Commemorating the First World War

On a military note

While we are preparing for the commemoration of the First World War, more below, London’s military offer is about to increase again. This time it is Bentley Priory which after a great deal of effort and fundraising is welcoming prebooked groups in October and the public in the New Year, after an official opening in September by HRH Prince Charles. Bentley Prior was the headquarters of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. The stately home was designed by Sir John Soane in the 18th Century – Soane’s name and the Priory feature in the upmarket housing scheme which surrounds the grounds. The restored building with exhibits telling the story of the Battle of Britain will have its appeal but as yet the website doesn’t give much information on what is on offer and for how much. Nearest tube Stanmore.

Work under way

One or two people have expressed disappointment in their recent visits to the Imperial War Museum, London. Yes, there are some interesting exhibitions such as the Architecture of War – based on the museum’s art collection and telling the story of the impact of war on people and the environment – but the familiar exhibits in its central hall are not there. Not until next summer will the museum be fully open with its new First World War galleries and the new atrium space will show a revitalised exhibition of iconic objects – displayed from the ceiling and at ground floor. In the meantime, the Museum has had to evict some unwelcome visitors camping in the grounds!

Commemorating the First World War

The centenary commemoration of The Great War – the first global war – will be marked with a four year programme of events, devised by a “panel of Experts” appointed by the Department for Culture. Partners in the scheme include the Imperial War Museums around the country and the Heritage Lottery Fund which is making grants available for local initiatives (but not all succeed!).

The events will start in August 2014 with a commemorative service in Glasgow Cathedral for Commonwealth leaders and a candle-lit vigil in Westminster Abbey. Churches around the country will join in by opening their doors on 4th August 2014.

In addition to the Imperial War Museums, the National Army Museum is also making plans for a series of events and exhibitions through the four year period starting with the outbreak of war. More at

The Great War commemorations will resonate with local communities and those who still remember family members who never returned. Thousands of families were decimated by the War, some families died out altogether, with brothers killed in action. And the resulting peace only led to a further, possibly greater tragedy, the Second World War and the Holocaust. It will be an uncomfortable time, and just growing poppies, might not be enough to heal the wounds or make the memories more bearable.

Will London get its own Crime Museum?

As the Metropolitan Police plans to move out of New Scotland Yard in Westminster sometime in 2015, the future of what was called the Black Museum is under discussion. Is this the time for the Met to open the doors to its collections as some enthusiasts have suggested? The archives and collection date back to 1875 and include grisly objects from famous murders including those of Jack The Ripper. It has been used for training purposes, and is only open by appointment. The plan for the Met is to move to smaller premises, in an existing Met building, the Curtis Green Building on the Victoria Embankment which is currently being renovated. So there won’t be any room for the museum there. At one time, there was talk about putting the Met Museum into Bow Street court building in Covent Garden but that was sold to a hotel developer. So we will have to wait and see about that and also the future of New Scotland Yard casting a gloomy glass shadow over a long stretch of Victoria Street. Most likely it will be demolished – not much heritage value here.