Thursday, 6 January 2011

It's War!

The day after Boxing Day we had ear marked for getting out of the house and having a family day out. Somewhere both Mr HH and I wanted to go (and thought the small person would enjoy too) is but a bus journey from our home so despite my awful cold and the gloomy weather, off we set for a day out (or in?) here...

It is free to visit this museum, what a bargain, and even the cloakroom was free so it's a cheap day out (except for the very expensive cafe and the temptations of the shop!) The main hall is an impressive sight, especially if you look upwards...

The boys were quite enthralled with all the tanks, subs and planes on display here where as by the end of the day, I wished I'd spent my time elsewhere as there was sooooo much to see here, you really have to use your time wisely and cherry pick the displays that really interest you if you're to fit it all in in a day.

This museum is surprisingly really good for children as there are a lot of interactive displays. The Munchkin very much enjoyed pretending he was inside a real submarine.

We paid extra to go into the current special exhibition, considering that the Ministry of Food was something in which we were likely to be interested.

There was a very eye-catching display on "dig for victory".

Wonderful examples of handicrafts were on display throughout the museum.

The Land Girls are a subject I find enduringly interesting.

Of course, there was a lot of information about rationing. Now I know why the vintage dresses are all so tiny - they had little to eat in those days!

There was a mock-up of a typical grocery shop.

The Munchkin was more interested in the sweet shop!

Razzing to the basement floor, there was a very good exhibition entitled "Break Out" all about the very first days of the war. This dress caught my eye, worn by a bride who married hurriedly before her sweetheart was sent to war and had no time for the big white dress.

The Munchkin found more things to amuse himself. There were fantastic film reels playing in here, as well as period tunes and great poster art.

The exhibition of the Home Front was similarly very interesting (difficult to photograph as everything was behind glass and it was very dim). I was most interested to read about the clothes rationing and see examples of CC41 clothing.

I was also very pleased to see this example of embroidery, just like the one I bought from the charity shop in Bridport, way back.

However, my favourite bit of the museum was the section for children. The first part of the exhibition was devoted to evacuees. There were fantastic examples of children's clothing and toys and what really makes this museum come alive are all the recollections of people who actually lived through the war. You can both read these in display books and listen to them on the telephones!

Many of the displays come with notes which tell you to whom the exhibits belonged and the story of their evacuation. The little girl who wore and owned these items below came from Germany, the little wooden hangers with the dolls clothes were hand painted and bore written inscriptions and the little Siamese cat hand puppet was so cute. The dress was hand knitted and bore beautiful embroidery to the bodice. All the items were in wonderful condition, too which is amazing when you consider what they have come through.

This suitcase showed you what a typical young male evacuee might have packed - very little! The Munchkin was comforted to see there was a bar of chocolate!

This young evacuee's gas mask case had been decorated with a teddy bear.

Finally, the piece de resistance! Within the museum is a complete reconstruction of a typical two-storey house, based on that in Wickham Gardens in Kent (if any of you remember the fantastic tv programme, The 1940's House, this was the house which featured in the programme).

You enter on the first floor where there are three bedrooms.

This is the bedroom of an older teenage girl.

This twin bedroom would be for younger children.

Not forgetting the wonderful bathroom with the cabinet cleverly built into the wall.

Downstairs, the front room was decorated ready for Christmas. It struck me how many things there were in there to do: sewing, reading, listening to the radio, board games, rocking horse. No telly, no computer games!

I was very taken with this lampshade.

The kitchen was very interesting too and made me realise how lucky we are today with all our time saving appliances.

I most liked the gorgeous curtain fabric!

Outside were yet more displays all related to life during the war. The Munchkin found that about school quite thought provoking.

The toys were even more interesting, of course!

Meanwhile, I had found the "make do and mend" section where I was right at home.

Ladies certainly had their work cut out back then.

Very capable they were, too.

Golly, I am quite exhausted just reading back through this, remembering what a lot there was to take in, we didn't leave until the doors were shutting and we still did not see everything. I thoroughly recommend a visit to the museum if you find yourself in London and have an interest in this sort of thing. Although most of my photos relate to the Second World War (because that is my main area of interest), the museum is in fact about all wars and there are exhibits going back to the First World War right up to the Gulf War. There is also a brilliant display on the Secret Services which as Mr HH and I have been glued to DVDs of Spooks recently, we found most interesting! I know we hope to visit again once we get the chance.


  1. What a great day out!! I've always been interested in WW2. My parents both lived through it, my father was in the Army then the Air Force, so it was something we talked about. I loved the 1940's house, it gave a real insight into how it was for those left behind.
    I love your blog, it's one of my favourites.

