Discover stories of war and conflict

This section of the website features stories that offer an insight into people’s experiences of conflict, from the First World War to the present day.

Find out why the world went to war in 1914, how the Battle of Britain was fought and learn more about what is happening in Ukraine.
 

Watch now

Discover the stories behind significant historical moments and find out more about IWM’s extraordinary collection through our three video series: IWM Stories, Duxford in Depth and Film Favourites.

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Watch Online: IWM Stories

IWM Stories

IWM Stories tackle the big conflict questions that you want answered. From First World War tanks to Churchill's election disaster.

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IWM Duxford

Duxford in Depth

Duxford in Depth is a new video series from IWM. Get up close with some of the extraordinary aircraft and tanks on display at IWM Duxford, as we go behind the scenes and into the cockpits with our experts.

Camerman war still Projected Picture Trust
Film

Film Favourites from the Archives

Discover our Film Favourites series in which curators talk about their highlights from IWM's vast film collection. 

First World War

Elsie Knocker (left) and Mairi Chisholm in Pervyse, Belgium in 1917.
IWM Q2663
Women's experiences

5 Inspirational Stories Of Women In The First World War

From ambulance drivers to translators, women served Britain in a variety of ways during the First World War. Discover their stories now.

Sommerschau über Europa 1915 [Summer Show over Europe 1915]
IWM (Art.IWM PST 6966)
First World War

5 Things You Need To Know About The First World War

Over 30 nations declared war between 1914 and 1918. Over 65 million men volunteered or were conscripted to fight in mass citizen armies and an estimated 16 million soldiers and civilians were left dead and countless others physically and psychologically wounded. 

German infantry crossing the Place Charles Rogier in Brussels as civilians look on following the invasion of Belgium, August 1914.
IWM (Q 88431)
First World War

How The World Went To War In 1914

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian-backed terrorist. 

Gallipoli

A map shows the British plan to invade the Gallipoli peninsula. Winston Churchill is superimposed on top.
First World War

What went wrong at Gallipoli?

On the 9th of January 1916, the last remaining Allied troops on the Gallipoli peninsula were evacuated. Despite catastrophic predictions, the withdrawal went off without a hitch and the entire force escaped with only a few casualties. It was the only bright spark in a campaign marked by failure. In this episode of IWM Stories, Alan Wakefield explores what went wrong at Gallipoli and why the evacuations were the only success.

British troops and their artillery guns being evacuated from Suvla Bay on rafts in daylight, December 1915.
© IWM (Q 13637)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Gallipoli

Episode 14: At dawn on 25 April 1915, Allied troops landed at Gallipoli and spent months on the small peninsula of land guarding the Dardanelles Straits in modern-day Turkey. Hear soldiers recall what conditions there were like during some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

Officers of a Field Ambulance at their mess, Gully Beach
© IWM (Q 13360)
First World War

Nine Reasons Why Gallipoli Was One Of The Worst Fronts Of The First World War

Of all the varied parts of the world where British and Commonwealth forces were deployed during the First World War, Gallipoli was remembered by its veterans as one of the worst places to serve.

Home Front

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Second World War

Evacuees of the Second World War

Evacuation in Britain during the Second World War amounted to the biggest mass movement of people in British history, with around 4 million people leaving their homes to escape the Blitz. How did it feel to be an evacuee, a parent or a volunteer host?

'Dr Carrot', a bright orange bespectacled carrot, skips left to right carrying a top hat and a doctor's briefcase marked 'Vit- A'. text: DOCTOR CARROT the Children's best friend.
Second World War

11 Amazing Home Front Posters From The Second World War

From 'A handkerchief in time saves nine' to 'Plan ahead - allow for growing', the Home Front posters of the Second World War give a fascinating insight into life in Britain during the Second World War.

 

A service at a street shrine outside St Agnes' church in Acton Lane, London. Street shrines became an increasingly common expression of remembrance for the dead, particularly in working class areas, as the casualty list lengthened during and after the Battle of the Somme.
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Life On The Home Front

Episode 35: The First World War had a profound effect on the lives of civilians. In Britain, people found themselves being gradually drawn into a conflict that had, at first, seemed remote. Hear about the main ways the war affected civilians.

Second World War

Emperor Hirohito superimposed on a map showing the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies which Japan targeted.
Second World War

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

Japan attacked the U.S Pacific Fleet on the 7th of December 1941, but what led to that decision? Why did the Japanese attack the USA? - The answer is oil. In this episode of IWM Stories, Adrian Kerrison looks at why the Japanese decided to attack Pearl Harbor.

Lieutenant Vernon R Richards of the 361st Fighter Group fliying his P-51 Mustang (B7-R, serial number 44-13357) nicknamed "Tika IV".
© IWM (FRE 6210)
Second World War

15 Rare Colour Photographs from The Second World War

Colour film was a scarce commodity during the Second World War, making the reproduction of printed works both difficult and expensive. Here are 15 of the images that survived from The Second World War, revealed for the first time and in great detail the world as the people in them would have seen it.

