HAWKs Tankfest Tour (part 2 – The Imperial War Museum)

Eric, Duncan, and Don near Westminster

The next morning we checked out of our hotel, left our bags at the front desk, and got on the train.  Our intent was to hit the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum, and (if time permitted) the National Army Museum.  After an uneventful tube right to Westminster, we headed for the War Rooms only to find out that the wait was over two hours and that we should have booked our tour ahead.  I have been here before, and there has never been a wait, but apparently the recent Churchill movie has made the War Rooms immensely popular.  So we walked to the Imperial War Museum.

Don, Duncan, and Eric in front of the Imperial War Museum
Eric, Duncan, and Don…
The entrance hall of the Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum is free.  The lowest floor is mostly WWI, and it is quite well done.  It hadn’t changed — that I could tell — since I was here with my family last Summer, but it is nonetheless very nice.  I took a WWI class at West Point, and it is hard for Americans to grasp the impact of WWI on the British and the Commonwealth, where almost an entire generation was killed in France.

A WWI tank behind signs urging the US to enter WWI

We had planned to spend 90 minutes here and then head to the National Army Museum.  After two hours we had just completed the WWI section.  We decided to take the short, guided tour.  This tour highlighted displays on the first three levels of the museum.

Our guide for the highlights tour of the Imperial War Museum
Silhouettes of soldiers on a trench wall in the Imperial War Museum.

The tour was short but informative.

A WWI airplane at the Imperial War Museum
Some WWI weapons

After a short break for lunch in the cafe, we had about 45 minutes to take in some of the other exhibits before heading back to Paddington and our hotel to pick up our bags.

The front of a Lancaster bomber from WWII
A two-man submarine from WWII
A Smith gun

This was one of the more interesting displays for me, since I just bought one for gaming hypothetical Sea Lion scenarios.  It fired a 6-lb armor piercing shell that was useful out to 50 meters and an HE (anti personnel) shell out to a couple hundred meters.  When tipped on its side, the lower wheel became the traverse mechanism and the upper wheel provided some overhead protection.

So, we had intended to stay 90 minutes.  After four hours we hadn’t seen everything, but we had to get on the road.  We took the Great Western Railway train to Burnham where after another short walk (to Don’s dismay) we arrived at Enterprise to hire a car.  Most of us packed lightly, but Eric brought a steamer trunk, so I was a bit worried about whether we were going to fit.  While I filled out the paperwork, Duncan, Eric, and Don Tetrised our stuff into the boot.  I have to say that driving on the left side of the road is much easier the second time around.  In two hours we arrived in Poole and checked into our hotel.

Our hotel in Poole (a Holiday Inn Express). This is the only hotel we stayed in for two nights.

In London at the Mitre House, we could barely fit into the room, but the room here at the Holiday Inn Express in Poole was quite spacious.  We then took a mile walk to the seaside where we had our choice of several pubs and restaurants for dinner — along with some football hooligans.  We got to bed quite later (nearly 2300 GMT).

Lord Baden Powell at the Poole seaside

On the way back to the hotel, we passed this statue of Lord Baden Power, the greater of Boy Scouts.