Today, members gathered at the Imperial War Museum for a private tour that explored the many different faces of war.
To begin, members huddled together around a burnt-out car from Baghdad. The car had been caught in an explosion in the city's Book Street, a historic and sacred street used by civilians for shopping, socialising and entertainment. The museum purchased the car as a symbol of the civilian casualties war can cause. Out of the 30 people who died that day only one was a soldier.
“Many people forget that it is the everyday Joe who gets hurt in modern warfare. For us, the car serves as a reminder that war is not a foreign and distant thing like most of us believe. For a lot of people – women, children, the elderly – this is their life every day. Day in, day out,” Dan, our fantastic tour guide reminds the group.
After this sobering thought we explored the numerous WWII objects and their stories that the museum seeks to preserve. First of all came a Soviet T34 tank, which demonstrated the might of the arms industry during the war. With the employment of moulds, the Soviets could produce 1,200 of these effective and deadly machines every month. The Spitfire, which is the most popular item in the museum, hung above us as we journeyed on. One of the icons of Britain in WWII, she has flown at least 52 missions and proudly claims to have never been shot down. She was flown by a host of Commonwealth pilots including the British, New Zealanders, Australians and Americans.
Members were told the story of Dunkirk whilst gathered around one of the smallest fishing boats commandeered by the Navy and used to ferry British, Belgian, and French soldiers to the safety of England, and learnt of the game of spying whilst learning how to use the legendary German Enigma machine. One of the highlights of the tour for members was the Lancaster Bomber. It was in its shadow that we questioned the ethics of civilian bombing in an effort to lower morale, calling into question whether the cost of life in cities like Dresden was justified, even at a time of war.
Moving on from WWII the tour explored some of the weapons and objects used during the Eastern conflicts, including a Japanese carrier plane which was found in the jungle 50 years after the end of the war, with a British bullet and a lucky lotus flower in the cockpit; and one of the four remaining cases for the Little Boy Atomic Bomb, currently on loan to the museum.
As the tour drew to an end we visited more familiar and modern objects of war, exploring the stories of a Humber Pig, which took part in Bloody Sunday in Ireland in the 70s, an aircraft missile launcher from the Falklands War and a piece of the Berlin Wall.
We ended the tour at a twisted window pane from the North Tower of New York's World Trade Center, destroyed on 9/11, and questioned the use of modern technology such as drones in current warfare. Do we class the people who control the drones as soldiers? Are they too far removed from the cost of life, or do drones provide a way of protecting soldiers’ lives?