  2. I went to the Ministry of Food Exhibition just before Christmas and thought it was excellent. I didn't see any of the 1940's house though - I will have to go back - I can't belive I missed something so fab!
    Thanks so much for posting - brilliant pictures as usual!

  3. You might be interested in reading Nella Last's War - it was dramatised on TV by Victoria Wood. I read it recently and Nella was a great crafter and what she made out of old clothes and knitwear was truly amazing. She was always so busy, making, cooking, gardening and helping others. She wrote it as part of the Mass Observation Project but if you haven't read it, I can recommend it.

  4. It's been quite a few years since I lasted visited the Imperial War Museum, but I think another visit is in order, and very soon. Thank you for the reminder of what a great place it is.

  5. Fantastic, we often go to the war museum in Manchester, but I must say it is not as inpressive as youres :)

  6. I went to the IMWL at the beginning for the food exib to see Marguritte Pattern speak about her time working for the Ministry of Food. Unfortunatly I did not have time to go into the rest of the exib, and I know that the Food part has finished now :( But - I have your fab pics to look at - so I didn't miss out completely!

    And I can't seem to find out if the 1940's house is a perm exib or not. Oh well - I shall have to investigate this weekend!

    Thanks for following my blog by the way! I did a post about Land Girls waaay back when I started out - its in my archive titled "Whats in a Name" - there are some books listed there that might interest you about Land Girls :)

  7. What a great post. Ever since we did WW2 in middle school I've been interested. At Christmas I lent A wartime Christmas from the library, a really good book with plenty of anecdotes. Thanks for all the wonderful photos.

  8. Oh what a fabulous day out Hen, we most definitely will have to pay a visit. I too love the reconstruction of the house, absolutely fascinating. Happy New Year to you.
    Jo xx

  9. Looks like you had a brilliant day....x

  10. I'm not usually one for museums, but that looks really interesting! Thanks for sharing :)

  11. I enjoyed the IWM in the North, but I think that one is much better, as it has a house to walk round!
    Oh the kitchen....truly yummy!


  12. That's one of my favourite London museums - right up there with The Museum of London. The last time we went to the Imperial War Museum, there was an exhibition on about evacuee children during WWII. Absolutely fasinating ... and very sad.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely photos!

  13. That looks amazing, thank you for sharing your pics. I would love to wander around that house and the make do and mend, thats my kind of thing whilst the lads are looking at planes and tanks. We have Duxford but it's not as good as the London one x

  14. This is one of the museums we've always wanted to visit, thank you for taking us.
    Love the 1940's house thought that was a great series.

  15. Fab post - my family visited this year and we all loved it. Almost all your photos were of things that I found fascinating. I have been on a Julie Arkell course and made a brooch which she had based on one that she had seen in the museum and it had inspired her. I couldnt spot it when I went to the museum but you have! It's the horseshoe shaped one on the grey jumper. Wow! I wasnt blogging then but if you look on Ticking Stripes blog and search for her Julie Arkell article you will see one of the brooches we made. Enjoy! Let me know if you manage to find the time to have a peek would be interested in your reaction.

  16. Lovely post - I'm such a fan of the IWM - and I secretly think I'm a land girl at heart. I also have a nerdy love for all things spitfire lancaster and Bletchley Park ...

    I haven't been for ages - now I've got another resolution (thanks!) ... to make sure I go next time I'm up in the smoke ...

    Thanks for reminding me and sharing such great pics ...

  17. Wow what a bumper day! Looks brilliant, I loved the clothes the children wore, weren't they inspirational? I love the Imperial War Museum, we almost went on New Year's Eve and then hastily changed our minds and wandered around Soho/Piccadily etc. Doh!

    Happy New Year to you and yours Hen,

    Love Sarah x

  18. Thank you so much for sharing your experience at the museum! I did not realize clothes were rationed as well as food. I ended up looking up CC41 clothing. If ever I make it to London, I will be sure to check out the Imperial War Museum!

  19. What a great day. The fabric of the floral dress is soooo beautiful. I remember seeing your embroidered GB in the shop before you bought it, I collect maps and do not know what posessed me to not go in and buy it!
    Looks like your boys were kept busy for hours.
    T X

  20. I am very tempted to take myself for a visit now after reading this post!

    Victoria xx

  21. Thank you for reminding me how special this museum is! I haven't been for a few years, but loved the house when I was there last! (I am not surprised you took the bus as I tackled the South Circular the other day & nearly died with the stress of it!!) Liz x

  22. Thank you so much for that post - it's never been a Museum that appealed to me - wrongly assuming it's full of 'boy's stuff' (sorry, how sexist)Your brilliant post has showed me I'm wrong and it's definitely on my 'must do' list now.
    Thanks again x

  23. My absolute favourite museum! We first visited when DD was in Y6 and was doing the Home Front at school. We went with her class and went in the Blitz Experiment. Is it still there? The 40s house reminded me so much of my grandparents' house. Very emotional! Thank you for the pictures :)

  24. Looks like one to add to the list of must visit museums. Not sure whey we have not done it yet as hubby is WW2 mad but we have but will definately go this year.
    Love the sweet shop too.

