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A Visit to The Imperial War Museum

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On a recent trip to London, I was urged by members of Armorama to visit the Imperial War Museum located in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital. First assembled at the Crystal Palace in 1917 after the First World War to show off the booty England acquired, the museum has since grown beyond a collection of trophies to be an excellent educational tool about the horrors of war. Exhibits include war secrets (with an example of the famous Enigma code machine), a "you are there" recreation of London during the Blitz, and a harrowing examination of the Holocaust from start to Final Solution that was tough sledding even for someone like myself who has visited both Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.

The museum is located in the slightly down-on-its-luck Lambeth Road neighborhood in the afore-mentioned Bethlem Royal Hospital (formerly the dreaded "Bedlam" insane asylum of history). The building is brightly-lit and makes for a pleasant visit that's neither too much nor too little, and begins outside with two 18-inch naval gun tubes and a shell (the author is seen standing next to it to show relative size). A piece of the Berlin Wall to the left of the entrance is actually about as much that can be seen in Berlin (as the rest of my trip proved).

Inside on the ground floor is a mix of vehicles that include a Jagdpanther (complete with the holes in its side that knocked it out of combat), a Sherman Mk. V, a T-34/85 and several artillery pieces, including the famous 18-pound field gun.

On the second floor is an exhibit dedicated to the air war that includes a Focke-Wulf 190 and a P-51. If you want aircraft, though, the place to visit is the RAF Museum in Collindale.

The basement has a huge collection of relics from World War I to the post-WW II conflicts, along with the "Battle of Britain" tour that includes a "blast" from a near-miss bomb.

And when you're finished, be sure to try some of the "Blitz" cooking in the museum's restaurant, including Shepherd's Pie, Mac & Cheese, and Beetroot & Chocolate Cake.

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About the Author

About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.


Comments

Bill Great pictures, thanks for sharing. We went there on our honeymoon back in 1985 so I'm certain the displays look different now. I really enjoyed the museum (but my young wife wasn't so happy to be amongst all that history) I wish I would have known about Duxford. Did you go onbard a Royal Navy ship that's a floating museum? I forgot her name but I think she has a piece of the Bismark on display. I have to dig up the pictures I took back then.
AUG 25, 2010 - 03:20 AM
It is HMS Belfast and is docked at tower bridge.
AUG 25, 2010 - 03:56 AM
Thanks for the info. She was very impressive to visit.
AUG 25, 2010 - 08:14 AM
"Blitz food" Bill? I'll have you know shephards pie and macaroni cheese are still two of my very favourite dishes. And thanks to them darn yankee banks it's about all I can afford these days. Nice write-up BTW. Glad you had a good time here. Did you get to Bovington perchance?
AUG 25, 2010 - 11:58 AM
Ernie, thanks ever so much. No, I did not get to the HMS Belfast. I took my daughter to the Tower, and we had a great time, but I felt the ship would've been "pushing my luck," if you get my meaning. Ken, I apologize for the US banks, who've really become the butt of political jokes and voter ire here, too. I did not go down to Bovington, again, an 18 year-old more interested in Bond Street and clothes isn't the right visitor for there, not to mention the schlepp to get there. We did visit Sachsenhausen KZ Lager outside Berlin, as well as the Checkpoint Charlie Museum while in Berlin.
AUG 26, 2010 - 04:58 AM
It is my understanding that most of these items have been removed in favor of more modern conflicts.
NOV 16, 2014 - 10:14 PM
The T-34, 18 pounder, the lanc cockpit and the 88 are still there, the rest I have to assume is either in storage, duxford or IWM North in Manchester. There is quite a bit of new stuff, a snatch land rover, A piece of the world trade center, a ferret, a press land rover and lots of other bits. The new WW1 Exhibition is fantastic just can't seem to workout why the 18 pounder was left out though. Paul
NOV 16, 2014 - 11:25 PM
Thanks, Paul, my updated information says a great deal of WW1 materials will be added, and the Jagdpanther and other items will be returned after the centenary for the Great War has passed.
NOV 16, 2014 - 11:30 PM
Yeah Bill the WW1 exhibit is really crammed with stuff, I went to see it with my father back in September and there is so much stuff there I will be making a return visit in the new year to see the bit's I am pretty sure I may have missed. Paul
NOV 18, 2014 - 03:46 PM
Hi folks, I went along this summer after the re-opening with all the hullabaloo about the new Centenary Great War exhibit. I am a regular visitor, and have a few "favourite" exhibits, including the Jagdpanther and Monty's Lee/Grant. I have to say I was slightly disappointed. The Great War exhibit is good, but I think they have taken a lot of their existing stuff and just presented it in a fresh way. Moreover, this exhibit now takes all the space in the lower floors that was previously available for both World wars, so a lot of my favourite stuff has gone, and the WW2 exhibits are a bit few. Strangely the old "Trench experience" which one would have thought ideal has gone and been replaced by a much smaller one! There was also a queuing system installed, by which you were given a time slot for your visit to the WW1 exhibit, which puts a bit of pressure on. I must emphasise that these are personal takes on the museum, and that the queuing system may be in abeyance now the schools are back.
NOV 18, 2014 - 10:38 PM