Transforming IWM London

Collections in Context

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  • Image of volunteers raising money for the family of one of the victims of 9/11

    On the morning of 11 September 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger planes in the United States. Two planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing both towers to collapse. A third...

  • Image of a Lancaster B Mark I of 617 Squadron

    After the success of the Ruhr dams raid in May 1943, 617 Squadron was retained by RAF Bomber Command for specialist precision bombing operations. It experimented with new bomb sights, target marking techniques and colossal new 'earthquake' bombs...

  • Image of King George VI and Prime Minister, Cement Atlee

    The 1945 election was the first general election to be held in Britain since November 1935. It was held on 5 July 1945 with the result announced three weeks later on 26 July 1945 to allow the votes of those serving overseas to be counted. From May 1940...

  • Image of a British combined services police patrol in Crater, Aden

    In 1839 Britain established a territory in Aden, a small area in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, to provide a base for ships heading to India. In 1931 Aden was made a Crown Colony in defiance of neighbouring warlords who sought to reclaim old...

  • Image of rug made by Afghan refugees

    For more than a hundred years, British soldiers, diplomats, and spies and their Russian counterparts competed for influence over Afghanistan in what became known as ‘the Great Game.’ Britain fought wars in Afghanistan between 1838 and 1842, 1878 and 1880...

  • Image of a wooden figure of a French air ace

    Aviation was one of the most romanticised elements of the First World War. 'Air aces' in particular achieved celebrity status both during and after the war. French newspapers first coined the term 'l'as' to describe the high-scoring fighter pilot Adolphe...

  • Image of an Anderson shelter standing intact, surrounded by debris

    During the late 1930s, the British government began to prepare the civilian population for war. As well as the widely expected and feared bombing raids, it was also thought that poison gas might be used against civilians. Gas masks were issued in 1938...

  • Image of an RAF Handley Page Halifax Mk III bomber over an oil refinery target

    The Second World War witnessed a major leap in the effectiveness of military aircraft. Advances in technology permitted bigger, faster and more capable designs. Radar provided the means to fly and fight in the dark, and the first jet aircraft were in...

  • Image of Douglas Boston light bombers flying low over the Tunisian desert

    When war commenced in North Africa in June 1940, Air Headquarters Egypt immediately mounted bombing sorties against Italian targets in Cyrenaica and helped repel the Italian offensive into Egypt. The RAF was initially under-strength and equipped with the...

  • Image of painting by Anna Airy depicting a shell forge.

    A contemporary of William Orpen, Anna Airy trained at the Slade School of Art. She was one of the first women war artists, employed by the newly founded Imperial War Museum in 1918. Although a well-respected and successful female artist of her generation...

  • Image of a member of the Sturm Abteilung giving the Nazi salute

    The Nazis had made clear their hatred of Jews from as early as 1920. Their vision was of a German race cleansed of what they regarded as an alien species. After Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, the Nazis immediately began to enact laws which...

  • Image of signatories to the Munich Agreement

    The name given to Britain’s policy in the 1930s of allowing Hitler to expand German territory unchecked, appeasement was instituted in the hope of avoiding war. Most closely associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, it is now widely...

  • Image of convoy PQ17 assembled in Iceland

    After Germany invaded the Soviet Union (Russia) on 22 June 1941, the Soviet leader, Stalin, demanded help, and the western Allies provided supplies. The most direct route was by sea, around northern Norway to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel....

  • Image of troops on the Western Front hearing the news of the armistice

    In the autumn of 1918 the Central Powers were exhausted. Their armies were defeated and their hungry citizens were beginning to rebel. As early as 29 September Ludendorff decided that a cessation of hostilities must be sought. The need became more urgent...

  • Image of a Matilda tank in the desert, 1940

    The open nature of warfare in North Africa accentuated the importance of armoured fighting vehicles and artillery. British tank design was governed by tactical principles which assigned slow but well-protected 'I' tanks to support the infantry, while...

  • Image of a Kodak Medallist 1 camera

    When war broke out in September 1939, just one Army photographer, Geoffrey Keating, and one cameraman, Harry Rignold, accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France. On 24 October 1941, the Army agreed to form a corps of trained photographers...

  • Image of HMS Resolution, Britain’s first Polaris submarine, and its Captain

    In August 1945 atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hastening the end of the Second World War and heralding the birth of the atomic age. International attempts to control the development of nuclear technology...

  • Photograph of three Avro Lancasters flying in formation above the clouds

    The Avro Lancaster, a four-engine heavy bomber, is the most famous and iconic bomber aircraft of the Second World War. The Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick and developed from the twin-engine Avro Manchester. In place of the Manchester’s unreliable...

  • Image of a painting of fires burning across the city of Bath

    In 1942, in retaliation for an RAF bombing raid on the German town of Lübeck, the Luftwaffe launched a series of destructive raids against historic towns and cities in Britain. These attacks were termed the 'Baedeker' raids after the famous German travel...

  • Image of a Hawker Hurricane

    The Battle of Britain was the decisive air campaign fought over southern England in the summer of 1940. The RAF won a famous victory over the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), which made an invasion of Britain all but impossible and boosted the morale of the...

