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Imperial War Museum Announces New Major Family Exhibition. A Family in Wartime

Take a step back in time to the Second World War and experience life on the Home Front in London, through the eyes of the Allpress family. A Family in Wartime, IWM London’s new major free family exhibition – will explore the lives of William and Alice Allpress and their ten children and what life in London was like during the war.

On 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. For every family in Britain, life would never be the same again. While the Allpress family is unique, their experiences mirror many aspects of the lives of a whole generation of British people during the Second World War. Tracing their journey from the outbreak of war, the exhibition aims to bring home the reality of events such as the Blitz and evacuation.

First hand audio accounts from members of the Allpress family, together with family photographs and an intricate model of their family home at 69 Priory Grove, South London, will present a personal and intriguing insight into ordinary family life during this time of great uncertainty.

Discover how the Allpress family, like many others during the Second World War, adapted quickly to a totally new way of life. Brothers William and Harry Allpress served in the forces during the war. At the age of 20, Harry, the last surviving member of the immediate Allpress family, was called up into the Army in September 1939 and by May 1940 he was evacuated from Dunkirk with the rest of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). He later returned to France after the D-Day landings in June 1944. For his bravery and leadership, he was awarded the Military Medal.
The girls of the family had a very different experience, Nellie, Eva and Betty Allpress, all became members of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) which was founded in 1938 to involve women in civil defence. Typical tasks included assisting in the evacuation of children, organising clothing exchanges, running rest centres and offering practical and emotional support to those affected by air raids.

Visitors to the exhibition can view everyday household items from the era, such as stirrup pumps which people were encouraged to keep in case of incendiary bombs and cookery books which gave advice on how to cook with limited rations. Newspaper clippings, propaganda posters and film footage will help piece together a picture of life from the outbreak of war, from the everyday struggles, to the end of the war and the VE day celebrations.

As well as everyday items, a breathtaking display of artworks from the IWM collection will showcase creative interpretations of wartime living. Highlights include Henry Moore’s ghostly drawing of women and children settling in for a night on a London tube platform, Wilfred Haines’ striking image of a flying bomb raid and in contrast Leila Faithful’s nostalgic oil painting of evacuees growing cabbages in an English country garden.

From Make-do and Mend to hiding in an Anderson Shelter in the back garden during a bombing raid and waving goodbye to your loved ones as they went away to fight on the front line, A Family in Wartime will demonstrate the bravery and endurance of ordinary people living on the Home Front.

Diane Lees, Director General, IWM said:
“A Family in Wartime represents a whole generation of people who lived through one of the most challenging times the nation has ever faced. With the eyes of the world on London this summer, we are delighted to offer visitors of all ages a free exhibition which explores the impact of war on one family’s life and demonstrates the spirit and resilience of those living on the Home Front during the war.” –

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