Exhibition examines attacks on cathedrals during Second World War
The restoration of cathedrals in Coventry and Dresden after the Second World War is being explored as part of an exhibition on culture and heritage in war.
The What Remains exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London looks at why cultural heritage is attacked during war and the ways people save, protect and restore what has been targeted.
The exhibition includes more than 50 photographs, oral histories, documents, objects and artworks.
Part of the display, curated in partnership with Historic England, looks at the different ways in which Coventry Cathedral and Dresden Frauenkirche were rebuilt and restored following the conflict in which they were both ruined.
In Coventry, to remember the loss of life and heritage, the cathedral was left in ruins and a new building constructed, while in Dresden the church was left in ruins for more than 50 years and opened after restoration in 2004.
For one veteran, 97-year-old Frank Tooley, who lives in Manchester, the damage done to Coventry Cathedral and city had a significant impact on him, prompting him to join the fight in the air.
He witnessed the aftermath of the bombing as he hitchhiked home from leave, saying: “I went through Coventry and saw what had happened, and thought ‘hell’s bells, this is going to be an air war’.”
Of the ruined cathedral, he said: “I saw how that was, it just knocked me for six.”
On his return from leave, he applied for air gunner training, but was instead transferred on to pilot navigation bombing (PNB) training.
He flew 22 missions, including in the third wave of the bombing of Dresden, which destroyed the historic city and killed thousands.
“It was just a mass of fire,” he remembers, but said he did not think about the death and destruction “until much later” when he became a father.
He added: “I was no hero, I was scared on many occasions, we were flakked almost every time we went over, every day or night.
But he said: “We knew what we were doing, we were all volunteers.”
Now he talks about his experiences with schoolchildren at IWM Manchester.
What Remains is a free exhibition at IWM London, curated in partnership with Historic England, and forms part of IWM’s Culture Under Attack season. It runs from July 5 2019 to January 5 2020.