  • Image of British tanks assembled for the Battle of Cambrai

    At dawn on 20 November 1917, the British Third Army launched an attack towards Cambrai using innovative methods that were to become a common feature of the fighting on the Western Front in 1918. The assault utilised the largest number of tanks yet...

  • Image of Lieutenant-General Montgomery in Cairo, August 1942

    At 9.40pm on Friday 23 October 1942, the Battle of El Alamein began with a four-hour ground and air bombardment. As it subsided, the troops began their advance. In the first phase of the battle, (24-25 October 1942), known as 'Break-In', XXX Corps began...

  • Image of German battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz

    The Battle of Jutland was the only time that the British and German fleets of 'dreadnought' battleships actually came to blows. It was a confused and bloody action involving 250 ships and around 100,000 men. The German commander, Admiral Scheer, planned...

  • Image of painting by George Plante depicting a rescue ship in the Atlantic

    Britain depended on vital supplies from North America and the Empire. These had to be transported in merchant ships across the Atlantic Ocean, where they could be attacked by German submarines (U-boats) and warships. They were grouped into convoys...

  • Image of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee

    Victory in the Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval engagement of the war, was a great boost to British morale during the ‘Phoney War’. When war broke out, the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, commanded by Captain Hans Langsdorff, was...

  • Image of painting by Sir William Orpen depicting view of the German front line

    A joint operation between British and French forces, the Battle of the Somme was intended to achieve a decisive victory over the Germans on the Western Front after 18 months of trench deadlock. For many in Britain, the resulting 1916 battle remains the...

  • Image of a German soldier taking cover in a shallow fold in the ground

    The Battle of Verdun, fought between the Germans and the French throughout most of 1916, was arguably the most influential battle of the Great War and had enormous consequences on subsequent Allied strategies. The battle began in February 1916 with...

  • Image of a German 20 Deutsche Mark note

    Known as Operation 'Plainfare' by the British and Operation 'Vittles' by the Americans, the Berlin Airlift was the first major confrontation between the East and the West. The divided city of Berlin lay deep in Soviet territory, connected to West Germany...

  • Image of the Berlin Wall with the Brandenburg Gate behind it

    For almost 30 years, the Berlin Wall stood as a physical symbol of the ideological divisions within Europe during the Cold War. At the end of the Second World War in 1945, Germany had been divided into American, British, French and Soviet zones. Berlin...

  • Image of a drawing of Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by bombs

    The 'Blitz' – from the German term Blitzkrieg (lightning war) - was the sustained campaign of aerial bombing attacks on British towns and cities carried out by the Luftwaffe from September 1940 until May 1941. Sporadic bombing raids had begun in summer...

  • Image of captured Polish troops in Warsaw, 1939

    Blitzkrieg ('Lightning War') was the method of offensive warfare responsible for Nazi Germany’s military successes in the early years of the war. Combined forces of tanks, motorised infantry and artillery penetrated an opponent’s defences on a narrow...

  • Image of German propaganda poster from 1918

    The war on the Western Front had become one of attrition as 1917 drew to a close. The French Army was exhausted, having borne the brunt of the Allied effort and the trauma of Verdun. The British were beginning to suffer manpower shortages by early 1918,...

  • Image of drawing by Christopher Nevinson depicting women queuing for food

    Britain went to war on 4 August 1914. The German invasion of Belgium, the independence of which Britain had guaranteed in 1839, united the nation behind the Liberal government of Herbert Asquith. Many in Britain, as in the other warring nations, expected...

  • Image of painting by Henry Carr depicting an incendiary air-raid with explosions

    When Britain went to war on 3 September 1939 there was none of the 'flag-waving patriotism' of August 1914. The British people were now resigned to the fact that Hitler had to be stopped by force. The first eight months of the war were a time of official...

  • Image of the hallways of the Cabinet War Rooms

    From 1939 to 1945, a group of basement offices in Whitehall served as the nerve centre of Britain’s war effort. Known as the Cabinet War Rooms, the complex was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Prime Minister Winston...

  • Image of a dummy tank under construction

    Visual deception played a crucial part in Allied operations in North Africa and the Middle East, where the desert terrain offered little opportunity for concealment. In 1941 the filmmaker Geoffrey Barkas was made Director of Camouflage at GHQ Cairo....

  • Image of Boy Scouts, Cubs and Sea Scouts collecting waste paper for salvage

    The Second World War brought many changes to the lives of children in Britain. For some, the war was a time of fear and confusion that meant separation from families, the destruction of a home or even the loss of a parent. However, for others, these...

  • Image of Father Christmas handing out a present

    Six years of war brought many changes to familiar festive rituals. Christmas celebrations often had to be scaled down or adjusted as restrictions and shortages took hold. For many families, the most difficult part of a wartime Christmas would be spending...

  • Image of a painting depicting British women andcChildren interned in a Japanese prison camp

    Over 130,000 Allied civilians - 50,000 men, 42,000 women and 40,000 children - were interned in the Far East; the majority of these were Dutch nationals from the Netherlands East Indies. They were held in more than 350 camps across the Far East....

  • Image of a Make Do and Mend poster

    Clothes rationing came into effect in Britain from 1 June 1941. It lasted, albeit in a gradually reduced format, until March 1949. As with food rationing, the main aim of the scheme was to ensure fair shares. But it was also intended to reduce consumer...

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