Entering our vast Atrium and you are met with objects that bear witness to the force, fury and physicality of war. Each has a story to tell – from the First World War artillery piece that became a memorial for the men who fought with it, to the wreckage of the Land Rover operated on the Gaza Strip by the press agency Reuters.
BRITISH SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE Mk.Ia
The Spitfire is one of the most famous aircraft of the Second World War and is often seen as a symbol of Victory in Britain.
Spitfire Mk Ia, R6915, served with No. 609 (West Riding) RAF Squadron and flew 57 combat missions during the Battle of Britain, flown by 13 different pilots, only 6 of whom survived the Second World War.
Reuters Land Rover
This Reuters news agency Land Rover was operating in the Gaza Strip near the Karni Crossing when on 26 August 2006 when hit by a rocket (or a substantial fragment thereof) fired by an Israeli helicopter.
One occupant, Sabbah Hmaida (journalist in the passenger seat), was badly injured in the legs, while the other, Fadel Shana (cameraman), suffered minor injuries.
Reuters made an official complaint to the Israeli authorities, asking why it was fired upon when it was so clearly marked as a Press vehicle.
Two years later Fadel Shana was killed when the marked Press vehicle he was travelling in (again in Gaza) was destroyed by an Israeli tank shell.
13-Pounder Néry Gun
The 13 pounder Mk. I Field Gun of 'L' Battery was used during the First World War at Nery, France on 1 September 1914.
The position, attacked by IVth German Cavalry Division, was heavily shelled and suffered severe casualties. Captain E. K. Bradbury (posthumous), Battery Sergeant-Major G. T. Dorrell and Sergeant D. Nelson were awarded Victoria Crosses for their part in defending the Gun in battle.
The Soviet-designed T-34, produced in 1940, was one of the best performing tanks of the Second World War. Manufactured in huge numbers, its introduction greatly influenced the war on the Eastern Front, in favour of Soviet Russia’s Red Army.
The T-34 was a major leap in tank design, achieving a crucial balance between armour, firepower and mobility - that eluded British tank designers for so long, and came as a complete shock to the Germans when it was first encountered in July 1941.
It spurred the Germans to revitalise their own barely adequate tank force and embark on a technological arms race in which Britain quickly fell behind.
This car was destroyed by a suicide car bombing against the Mutanabbi Street book market in Baghdad, at a time of growing sectarian violence, almost four years after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
It was later exported from Iraq and exhibited in the Netherlands, before being acquired by British Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller.
Deller toured the car across the United States, in company with a former American soldier and an Iraqi expatriate, as a means of starting conversations about Iraq.
It was donated to IWM and has been exhibited in the IWM London Atrium since 2010.
A streamlined rocket that stood as tall as a four-storey building, the V2 was highly advanced technology. Powered by a rocket engine burning a mix of alcohol-water and liquid oxygen, the V2 blasted its way to the edge of space, before falling back to Earth at supersonic speed.
V2 rockets were manufactured by forced labour, tens of thousands of civilians from occupied Europe were subjected to a brutal regime while working for Nazi Germany.
The development of this long range ballistic missile had a lasting effect on the nature of warfare.
Developed in the 1960s,the BAE Harrier GR9 was the first operational fixed-wing aircraft to be capable of VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) and was nicknamed the “jump jet".
This Harrier Jet flew patrols over Northern Iraq in the early 1990s and was twice deployed to Afghanistan.
Ohka kamikaze aircraft
A Japanese single-seat suicide attack (Kamikaze) aircraft, the Ohka (Cherry Blossom) was employed by Japan against Allied ships towards the end of the Second World War.
The Ohka replaces the V1 flying bomb, which is on display in the Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries.
As the Second World War approached its final year, the Royal Air Force’s elite 617 Squadron was already famous.
In May 1943 Lancaster bombers had carried out the ‘Dambusters raid’ to destroy several huge dams in Germany’s Ruhr valley
In January 1944, 617 Squadron moved to RAF Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. The Officer’s Mess was in nearby Petwood House. The bar was fronted by barrels, two are now on displayed at IWM London as Witnesses to War.
Between operations, the aircrew would laugh, joke, relax and share fears and confidences in front of these barrels before the war started again next day.
WOODEN TRAINING HORSE
At the outbreak of the First World War, the British Army took 165,000 horses with them to the Western Front, to ride and to pull wagons and guns.
Soldiers depended on these horses and needed to know how to look after them properly. This magnificent wooden horse was used to train new recruits.
Saddles, bridles and reins all needed to be correctly fitted or they might confuse or hurt the horse. Men could practise unperturbed on this life-size mannequin. Training was everything. One day it might save theirs or someone else’s life.