London’s history dates back hundreds of years, and in the modern day city, tourists can enjoy a range of attractions that give an insight into the artistic, political and cultural past. From memorials to museums, there’s plenty to explore but no attractions are more immediate than the ones that give pause for the more recent history of the city. It’s easy to see London’s 20th-century history, many of the buildings date back from this period after all, but to get a true idea of how the city was culturally and characteristically shaped, you have to see the wartime shadow of London.
From the Blitz to the overseas campaigns, many memorials, museums and buildings give insight into the tragedy, heroism and toll that both World War One and World War Two took on the city. With much of the UK capital shaped by the conflicts of the 20th century, we thought we’d give a few handy pointers for the World War focused sites that Shaftesbury Hotel London guests can explore during their stay.
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum London branch is located in the Oval area of south London and gives visitors a unique insight into the history of the British military. From the Victorian heights of the British Empire to the world wars of the 20th century, the Imperial War Museum of London provides exhibitions, artworks and artefacts that explore the UK armed forces in all its forms.
Churchill War Rooms
Located beneath the Treasury building in Whitehall, the Churchill War Rooms are a large complex of bunkers and communications outposts that served as the command rooms for the British during World War Two. As part of the Imperial War Museum organisation, this complex of rooms have been refurbished to resemble their use as a command centre and living facilities for Churchill, his family and his associates. As a riveting example of British military ingenuity, and the legacy left by Winston Churchill, this is a one of a kind tourist attraction for guests at the Hyde Park International who want to learn more about London during the Second World War.
Kinder transport Memorial
The Kindertransport Memorial was unveiled in 2006 in association with the World Jewish Relief organisation. This bronze statue commemorates the ten thousand Jewish children who escaped Nazi persecution and were orphaned by the holocaust. Located at the entrance of Liverpool Street Station, this memorial depicts the tragedy of World War Two that befell those living outside of the UK.
National Army Museum
The National Army Museum in Chelsea is one of the most in-depth explorations of the British Military available to the public today. Located in Chelsea, the museum is easily reachable for guests at the Grand Royale London Hyde Park and explores the history of the British Army from the English Civil War up until the modern day.
This branch if the Imperial War Museum is located just in front of Tower Bridge and offers up an in-depth exploration of a real World War 2 battleship. Having been used during the British Naval Blockade of 1939, the ship was struck by a German mine but was rebuilt with increased firepower and ready for action 1942. The HMS Belfast then assisted in Soviet convoys to the Arctic, the Battle of North Cape and in the Normandy Landings of 1944. Today, the ship has become a museum which allows guests to explore its living quarters, quarter deck and armoury.
Located just outside of London in the North West area of Colindale, the RAF Museum is an aerodrome and hangar that has been repurposed as a Royal Airforce Museum. Having originally been used as an RAF Station, the museum consists of replicas and authentic aircraft used by the Royal Airforce, as well as stories pertaining to the history of the RAF in general.
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum is a museum in Greenwich that commemorates and displays the history of British sea travel. Alongside the area having an historic legacy of ships and sailing, the museum displays medals and artefacts from many of the ships in the navy and merchant navy of the British Empire. These include “war trophies” from the German Naval Academy Murwik, from which it has possessed paintings, flags and ship models during the Second World War.
With many of London’s buildings damaged or even obliterated during the Blitz of World War Two, there are many walking tours across the city that guests at Shaftesbury hotel London packages can take. Providing in depth knowledge into areas affected by the Blitz, the Blitzwalker tour, in particular, provides a deeper understanding of just how much the Luftwaffe bombings changed the city.
Animals in War Memorial
This large marble slab in Hyde Park is a loving commemoration to the many animals that served the Allies during World War Two and lost their lives in the line of duty. From horses to carrier pidgeons, this 2004 unveiled memorial is an intimate sign of respect.
War Horse Musical on the West End
Now based at the Wembley Park Theatre, War Horse is a West End show that was adapted from the book by Michael Morpurgo. The story centres around a horse bought by the British Army that serves during World War One, and the many people the animal encounters. As an engaging, entertaining and educational way to introduce young people to the horrors of the Great War, War Horse is a perfect vehicle for both education and heart-wrenching drama.
The Cenotaph is a memorial just outside of Whitehall that commemorates the many lost lives of the Great War. Now designated as the UK’s official war memorial, the Cenotaph was designed and unveiled in 1920 by revered architect Edward Lutyens, and made from British Portland stone. In the shape of a rectangle, the block of white has inscribed on it “the Glorious Dead” in respect of those lost during both the Great War and those that came after it.