Cost: Free entry. £15 in the gift shop (£5 each for a spy pen) and a cup of tea and a cake plus snacks £10
Who went – 2 boys aged 9 and my younger son who is 7.
How to get there – We drove and were able to park for free very close but the London councils are frequently changing their parking policy so its best to check beforehand. The nearest tube is Elephant and castle or Waterloo.
The Imperial War Museum in London has been on our visit list of a couple of months since it reopened after refurbishment over a year ago. I have two boys Jack aged 9 and his brother Tom 7 ½. This sort of museum is right up our street, a massive assortment of heavy armour, guns and heroes, what’s not to like. We also took Jack’s best friend so we are three boys and me.
As you arrive there are two huge guns outside the museum, these are 15 inch naval guns that were used during the 2nd WW the boys are really impressed I immediately feel that we are on board a destroyer. The large open foyer has a permanent exhibition called the Witness to War. There are planes suspended from the ceiling, a boat and a number of guns and vehicles. This vast space has all sorts of interesting things from a Reuters Press Land Rover that travelled through Gaza to a 2nd WW tank.
We spend over three hours in the museum wandering through all the floors. We are one of lots of families and I am pleased to see it isn’t all boys with their Dads. I am fascinated in our history and even more so as three of my grandparents were involved in either the 1st or 2nd World Wars.
The highlight of the trip was the 1st WW exhibition. The display meanders through uniform, cinema footage of munitions workers through to a trench with tank in it. The boys tried on clothing and played with all the interactive toys. Nothing was too high for them in fact I loved that there were scenes of battles with toy soldiers a couple of inches off the floor which is fantastic for a child’s sense of discovery.
On the top floor is the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, this houses the largest collection of Victoria Crosses. The top floor is quiet and was less busy than the rest of the museum. There are aisles of low display cases with medals and personal artefacts from people who have won them. There is a children’s “medal collector” and you have to stamp your card for each act of heroism. This was perfect to round off our visit and it took away from the glamour of all the powerful machines and weapons and brought it back to personal stories.
What we didn’t see. I haven’t broached the subject of the Holocaust with my children yet as I was concerned they were too young but this is a part of the museum that as soon as we have the conversation I will take them there. The IWM recommends no children under 14.
Guest Post by Emma Mills