Adolf Hitler at the annual harvest festival at Bückeberg in 1934.
© IWM (MH 11040)
Second World War

How Europe Went To War In 1939

The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in human history. Years of international tension and aggressive expansion by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany culminated in the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later.

The Holocaust

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Holocaust

How did the Holocaust happen?

From the mid-1930s until the end of the Second World War, the Nazi regime carried out a campaign of sustained antisemitic persecution that developed into a coordinated programme of mass murder. This genocide is now known as the Holocaust. This video is part one of an introduction to this complex history.

A desolate moorland, scattered with boulders, under a dark sky. A woman in a blue dress is seated, looking at something she holds in the palm of her hand. A Madonna-like figure with a grey cloak draped around her and covering her head, stands over her, holding a baby in her arms. In the distance there is a small isolated tower, a church or an industrial building.
IWM (Art.IWM ART 16785)
Holocaust

Artists' responses to the Holocaust

The artworks shown here explore a range of reactions to the Holocaust – from the deeply personal responses of survivors to the more documentary approach of official war artists recording the sights of Bergen-Belsen after its liberation in April 1945.

A passer-by giving money to two destitute children on the street in the ghetto.
© IWM (HU 60653)
Holocaust

Daily Life in the Warsaw Ghetto

On 2 October 1940, Ludwig Fischer, Governor of the Warsaw District in the occupied General Government of Poland, signed the order to officially create a Jewish district (ghetto) in Warsaw. It was to become the largest ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Battle of Britain

Supermarine Spitfire Mk I of No. 19 Squadron at Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire, 21 September 1940.
© IWM (CH 1447)
Second World War

9 Iconic Aircraft From The Battle Of Britain

Learn about the RAF Fighter Command’s aircraft during the Battle of Britain from the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, to the Bf 109 (named the best fighter in the world), the 'Flying Pencil' and the infamous ‘Stuka’.

The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF): Aircraftwomen learning how to handle a barrage balloon at the training station at Cardington.
Battle of Britain

Support from the Ground in the Battle of Britain

Around 3,000 pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, but thousands of other people helped defend Britain in the summer of 1940.

Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park (1892-1975)
Battle of Britain

Who's Who in the Battle of Britain

Learn more about the men who played a vital role in Britain’s struggle for survival in the summer of 1940, including Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, Hermann Göring, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Sydney Camm and R J Mitchell.

Cabinet War Rooms

Four military officers sit at desks while working in an underground bunker in 1945. There are maps pinned to the walls behind them.
©IWM (HU 58517)
Second World War

How Sugar Cubes Reveal Churchill War Rooms Well Preserved Past

When IWM took over the Churchill War Rooms in the early 80s, three sugar cubes were discovered, hidden away in a desk drawer of the Map Room.

Three sugar cubes on white paper belonging to Wing Commander John Heagerty, discovered in the Map Room in the 1980s.
© IWM SITE CWR 389
Winston Churchill

9 Secrets from Churchill War Rooms

Discover some of the hidden secrets and stories of Churchill War Rooms. 

Weather news board in Churchill War Rooms
IWM HU 43777
Second World War

A Short History of The Cabinet War Rooms

During the Second World War, a group of basement offices in Whitehall served as the centre of Britain’s war effort. The complex, known as the Cabinet War Rooms, was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

D-Day

The Supreme Command of the Allied Expeditionary Force, 1944
© IWM (TR 1629)
Second World War

Why D-Day Was So Important to Allied Victory

The invasion of northern France in 1944 was the most significant victory of the Western Allies in the Second World War. The German Army suffered a catastrophe greater than that of Stalingrad, the defeat in North Africa or even the massive Soviet summer offensive of 1944.

Looking down the quayside following the D-Day landings, with military personnel and vehicles, including a bicycle. French Tricolores and Union Jacks are hanging from buildings. A rifle and grenades lie in the gutter.
© IWM Art.IWM ART LD (4466)
D-Day

This War Artist Captured D-Day in Stunning Watercolours

Anthony Gross was among the first artists to be commissioned as a British official war artist in the Second World War. He was also one of the longest serving. In 1944, Gross returned to Britain in time to witness the build-up to the momentous D-Day landings. 

Troops of the US 7th Corps wading ashore on Utah Beach.
© IWM (EA 51048)
Second World War

The 10 Things you Need to Know about D-Day

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.

Victory

Two small girls waving their flags in the rubble of Battersea, snapped by an anonymous American photographer.
© IWM HU 49414
Second World War

Voices of War: VE Day

Listen to our four minute soundscape and reflect on the experiences of those who witnessed the events of VE Day in 1945.

A truck of revellers passing through the Strand, London, 8 May 1945.
© IWM HU 41808
Second World War

What You Need To Know About VE Day

8 May 1945 – VE (Victory in Europe) Day – was one that remained in the memory of all those who witnessed it. It meant an end to nearly six years of a war that had cost the lives of millions; had destroyed homes, families, and cities; and had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.

Victory parade in Berlin, July 1945. Mr Churchill about to set off in brake to inspect troops before Victory parade in Charlottenburgerchausee.
© IWM A 30121
Second World War

Beyond VE Day: The Events of Summer 1945

The photographs of smiling faces on VE Day conceal the challenges and struggles that still lay ahead in 1945.

