Imperial War Museum London - The Children's War

 On a recent trip to London I made time to visit The Imperial War Museum, this was my second visit. I loved it the first time but during this second visit I didn't just love it, I think I actually fell in love with it. I enjoy museums and galleries, this one though just has so so much to see, do and touch.Yes touch. I love that!

I feel like I saw and experienced so much it's tricky to know where to start.... firstly a big important fact is entry to this museum is free. Tragically there are very few museums outside of London that are free entry, so to be able to enter this astonishing building without feeling like you will subsequently need to juggle your money for the rest of the month is refreshing to say the least.

It's very easy to just wander around and lose yourself in all the history and artifacts. It's not just military machines, there is so much to explore and survey that I find it almost over whelming (in a good way) and incredibly thought provoking. It really brings to life war through the years. It's not dumbed down or prettied up. It's real, at times personal and encourages you to consider the impact of war from all sides and from all walks of life. The rich the poor, the soldiers, their loved ones, the old and the young.

The second world war is of immense interest to me. I never stop being amazed at how people coped in such dark and terrifying times. I'm fascinated by what day to day life looked and felt like. From the day to day basics like food and clothing to the transformation of life for women as they were put into factories and fields and thrust into a mans world of manual labour. I'm intrigued by the fashions and the ingenious ways people found ways to make do and mend and this museum has an abundance of examples of life during the war. It's such an honour to be able to view such personal items that were once part of someones life.

 An exhibition that almost made my heart stop was The Children's War. This exhibition runs until the 3rd of January 2012 and I hope my words can do it some sort of justice because it's truly wonderful and I still get goose bumps when I think of it.

The collection of photographs, posters, hand written letters, clothes and toys is such a sight to behold. I was reduced to tears. It was a very emotional experience. There's something so bitter sweet about seeing the smiling faces of children during the trauma of war. Reading letters sent to parents from children who had been evacuated from the cities were wonderful to see but heartbreaking too.

Chaotic, spidery hand writing  becomes something so  meaningful and beautiful when it's created by a child and scribbled doodles become masterpieces. How bewildering it would have been for a child to be taken away from all they know and put into what was often an alien environment with strangers.

Some letters chatted about what they had been doing, adventures and daily happenings. It made me ponder how I would feel as a parent reading such a letter. Of course I would feel relieved that my child was safe and well, but part of me would also fear that I would be forgotten and of course the heartbreaking thought of not seeing your child again. Horrifying.

It all made me very teary, but the trigger for the tears to roll freely down my cheeks was a child's small suitcase. Packed just as it would have been ready for evacuation. The case was packed for a little boy and seeing the shirt, socks, braces, jumper and other items from home made me feel emotions I am not even sure I know how to express, it was incredibly moving.


The Imperial War Museum guidebook gives the following statistics -
  •  130,000 children suffered the loss of a parent on active service.
  • 1,000,000 children were evacuated.
  • A further 16,000 children were sent overseas.
  • 7,736 children died as a direct result of enemy action.
(The guide book was just £4.95 and was well worth it, I'd highly recommend you buy one if you visit)

 Also part of this exhibition is a life size prefab 1940's house which was absolutely fascinating to walk through, the decor is utterly fabulous.

It's without doubt the best exhibition I've ever been too, the fact that weeks later I still feel a lump in my throat when I think of that little suitcase speaks volumes. If you go and see this, I would love to know what you thought of it.

The Children's War and 1940's house exhibition runs until 2/1/2012. More information.

Books you may like reading:



  1. Lovely post and thanks for sharing. Will go and have a look at the exhibition next time I am in London.

  2. At the moment my youngest daughter is reading "Goodnight Mr Tom" as part of her English course at school...I just called her in to look at your pics and read your post. She loved it and was especially moved, like you, by the little boy's evacuation suitcase. Thank you. Just wish this was on in Perth, WA so we could go and look together.

  3. Great post, definately on my must visit list. X

  4. Looks a really interesting exhibition, it's one musuem i've always wish to have visited x

  5. I have to say that I am GUTTED that they are getting rid of the 1940's house and the exbib. I thought they might make it permenant. Alas. Oh well - I shall just have to get my butt up there to see it again!

    Pleased you liked it :) Sorry - LOVED it!! *wink*

  6. Lovely post, The Imperial war Museum is definitely one of my favourites.

  7. What a fantastic post and fantastic pictures.
    Totally off-topic but I can't get that Manic Street Preachers song out of my head, now. x

  8. Looks like a great exhibit (and the house is like one off the '1940s house' BBC show) - if they are pulling it down can you suggest it tours Australia?!

  9. This looks so interesting and yep Im with Vix as soon as I saw that poster the Manic's song got right into my head!!

  10. It is a shame it isn't a permanent exhibition,it's so interesting. And the house is a great way to bring the 40's to life. I'm hoping to get back and see it again before it ends.

    Kylie, thanks for showing your sister!What a fabulous book to be reading. I hope your sister is enjoying it.

  11. Hi again! I've passed a blog award on to you so check it out on my blog!! X

  12. I love it there. You just can't beat actually looking at the real thing. Although, I haven't been since my granddad passed away. I should go, he would want me to. x

  13. I have visited this exhibition many many times. From the elegant entrance with the faces of the evacuated children, now older adults to the end reading a testimony of a former evacuee longing for his long gone childhood home this was an extraordinary journey through the eyes of children. I only wish it was a permanent installation. I spoke to a docent who lived through the blitz as a child. She had wild and wonderful experiences and lived to tell the tale. Lastly she said she could not stand to see food wasted as people was so hungry. Your photos and comments are marvelous. You brought it all back to life. I thank you.

  14. I also wish it was permanent, such a wonderful exhibition. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment Gloria.


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