A visit to the Imperial War Museum (North), in Manchester brought alive the era of the World War. The patience, perseverance, courage and patriotism portrayed by the men, women and children during the War can hardly be described in words. Dimple Meera Jom & Subhadrika Sen share their experience of being first time visitors to this Museum
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks….
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
-BOB DYLAN, “Masters of War”
World history in textbooks had always started with World War I and ended with the Cold War. All it spoke of were the countries that fought with each other and declared peace when the war ended. What it omitted was the hard work and sacrifice of the people men, women and children alike those made the war happen and lost a lot. We had often glanced at the Imperial War Museum on our way to college. But we finally managed to make it to the museum on a cold and windy day with occasional bursts of snow in the sky. After braving a shaky bridge over the river in Salford Quays and a flock of flying seagulls, we entered the Imperial War Museum.
Going past the Information Centre, the first sight that hit us was of lots of excited children who had come to the museum for a field trip. They were particularly impressed by a hanging aeroplane which flew round and round in circles. The café area was also buzzing with people who had dropped in for a little snack after having seen the marvellous displays of the museum. We noticed that there were two conferences in progress, one downstairs and the other in the restaurant upstairs. On clarifying, the staff said that photography was allowed except on the passageways.
We proceeded towards the main exhibition hall. On entering the hall, we were greeted by the AV 8A Harrier and the sculpture of The Crusader by Gerry Judah. The main display room had more than thousand original wartime objects including uniforms, badges, vehicles, rifles and most importantly stories. These stories were preserved in the museum with the help of these objects. Some displays were even interactive in nature. Pushing a button would lead you to see the display of your choice.
Few things that absolutely caught our eyes were the archway made of suitcases. This archway represented the ‘always packed’ suitcases in every household during the war. The bombs could have dropped anywhere and any moment, families would have had to flee the scene. Thus their bags were always packed. The second was a sculpture of a crocodile made of machine gun cartridges. There was a steel window frame which got burnt out during the 2001 World Trade Centre Attacks.
A major section of this display was also dedicated to women and the services they rendered during the war. What struck our minds immediately was, today, we scream for women empowerment; but in reality women were empowered in true sense during the war. They were wanted to step into the roles of men outside their houses as cooks, drivers, waitresses, nurses as well as to take part in the women’s army. With the men fighting for their motherland in the border, the duty of sustaining the country was left on the shoulders of these brave women.
Next, we headed towards the Blitz Brits Display and the guides throughout the display were a rat and a pigeon. At first glance the toy figurines of the German youth marching in front of Hitler reminded me of the naughty little figurines of Octavius and Jedediah from The Night at the Museum Franchise. Some of the displays that intrigued us the most in this section were the Christmas Decors, the cow standing in the barn, the army vehicle and the constant comical commentaries of the guides.
On our way out, a certain photograph caught our attention. It was of an Indian princess- Indira Kaphutharla. She was only twenty-three when she came to Britain and started helping out in the Blitz by driving an ambulance. She later even joined the BBC broadcasting service and helped young Indian students of science send messages back home.
Our last stop was the Museum shop which hosted a variety of books, posters and souvenir replicas of the original wartime objects. The shop was again full of children who were on the field trip. They were very thrilled and kept showing each other the wonderful miniature aeroplanes, rockets, posters, postcards and the likes. They chatted amongst themselves about what they liked and did not like. One of them was particularly amazed by the huge tank in the display. They even took group photographs in front of it. A second one added on that a certain interactive plank was her favourite. We could have stayed there all day long and listen to their opinions. But time was running out and soon it was time for us to bid good-bye to this treasure trove of history.
While leaving the museum, the only thing that occupied us the most was that the sacrifices made by these men and women had not gone to a waste. Their actions and stories were preserved by this museum. It was reiterated often enough to let the younger generations know of their past. These global martyrs gave up their lives so that the future generations could see their tomorrows; and the Imperial War Museum could not have done better in upholding their memories and commemorating them for their bravery and courageousness.