I convinced Dom that we needed a break from art galleries, so we decided on some military madness at the Imperial War Museum. We had a walk through a different part of London, through a Lambeth  in transformation, like so much of the South and east. Where will the poor people live when all the properties are worth more than half a million quid?

Neither of us could resist this one: and both of us could think of excellent  ways of repurposing this building. 

The Museum was smaller than I expected, certainly smaller than the Memorial is now, but Brendan Nelson doesn’t have the luxury of four other museums. I was familiar enough with the two 15″ guns mounted at the entrance (and I’ve always wondered where they were aimed – Belfast’s A and B turrets are aimed at a motorway service centre 20 miles away, probably by a frustrated  former gunner ! The surprise was that the central portion of the building was the last London site of Bedlam – most famously at St George’s Fields, but in the Nineteenth Century in Southwark. Lord Harmondsworth purchased it and donated it for the Museum after the Great War, piling irony on irony.

  

I spent much of the tour comparing the various galleries with their inequivalents  Canberra. I’d have to say that the layout in the AWM since its refurbishment is less cramped, but the focus is decidedly on the evils of war – the sanctification  of the ANZACs doesn’t have its English equivalent. Of course, the biggest  difference is the importance  of the home front, with a wartime house recreated around the story of a Lambeth family. 

The otreatment of the Cold War was something with no Australian equivalent. The Secret War section  was  fascinating, as was the rather brief treatment of the troubles; but we wandered upstairs to the VC Gallery for an extraordinary collection of Victoria Crosses and George Crosses. I knew many names and I have to say that I was most impressed by the bomb disposal GCs, including some from Afghanistan and Iraq. Then I found Leopard Cheshire’s  VC, and I  reflected, as a I have in the past, that the measure  of a person (not just a man) is not necessarily found on the field of battle.