Imperial War Museum North

September 2, 2008

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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