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London for a history nerd

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London for a history nerd


I'm a bit of a history nerd and for my upcoming London trip I'm especially interested in the period from WWI to the end of WWII. I've got five full days in London one of which is for a day trip to Bath.

I'm planning on visiting Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum along with a London Walking tour on the Blitz that starts at the St. Paul tube station. I thought about a day trip to Dover, but I only want to spend one day outside of London and I really want to see Bath.

Are there any other sites in London -- maybe off the beaten path that my inner history nerd can't miss?


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1. Re: London for a history nerd

You say that you're interested "in the period from WWI to the end of WWII" which is from 1914 to 1945. However what you're currently looking at is mainly 1939 to 1945.

If you're interested in the 1920s and 1930s, then I'd throw Eltham Palace into the mix (google for information - but it;s 1930s Art Deco where you'd expect to see Agatha Christie murders), Spencer House, and also the Museum of London.

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2. Re: London for a history nerd

There is a number of war memorials - the Cenotaph in Whitehall is, perhaps, the most important. I haven't yet seen it but there is a new Bomber Command memorial in Green Park.

The Blitz walk should take you to green spaces where Wren's churches once stood in the City. I don't know whether you have access to old films but 'Fires Were Started' which has an alternative tiltle of something like 'A Fireman's Day' is an amazing look at the Blitz.

The RAF Museum in Hendon (north London) is pretty easy to get to. And on an RAF theme, St Clement Dane church is the RAF's church.

If you are out and about outside central London, every town and village will have a war memorial. To see the names - often several with the same name - is very moving and most churches will have some memorialising of the local people and those - especially Americans - who fought and fell together.

My own parish church has a chapel where the stars and stripes fly next to the RAF flag. We remember.

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3. Re: London for a history nerd

The last bomb to fall on central London was a V2 Rocket that destroyed the Whitefield Methodist Tabernacle near Goodge Street Station off Tottenham Court Road. Palm Sunday, March 1945, killed 11 people. A site worth spending a bit of time visiting.

When in Bath, ask about the Baedeker air raids of May 1942 and the bombing of the city, with the loss of over 400 lives.

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4. Re: London for a history nerd

Since you're going to be near St Paul's for your tour, it might be worth going inside the Cathedral to take a look at two of the chapels there.

The first, All Souls Chapel, has the Lord Kitchener Memorial dedicated to the servicemen killed in WWI. The second is The American Memorial Chapel (formerly Jesus Chapel). This part of the building was destroyed during the Blitz and as part of the post-war restoration it was decided that the people of Britain should commemorate the 28,000 Americans who were killed on their way to, or stationed in, the UK during the Second World War. Their names are recorded in the 500-page roll of honour encased behind the high altar. This was presented by General Eisenhower in 1951 and a page of the book is turned every day.

It's always worth going to Westminster Abbey and seeing the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior too. As I'm sure you're aware he is an unidentified British Tommy recovered from a Flanders battlefield. On display nearby are his Victoria Cross and Congressional Medal of Honour.

A 45 minute train journey outside of London in Cambridgeshire you will find Duxford Aerodrome. This is associated with the Imperial War Museum and here you will find a fantastic collection of classic WWII aircraft (such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and Wellington and a number of USAF and Luftwaffe) as well as tanks, military vehicles and boats. The IWM website will probably have information regarding any special activities that will be held at Duxford since they usually have an annual Air Show around September with many of the classic planes in action.

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5. Re: London for a history nerd

Admiralty Arch at the 'Trafalgar Square' end of the Mall was an important centre for all sorts of 'Ops' Commands and organisation.

There is the grave to the dog 'Giro' of the Ambassador of the German Embassy at Carlton Gardens, (near the Duke of York Steps, just off the Mall, very near by).


HMS Belfast, of course, was an important Battleship of the time.


There are many war memorials all over London.

My favourites, among many, are the one to the animals of war at the Park Lane/Brook Street Junction:


And the Edith Cavell Memorial in St Martin's Place:


I also have fondness for the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill, although it is not particularly 'spectacular' it is very moving:


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6. Re: London for a history nerd

With regard to WW I locations, I would reaffirm the RAF museum - londonunveiled.com/2012/07/17/raf-museum and the Imperial War Museum http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london . With regard to WW I sites in London, there are many memorials, but not a lot of locations with which to view things other than these two.

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7. Re: London for a history nerd

Well, depending on your interest level, there are tons of things to see.

Brookwood Cemetery is not far from London. It's sort of a 1/2-3/4 day trip (depending on how long you want to spend there).

The Sikorski Museum is in London, in Kensington.

You can visit the RAF Ops Room in Uxbridge if you arrange it in advance. This is again about a 1/2 day.

There's a memorial to the Firefighters of WWII near St Paul's.

Bletchley Park can be visited as a day trip (again depending on how much time you want to spend there).

Not sure when you're going, but Churchill's Bunker in Brent is usually open for tours during London Open House Weekend in Sept (by prebooking).

There's an audio tour that shows you where the American headquarters were in Bushy Park (near Hampton Court Palace), which is free.

I don't recall if anyone's mentioned the Battle of Britain memorial on the Victoria Embankment or the Women of WWII memorial in Whitehall.

There are certainly more, but that's what I can come up with off the top of my head. There are some war memorials around Wellington Arch too.

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8. Re: London for a history nerd

If you end up near South Kensington, check out the wall of the V&A museum on Exhibition Road. They left bomb damage intact rather than repairing it, as a kind of memorial. Personally, I always find that much more moving than many of the more traditional monuments

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9. Re: London for a history nerd

Also, the Polish War Memorial in Ruislip - Central or Distric Line to Ealing Broadway, or Metropolitan Line to Ruislip, the E7 from either station to the memorial. Special services around 1st September

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10. Re: London for a history nerd

if you are still considering other day trips have a think about Portsmouth - there is a museum there the D-Day museum (no guesses for what that is about!) and you could combine it with a visit to the Royal Naval Dockyard and visit HMS Victory, The Warrior and the Mary Rose.