Imperial War Museum North

Note: Woops! I wrote this post a number of weeks ago, but left it in draft as I hadn’t copied the photos to my Mac (shouldn’t have bothered). Since then I had forgotten about it, until I looked just now. I figured I would publish it any way

Disclaimer: This is not my normal happy type post, so you may want to skip this one.

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On Saturday we the weather was … well lets just say somewhat changeable, so we postponed the planned treasure trail and decided to pick a museum, as the kids have got really into going to museums recently. We decided to make a day of it and go to Manchester to take in one of the big museums, and we decided on the Imperial War Museum, as both of the children had found the subject very interesting in our local museum.

We started with the Horrible Histories exhibition, which is a child friendly exhibit with information mainly related to the first world war.

A fact I had not realised was that on Armistice Day, as we know the armistice was signed on 11th of November at 11 O’Clock. 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and all that but what I didn’t know was that the soldiers were told at 9am that it was going to be signed but they were expected to continue fighting for 2 hours knowing that the war was over but for the paperwork. 2000 allied soldiers died that day!

Don’t get me wrong, being English I have had heard a lot of information about the awfulness of the two world wars, but no matter how much you find out about them, there is still new things to be outraged by.

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By now it had dawned on me that, as interesting and educational as it may be, this was maybe not going to be the most uplifting of day trips. We then went into the main exhibition where they gave a light hearted children’s talk about heroic animals during the war.

At the end of this they announced that there was a film about children in wartime, so found ourselves some seats and stayed to watch it. Big Mistake. They told us about the evacuation of the children during the Blitz and how the children got through it, and all I could think of was how can somebody be expected to make the decision whether to either allow their child to taken to the countryside to be looked after by a stranger or to keep them in the city to experience the worst bombing England had ever seen.

Again, this is all stuff I had heard many times before, but not as a parent. Sitting there holding one of my children close to me listening to the awfulness of peoples experiences made me want to vomit.

It is hard to describe the experience a place like the IWM provides. As awful as it sounds, it is incredibly interesting and while I believe it is important not to dwell on the past (as we Brits are often accused) I do think it important that we know our history. In the words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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5 Responses to Imperial War Museum North

  1. RC says:

    It is actually a bit ironic that you posted this. Just a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a bit of a story, where an adult (who had been a child during the war), was recorded as they were about how the children were evacuated and how parents had to make the decision on whether or not to send away their children – not knowing much about where and to whom they were going.

    Around the same time, I listened to another reporter describing the horrible sights in the Middle East, involving children, due to the suicide bombers walking into crowds, etc…

    Like you, I’ve known of these things. The impact is greater now, though, as a mom. What would I do to save him? What would if war was raging around me? Could I give him up in the hopes he would be safe? Or would I hold tight to him and just pray for the best?

  2. RC says:

    That second sentence should have said – recorded as they talked about…

    And the two stories were both on NPR – great place for podcasts (I know you were looking for recommendations)…

    Check out “This American Life,” and “Radio Lab,” for starters… Great shows, I think… I don’t think you would be interested in the “mommy” podcasts I follow…

  3. Mr Geek says:

    I remember reading Goodnight Mr Tom as a child being the first time I had encountered the fact that children were evacuated during the war. I was horrified at the prospect of what it would be like to be sent from my parents. This was from a child’s perspective, but as a parent it really opens an entirely separate set of nightmares.

  4. Ottawa expanded our war museum into a beautiful new large building. My daughter, who is history major, went and said it is the best laid out museum she has ever experienced. That was last year, and I still haven’t gone. I keep saying I’ll go, but I don’t make time for it. Typical that we never play tourist in our city. Well, this post is reminder that I need to go, so I am actually going to pick a date, put it in my calendar and commit to it.

    The fact that we lost 2000 lives because paperwork had not been signed? Unthinkable! Oh, and I just realized that was allied lives. Which mean the total loss was even more than that.

  5. Mr Geek says:

    I know what you mean about not visiting the things on your door step. I used to live in Bristol, a very historic old city. I lived there for years, but made very little effort to see the sights until we moved away.

    Now whenever we go back to see my parents I usually take time to take the kids to see the things I neglected. Of all the wonderful things to see and do in Bristol, it really saddened me to find out that IKEA was the most popular reason for people to visit! (I really do hate IKEA … but I’ll stay off that one for now)

    As for the whole 11-11-11 thing … It makes me so angry. I understand that there may have been motivation to sign it at that time, but to send people out to be killed knowing that the war was actually over!?!

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