Cold War

Berlin Wall
© IWM (CT 2229)
Cold War

What was the Berlin Wall and how did it fall?

The Berlin Wall came to represent the ideological divisions of the Cold War. At the end of the Second World War, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation under the control of the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Berlin, although located within the Soviet zone, was also split amongst the four powers.

A Blackburn Buccaneer aircraft of 800 Naval Air Squadron from HMS EAGLE on patrol over Aden and Khormaksar airfield, during the withdrawal of British troops on 29 November 1967.
© IWM (A 35119)
Conflict since 1945

A Short History Of The Aden Emergency

In 1839 Britain captured the town of Aden (now part of Yemen) in the south of the Arabian Peninsula.

Here we explore a short history of the Aden emergency. 

Sound Room
© IWM (DC 936)
Cold War

Life On Board A British Nuclear Submarine

The dangerous and claustrophobic life on board a submarine required the ship's company of 120 men to work as a close team.

Contemporary Conflict

Russian aircraft
© Russian Defence Ministry Press Service
Contemporary conflict

What happened to the air war in Ukraine?

In this video, we look at how Ukraine's air defences have created a denial of air space, and the history of surface to air missile systems, which has led to a lot of the SAMS being used in the war in Ukraine dating back to the Soviet era.

Saddam Hussein, Tony Blair and George Bush superimposed onto a map of Iraq
Contemporary conflict

Iraq War 2003 Explained

In this episode of IWM Stories, Chris Cooper explores the timeline of events that led from the 9/11 terror attacks to US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair invading Saddam Hussein's Iraq. 

Russian tank superimposed onto a map of Ukraine.
© Ukrainian Military TV under Creative Commons 4.0
Contemporary conflict

Why have Russian tanks struggled in Ukraine?

Russian tanks have taken heavy losses in Ukraine. Countless images of decapitated turrets and burnt-out wrecks have made headlines around the world with some proclaiming the death of the tank altogether. But is that really true?

Afghanistan

Afghans and British soldiers sit on board an RAF aircraft. The photograph is taken from slightly above.
UK MOD © 2021
Contemporary conflict

Afghanistan: Operation Pitting

In August 2021, British military personnel arrived in Afghanistan as part of a multinational non-combatant evacuation operation, code-named Operation Pitting, to evacuate British and eligible Afghan nationals from Kabul following the rapid military offensive by the resurgent Taliban to take control of the country.

British troops take cover during Operation Panchai Palang (panther’s claw) in 2009
© IWM HQUKTF-2009-063-0110
Afghanistan

Afghanistan War: How did 9/11 lead to a 20-year war?

After 20 years of conflict, the Taliban again claim to be in control of Afghanistan. In this video, we look at how the war in Afghanistan began, what Britain’s role was, and why the war lasted for 20 years.

John Lorimer
©IWM
Contemporary conflict

Afghanistan and the British Military

In spring 2014, IWM staff visited Afghanistan as part of IWM's Contemporary Conflicts Programme. In the individual accounts presented here, senior Army officers reflect on how the war in Afghanistan has affected the British military.

Women in Wartime

Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells: Singer Manufacturing Company, Clydebank, Glasgow, 1918
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2271)
Women's experiences

12 Things You Didn't Know About Women In The First World War

The First World War brought many changes in the lives of British women. It is often represented as having had a wholly positive impact, opening up new opportunities in the world of work and strengthening their case for the right to vote. The reality is more complex. 

Clothing is being issued by the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) from a Nissen hut damaged by an air raid at Abbeville, 22 May 1918.
© IWM (Q 7885)
Women's experiences

The Vital Role Of Women In The First World War

Pressure from women for their own uniformed service to assist the war effort began in August 1914. Many organisations sprang up, such as the Women’s Volunteer Reserve and Lady Londonderry’s Women’s Legion, which provided cooks for Army camps.

Women's Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford 1918, by Flora Lion
© IWM ART (4434)
Women's experiences

6 Stunning First World War Artworks By Women War Artists

The first British official war artists’ scheme was set up by the government in 1916. Although several female artists were approached either by the British War Memorials Committee or the Ministry of Information, none of them completed commissions for the official schemes.

Fashion

Women walk down a London street during the Second World War in 1941.
Fashion

How Clothes Rationing Affected Fashion In The Second World War

Clothes were rationed in Britain from 1 June 1941. This limited the amount of new garments people could buy until 1949, four years after the war's end.

Despite the limitations imposed by rationing, clothing retailers sought to retain and even expand their customer base during the Second World War.

2. Take advice from Mrs Sew and Sew
Second World War

10 Top Tips For Winning At 'Make Do And Mend'

The Second World War saw unprecedented government intervention into everyday life on the British home front. Clothes rationing began on 1 June 1941. Handmade and hand-repaired clothing became an essential part of wartime life. 

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© IWM
Fashion

What To Wear To A Wartime Wedding

Rationing, restrictions and the uncertainty of the Second World War were just some of the challenges faced by couples marrying in wartime. But despite wartime privations, these couples made their big days special with help of families, friends and their communities.