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  • Writer's pictureAlex

IWM London

15 inch Naval guns
The 15 inch Naval guns outside IWM London's entrance.

The immediate New Year after Christmas is usually thought to be a start of a sense of renewal, however it can also be interpreted as a time to revisit things.

For all of my life I’ve been a returning visitor to the Imperial War Museum in London. My father took me when I was a child, and after the first visit I often asked to return again. I have returned since on many an occasion as a youth and then an adult. Perhaps once a year, maybe twice, and sometimes not for a few years.

I’ve seen the museum go through many revamps over the years, but currently it’s in the best and most strikingly impressive state it’s ever been in.

IWM London has since 1924 been sited at the former site of the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark. Previously a highly populated and swampy area of London, the former hospital grounds now provide a calm and green open space with the museum at it’s centre.

The IWM is however a collection of sites around the country, with 5 separate venues, IWM London, IWM North, IWM Duxford, The Churchill war rooms and HMS Belfast.

The main gallery at IWM London
The main Gallery, with Harrier, Spitfire, V2 Rocket and Ohka Rocket fighter

One of the themes of the larger museums are special exhibitions brought in for periods of time, plus regular renovations of existing galleries. One major reason for me to visit was the recent renovation of the second world war galleries, which was featured in a short TV series recently, showing the work that went into designing it and presenting many new artefacts from the vast collections.

Monument from the Reich
The end of the Reich

The new WW2 galleries use different rooms to take you through various aspects of the war. These include an extensive reproduction of a wartime London household, complete with air raid shelter. Other exhibits also now go a long way to redress the balance of the contribution of the commonwealth countries, and the many people around the world who came to help.

Merchant seaman Thomas Andi
Thomas Andi who was a merchant seaman.

Other galleries include the first World War, the Holocaust, and the Ashcroft gallery of Victoria Cross and George Cross recipients.

An excellent cafe is also on site.

Matthew Croucher, George Cross recipient
Matthew Croucher, the literal definition of selfless bravery

Over the years since I first visited as a child, the emphasis has changed in presenting the displays. Much more depth is shown regarding individuals contributions, and there is no Demonisation of people in the way that was popular post-war. This is a huge improvement as it means that museums are now far more educative. Explanation and reasoning plays a much larger part.

HMS Belfast in the ice.
HMS Belfast severely iced up.

Entry to IWM London is free, and as such is an incredible bargain. Why not give it a visit or re-visit yourself?

The museum is open daily from 10am t0 6pm.

Lambeth Road



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