Imperial War Museum - 22/2/2016 - Tonbridge U3A-Travel

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Imperial War Museum - 22/2/2016

Previous Trips

We started our day boarding the coach at Willow Lea at 8.45 am. The coach was very comfortable and warm. We made good time and arrived at the museum about 10.30 am where we were dropped off outside. After inspecting the 2 huge guns outside we entered the museum which is on 5 floors. We picked up a handy leaflet/map showing what was exhibited on each floor. After a drink in the cafe and ignoring the tempting cakes we started exploring. The centre of the museum reaches up through all the floors. There was a spitfire hanging directly above us and army jeeps hanging from openings high up.
The exhibition on floor 0 was dedicated to the 1st World War with the events leading up to it, how nations were drawn in and the horrors of trench warfare. How women contributed to the war effort at home. Also how the world looked before the war and how it was divided up after.
The 1st floor told us all about the 2nd World War; why it happened, how nations were involved and the turning points of the war. We saw how families coped through the Allpress family who lived in Stockwell in London. I find it amazing that no matter what happened, losing loved ones, losing homes and all possessions, rationing, evacuation and the Blitz people just kept going and would not give in.
The 2nd floor was about peace and security after the 2nd World War and through the Cold War. Shades of James Bond and describing the functions of MI5 and MI6. We also learnt about traitors and double agents and how the diligence of our "secret services" help keep us safe. Took us step by step through the siege at the Iranian Embassy in 1980 which I remember watching unfold on TV.
On the 3rd floor there was an exhibition of Lee Miller - A Woman's War which was £7 to enter but we did not visit this.
The 4th floor was dedicated to The Holocaust which was not available to under14s and we were a bit apprehensive but it was interesting and not graphic. Explained why the german people blamed the jews for losing the 1st World War and how Hitler rose to power and targeted them along with gypsies, homosexuals etc. and incited ordinary people to commit awful acts. Always thought it strange that Hitler's Aryan vision didn't really apply to himself, being small and dark and not perfectly formed so we are led to believe! There is also a roof terrace on this floor but it was not the weather for it.
The 5th floor is the Lord Ashcroft Gallery which is a collection of stories and photos along with the medals of Extraordinary Heroes, VC and GC medal holders. We had attended the very interesting monthly meeting where a talk was given on the 12 VC holders commemorated in Dunorlan Park and it is incredible how young some of them were and how brave.
We also attended a talk given by a very well informed staff member standing by a field gun that was manned by 3 men in the 1st World War. During a fierce battle at Nery in France Captain Bradbury was the only officer left with Sergeant Major Dorrell and Sergeant Wilson. Bradbury risked his life several times to cross the battle field and carry shells back to the gun. Even after having his leg blown off he sat propped up against the gun and directed his men, refusing morphine to keep his head clear. They won the day but Bradbury died from his injuries. All 3 men received the Victoria Cross.
 In each exhibition there were informative videos, artefacts, uniforms, letters and photos. We had a final drink and oatmeal biscuit in the cafe  before leaving on the coach at 3.50 pm for the 2 hour journey home driven by our lovely driver, Junior .A very interesting and thought provoking day and, as usual a well organised trip.
Penny Hawney
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