Why do cows have stripes?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

HH_BB_PRESS_FULL_CMYKAs the original cast of the children’s TV series, Horrible Histories, ended their run, they summarised their efforts over the years with a plaintive song about history and how “we made it horrible.”

Never was his more so than in the two world wars and, at IWM North, a new exhibition opens tomorrow called Blitzed Brits that looks at the blitz and how we British coped with and tolerated it.

Much of the exhibition consists of items that have been donated by people who lived through the period and who have personal reminiscences to go with them. On hand will be veterans who remember the time wit astonishing clarity and they really make the exhibits come alive.

The IWM be it in London, Duxford or here in Manchester has always encouraged volunteers who served in areas of conflict and here you will find them only to willing to talk to school parties and children as well as adults and reminisce with those who were evacuated. You might gather that children are really the focus of this exhibition for the IWM has teamed up with the Horrible Histories franchise to present this exhibition. Kids can interact with the exhibits and test themselves, amongst other things, to see what role they might have been capable of doing.

but a child can get dressed up in wartime style clothes

but a child can get dressed up in wartime style clothes

Not being a child I can judge it slightly differently. Being born sometime after WWII ended, I have no memory of the blitz although my parents and their generation told me tales of bombings some of which I am sure were cleansed for my ears but seeing some of the exhibits reminded me of things I played with as a kid such as my father and mother’s army caps and badges, a hand grenade (the fuse had been removed)  and the few parts of their uniforms that they kept.

One story told is that of Alwyn Charlton, a Mancunian evacuee who returned to his home just as the Manchester blitz began. Like many kids during the Blitz, Alwyn collected bits of shrapnel and war memorabilia and actually picked up a live explosive and put it proudly on his family’s mantelpiece, where it remained for several days before somebody noticed it and reported it to the authorities. He was lucky that it didn’t explode.

and learn why cows were painted with stripes

and learn why cows were painted with stripes

His brother wasn’t so, being the last person to be awarded the VC during WWII albeit posthumously.

There are some surprising things in this exhibition which runs into next year.  A map showing the English Channel with France on one side and England on the other has been hand coloured to show where the planned invasion crossing points might be. Potentially very significant, there is no knowledge of who coloured and drew on this map or even whether it is an accurate view of what the German High Command had planned.

IWM North like all its sister locations is free to enter and is open seven days a week.

 

 

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