steps a comedy set during the outbreak of WWI.

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The style was quite slapstick which isn’t usually for me, but this was hilarious, with all of us chortling from beginning to end. We also got fantastic seats for equally fantastic prices as we booked as a group so we could really appreciate the incredible acting. With only four actors playing over one hundred roles, they are pretty impressive!

For last years remembrance I went to the ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa (here is my blog post) which was unbelievably poignant. This years remembrance has been less emotional but even more thought provoking. I really recommend a visit to the IWM if you truly want to remember World War One this year.

Lest we Forget

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