With the dust settling on a turbulent few days, the words 'perspective' and 'context' should soon be coming into focus. Of course, the Sunday papers will be full of comment, analysis and historical perspective (hopefully of a more erudite calibre than the rantings highlighted in the previous post). But if you need a more striking message of how London can take this kind of atrocity and prevail, how it can take much, much more and still emerge better and bolder than ever, then don't miss the opportunity this weekend to talk to those who know. The brave and steadfast men and women who lived through the Blitz, and fought in the wider conflict of WWII.
That opportunity comes in the form of the Living Museum, a temporary exhibition in St James Park, and the centrepiece of London’s celebrations to mark Veterans Awareness Week. It's easy to be drawn to the eye candy: the impressive collection of vehicles, guns and general military paraphernalia. However, the real point of this museum is not to see, but to listen. Veterans from all of the (British) armed forces, the medical corps and the spies and code-breakers are on hand and, we can vouch for this, love to talk about their experiences. But equally as prominent are the Women’s Land Army with their message to 'Dig for victory', as well as London evacuees and others who remember the Blitz. There are also regular demonstrations, talks and special activities, such as mock street parties and a kind of Dad’s Army show. The air raid re-enactment, with its sirens and explosions was particularly compelling to the slightly jittery but fascinated crowd.
Quotes from Prince Charles should always be used sparingly, but his comments upon opening the exhibition seem appropriate:
"Our gratitude is everlasting and we salute all those veterans who helped secure victory 60 years ago. It is hard to imagine the sheer terror of the relentless bombing campaigns on our cities and factories, or the incredible hardship that the wartime generation endured."
A little less hard to imagine in the days since those comments, but (for the fortunate majority) only a little.
The Living Museum is open Saturday 12-7 and Sunday 9-2 July. Entrance is free. Information on other events marking Veterans Week in the capital can be found here.