All About War

This week I’ll be getting my photos developed from my waterproof camera from Wales. I’ll do a post then. =) Be excited! It was amazing!! 

But for now…

Today my British History class hopped on the tube together and headed over to Lambeth to go to the Imperial War Museum. I wasn’t super excited about it merely because I was exhausted and sore from Wales and all I’ve wanted to do all day is crawl into bed and sleep. But not wanting to disappoint my sweet old teacher, I went. And I’m so glad I did!

Our focus was the exhibit on Children in World War Two. The displays included photos, stories, letters, clothes, interviews and possessions from those who lived in London and those who were evacuated. It was really moving, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting that. There was one exhibit that I was just drawn to- I just stood there for a while. Compared to the rest of the exhibit, it was a very small glass case containing notes, a life jacket and a letter from the SS City of Benares.

 

This was a ship that was used during the war to carry evacuated children from Britain to Canada. Unfortunately, just off the coast of Ireland, it was torpedoed by a German submarine. Out of the 90 children on board, 77 of them died and the evacuation of children overseas was cancelled.

The case included a note that a nine year old girl had written to her mother just after the torpedo hit. Written in messy handwriting, it talked about having her brothers with her and said goodbye (written twice because one was wrong and scribbled out). After that, there were dozens of X’s and a signature. Beyond sad.

There was also a life jacket that was worn by one of the boys aboard. His mother had made it for him and reinforced it with more flotation than that of the ones issued to the other kids. Having instructed him to never take it off, his mother’s concern saved his life and he was one of the few who survived. 

The most difficult piece, though, was the formal letter addressed to the parents of the children informing them of the accident and stating that their child was not among the rescued. It went on that it is unlikely that they have any chance of being alive and they apologize for the grief caused. That seriously broke my heart. 

The rest of the exhibit was really interesting and even included a full scale replica of a house from the era (yes, in the museum!!-awesome!) and a temporary home issued to those whose houses had been bombed. Walking through the house was like stepping back in time. The sounds, the furniture, lighting, smells, everything! 

Before I left, having plenty of time before I had to be home, I went up to the 3rd floor to the Holocaust exhibit. Needless to say, I was unsure about how much I should take on emotionally in one day. But I’m glad I went. I just took my time to walk through, read and listen. Much like the museum in DC, it really gives you a sense of the horrors that went on. It was really interesting but by the end, I was definitely ready to leave.  Sometimes that’s just too much to handle at once.

It’s really humbling to be reminded of times like these and what some people had to live through and puts our first-world superficial worries into perspective. I’m glad my teacher took us there because had she not, I’m not sure I would have made it there on my own willpower. Seriously worth the time and I intend to go back to see the rest of the museum when it gets colder.

As well, today in my Shakespeare class, to supplement the unit on Henry V, my wonderful teacher (seriously- love the guy!!) had a friend of his who is a retired soldier come to speak about the nature of war. In a way, he was bouncing ideas off of us that he’s using to write a piece on his experiences. What he had to say was pretty personal and saddening, but definitely important. He told us about what it feels like the night before a battle, the long term effects of killing someone, the feeling of brotherhood with your fellow soldiers, the feeling of honor for your country and said that he feels that Shakespeare really captured the essence of war perfectly. He mentioned that Shakespeare had to have been a soldier to have been that accurate.

This is a tidbit that I plan on mentioning again in class when I ask my teacher if he’s a Stratfordian or Oxfordian. Based on class, I assume the former but I’ll wait and see. (Thanks for the insight, Mr. Seger!) =) A post will follow that discussion.