The New WW2 Gallery at the Imperial War Museum

To the new Second World War gallery at the Imperial War Museum. And it’s really rather good.

The previous WW2 ‘experience’ in the museum focussed on ‘hinge’ points during the war, giving not a comprehensive overview of the conflict, but using artefacts from the collection to look at turning points such as D-Day, Dunkirk, the Battle of the Atlantic and so on. This was great for those of us who like seeing ‘things’, but those objects were frequently lacking context – the big picture was missing, and certain theatres were very poorly represented (most of the war in the Far East, for example, even the Eastern Front to a large degree). This made for a very anglo-centric history of the war, diminishing its global nature. 

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The Cabinet Room at the Churchill War Rooms

My Instagram Live talk from today about the Cabinet Room in the Central War Rooms and how it was used in WW2.

“This is the room from which I shall direct the war” said Winston Churchill in May 1940. Click on ‘play’ to hear about the set up, the atmosphere, the tense meetings and arguments that took place beneath the streets of Westminster, and to see some of the incredible artefacts that have been preserved in the space.

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Churchill War Rooms

With us all locked down it’s impossible to do tours at present, so I’ll be experimenting with some online tours. This is the first effort (at the risk of underselling it, I’m hoping they’ll improve with practice) – an introduction to the Churchill War Rooms.

I’ll do a couple more on the Cabinet Room and the Map Room in the next couple of weeks, but this one attempts to set the context for their creation and introduce a couple of characters that you may not have heard of.

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The Bomb Damage maps

During the war the London County Council surveyors chronicled the devastation caused by enemy bombing on the capital. Hand colouring street level OS maps, they plotted the buildings damaged; generally speaking, the darker the colour, the more the devastation – black was “total destruction”, purple “damaged beyond repair”, right through to yellow “blast damage: minor in nature”.

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