The new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, ‘Outbreak‘, commemorates 70 years since the start of The Second World War. When I saw the poster on the tube this morning, it took me back 20 years to primary school, when we did a whole term’s class project on the war: gas mask boxes, rationing, evacuation, Vera Lynn, &ct.
That was for the 50th anniversary, which still seemed fairly recent. Seventy years seems a much more distant time. The experience of learning about the Second World War in 2009, must be a little like learning about the First World War back in 1989: I am reminded of Kottke’s Timeline Twins.
I note that, since the First World War lasted from 1914-19, and the Second World War from 39-45, there is never a year when we are without a x10 year anniversary for some event or other in one of those great conflicts. That’s a good thing: lest we forget. But I cannot help but wonder at what point the anniversaries start to get less attention. The Battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar only seem to raise interest on the x50 year markers; Banockburn, Bosworth Field, Naseby, The Boyne and Culloden only on the centenary.