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 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.
- 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.
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.
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