  25. I so want to go but have a real problem with museums... long story!! I want to see the 1940's house, the bathroom is like mine! Me & dad plan to give it a go this year, as it's free if I can't cope we can always leave :( Thanks for sharing x

  26. I wish I lived in London still......I miss going to the museums. The Imperial War Museum is one of the most interesting. That really bought back lots of memories for me. I Love the picture of the wartime jewellery.
    Julie xxxxxx

  27. Thank you for allowing me to visit the IWM vicariously via your blog as I haven't yet visited it and intend to do so soon hopefully. Your photos are wonderful and I especially love the mock up of the 1940s House - I loved watching that series on tv (btw, you can get it on dvd now).

  28. What a lovely post. How fascinating it all looks. I must head on down there for a family day out. The children would love it. xxxx

  29. Hi Hen, Happy New Year. I love the Imperial War Museum, we have visited it a few times. My mum was brought up in Lambeth and was evacuated during the war. And, my hubbie's Nan used to live on that estate in West Wickham and had a house exactly the same as that one! We only realised when we were looking around it and he said I am sure I have been here before! Small world. Kathyx

  30. we've been there too, i love the 1940s house! also i love the horse shoe brooch might make one! fliss xxx

  31. While I originally was drawn to your blog because of your quilting/sewing content, I continue to visit your blog. The quilting/sewing still are a draw but your love and presentation of things historical and also railroading is A-one. Linda

  32. I had no idea this museum could be so interesting and interactive. It reminds me of the DDR museum I saw last autumn in Berlin.
    I'm definitely going to plan a visit there now. Thanks for the preview!

  33. That was wonderful Hen, thank you for taking us along. :) It amazes me to think of what life was like back then, how strong the people were. I wonder how many people today would be able to live how they did. That embroidery is very much like the one you bought, that's exciting. :)

  34. What a lovely post. I didn't know that the Imperial war Museum could be so much fun. Definitely one for the to do list.
    Happy New Year to you!

  35. Thank you Hen, I do so enjoy your days out. I really think you should go on more of them, teehee! Great post sweetie.

  36. There is a show here in the US called Pawn Stars and someone brought in a infant gas mask and they called in an expert and he said it was authentic and every house in England had one....The boss passed on it and said it was too creepy and here you have posted about this from a Museum on your blog with a full photo. How cool is that and how frightening for the parents of those times!

    what a fantastic museum and day!

  37. Hello Hen and all the best for 2011. I visited the museum about 5 years ago for about 2 hours which as you can imagine was very frustrasting. In the 1940's house dining room there were some lovely Sanderson curtains. I had a pair of these in the loft that my Nana had given me. When I saw them I put them on ebay with pictures of the worn original linen linings and they made £120!!!! I loved the fabric but knew someone would enjoy them in situ. The buyer sent me a picture of them when they were hung and they were gorgeous. I love the train set but methinks you have lost your table!!

    I am quite glad now to get back and was even pleased to return to work. I always read your blog to cheer me up!!

  38. I love the IWM, I'm sure a lot of people don't realise that it isn't all tanks. I could spend a fortune on books in the gift shop.

  39. Thank you for sharing this wonderful museum with us. We spent some time recently in one without the children, and I felt naked not explaining the displays to someone all the time.

    It's good to admire the best of the past, and learn from the worst of it.

  40. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Hen, I love this post, and you've picked up on the details that I love so much. For those of us not able to get to that exhibition, it was fantastic wandering round with you. The bedrooms in the house remind me of my Granny and Grandad's house, the quilts and sparseness. There are so many things about that period, like the sense of community and value of material things that it would be nice to get back to today don't you think? Fab blog post Hen. Love Vanessa xxx

  41. wow-thankyou for the post, it looks like you all had a wonderful time, the museum is now on my (very long!) list of great days out!

  42. Hen I loved this post mostly because I got to see the 1940's house at last. Guess where the fabric for the curtains and eiderdowns came from?!!! The eiderdowns had to be remade as they are not allowed to use feathers. It's so nice for me to see them made up. I need to visit the museum! x


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