IWM London

Free exhibition

This display houses the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses, alongside a significant collection of George Crosses. Discover over 250 stories of people who faced adversity and performed acts of bravery. All were awarded either a Victoria Cross (VC) or George Cross (GC) - the highest recognitions of bravery that can be given by Britain and, for many years, the Commonwealth.

Explore the concept of bravery and what motivates people to undertake acts of heroism.  Objects on display include the extensively damaged backpack worn by Lance Corporal Matt Croucher GC who, in Afghanistan 2008, threw himself onto a grenade saving the lives of his comrades. The backpack also helped to save his own life. You can also see the diving suit worn by James Magennis VC, who left his submarine in order to free explosive charges that had got caught during an attack on a Japanese boat in 1945.

Pick up a kids' stamper trail inside the gallery or use the interactive screens to explore seven ‘qualities of bravery’ including boldness, aggression, leadership, skill, sacrifice, initiative and endurance with your family.

What is the Victoria Cross and George Cross?

Victoria Cross and George Cross

The Victoria Cross is awarded to recongnise acts of great courage in the heat of battle under enemy fire. The George Cross is given for acts of gallantry carried out in peacetime, or in war but away from the intensity of battle.

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Uncover stories of bravery

A photograph of Lieutenant Odette Marie-Céline Sansom who was awarded the George Cross
© IWM (HU 3213)
Lieutenant Odette Marie-Céline Sansom who was awarded the George Cross.

French-born Odette Sansom worked undercover in France during the Second World War, serving as a courier on behalf of the British Government, for Special Operations Executive (SOE).

In April 1943 she was captured and interrogated. Despite brutal torture by the Gestapo, she told them nothing, her silence saving the lives of many agents.

Sansom was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany in July 1944. She was treated harshly, once kept in the dark on her own for over three months. She survived the camp, later giving evidence against several of Ravensbrück's staff.

In 1946 she was awarded the George Cross (GC) for refusing to betray her fellow secret agents under torture. She became a national heroine and in 1950, a film was made about her. Sansom accepted her GC on behalf of all her comrades who did not survive the war.





Victoria Cross Winners

Ensign Violette Reine Szabo, George Cross, Croix de Guerre avec Palme, WTS/FANY, SOE. Violette Szabo served as a courier with F Section, SOE.
© IWM (HU 16541)
Who Was Violette Szabo?

Who Was Violette Szabo?

Violette Szabo (1921-1945) worked for 'F' Section in Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. During a mission in France she was captured and imprisoned by the Nazi's. She was executed in Ravensbrück concentration camp and posthumously awarded the George Cross, the highest honour given to civilians.

Replica of Johnson Beharry's Victoria Cross
Contemporary conflict

What Johnson Beharry's Victoria Cross Reveals about Modern Conflict

Johnson Gideon Beharry carried out two separate acts of great courage while serving in Iraq with the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment  – leading to him becoming the first living soldier in nearly half a century to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Discover what Johnson Beharry's Victoria Cross reveals about modern conflict.

Portrait of Parkash Singh, awarded the Victoria Cross: Burma, January 1943.
© IWM (MH 2601)
Courage and bravery

Major Parkash Singh VC

Parkash Singh (1913-1991) served in the Indian Army during the Second World War. He showed great courage under fire against the Japanese and was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). Parkash was born in the western Punjab in India (now in Pakistan).

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