IWM Stories is a video series from the Imperial War Museums that tackles big conflict questions. From the First World War to the present day, we look at some of history's most important conflicts and examine how they were won and lost. We're regularly sharing brand new IWM Stories on our YouTube Channel, so make sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Was Chamberlain wrong to appease Hitler?

Hitler with other signatories to the Munich Agreement, 29 September 1938. From left to right: the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini and the Italian Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano.
© IWM NYP 68066

Hitler and the Nazi party came to power in 1933. He soon crushed all political opposition and made himself dictator.

Europe’s leaders were desperate to avoid war. But were attempts to appease Hitler the right thing to do? 

Watch: Was Chamberlain wrong to appease Hitler? 

Episodes

Winston Churchill making his signature V sign
Second World War

Where does 'V for Victory' come from?

Winston's Churchill's V for Victory sign is perhaps one the most iconic of the Second World War, but where does it come from?

Clement Attlee in red and Winston Churchill in blue
Second World War

How did Churchill Lose the 1945 General Election

Winston Churchill is arguably Britain's greatest wartime leader, having led his country through its 'Darkest Hour' all the way to victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. So why, just months after VE Day, did he lose the 1945 General Election?

Adolf Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower
Second World War

Blitzkrieg Explained

In 1940, Hitler did the seemingly impossible. Within a matter of weeks, Germany had managed to take the entirety of France and send the British army back across the channel. This remarkable success was widely put down to their new tactic: Blitzkrieg or 'Lightning War'. So, what is Blitzkrieg and why was it so effective?

The first official photograph of a Tank on the Somme
First World War

Why do tanks have genders?

On 15 September 1916, tanks were used in combat for the first time at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. These early tanks slow and unreliable, shown by the fact that only 25 of the 49 tanks deployed actually moved forward at the start of the attack. But more strangely, half of those 25 tanks were male and the other half were female. So why do tanks have genders and why do we name weapons at all?

Female workers loading crates of soap
First World War

The forgotten animals of the First World War

The First World War was the first 'total war'. That meant that every facet of each nation was focused on the war effort and that nothing was out of reach. The victims of this new global conflict stretched beyond the soldiers in the trenches and the civilians caught in the crossfire. So who were the forgotten victims of the First World War and why were they so important?
 

British children with their saving certificates
First World War

How children helped pay for both world wars

Wars are expensive, world wars doubly so, and that meant governments were fighting for every penny. They raised taxes, introduced rationing, and took on loans. But after all that, they still had to borrow money from their own citizens in the form of War Bonds. So what is a War Bond and how did states their citizens, including children, to pay up?

A bomb thumbnail
Second World War

Why were Atomic Bombs Dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 brought an end to the Second World War, but at a terrible cost to the Japanese civilian population, and signalling the dawn of the nuclear age. What had led to the fateful decision to deploy these new weapons of mass destruction?

Sir Hugh Dowding in red superimposed onto a radar station
© IWM D 1417
Second World War

How Hugh Dowding and the RAF won the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain is often defined by images of Spitfires and Messerschmitts duelling in the skies. But what if the deciding factor in this fight for air supremacy was actually based on the ground? IWM Duxford Curator Craig Murray takes a look at the Dowding System and explains how it turned the battle decisively in Britain's favour.

Refugees leaving their homes in Bosnia
First World War

Why do Refugees leave their homes?

Since the First World War, countless lives have been shattered by conflict. Refugees across the globe have had to leave their homes and make journeys to settle somewhere else.

This is still happening today. But what drives this displacement? Why do people leave their homes?

Observer Corps thumbnail
© IWM
Second World War

How did the Observer Corps help win the Battle of Britain?

Just under 3,000 RAF aircrew risked their lives to face the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, yet on the ground, around 30,000 volunteers formed a highly-trained network of aircraft observers working around the clock to support the men in the air.

A Group of Pilots of No. 303 Fighter Squadron
© IWM CH 1533
Second World War

The Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain

The pilots who defended Britain against the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain came from across the globe. The largest foreign contingent to fight in the Battle of Britain were the Polish, and their contribution and skills during the battle have become legendary.

An officer of the 10th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) leads the way out of a sap and is being followed by the party.
Image: IWM (Q 5100)
First World War

Life in the trenches of the First World War

When it comes to the First World War there's one thing that instantly comes to mind - trenches. Muddy, rat-infested hell holes with death around every corner. Places so bad that only going over the top could be worse. Trenches dominate our perspective. But are our perceptions really accurate?

Winston Churchill visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral
Second World War

Could the Blitz have made Britain surrender?

London, Coventry, Manchester and many more were bombed. But could the Blitz have worked?

In this episode of IWM Stories, Senior Curator Ian Kikuchi answers that very question by looking at one the deadliest nights of the Blitz, the bombing of Coventry.

British troops and an armoured car in Ireland
First World War

When did the First World War really end?

What happened after World War One? What were the consequences of the First World War? When the First World War ended, Europe did not return to peace. In fact, by some estimates, the five years following 1918 were deadlier than the 4 years of war preceding it. In this week's episode of IWM Stories, Assistant Curator Geoffrey Spender takes a closer look at three of these conflicts; The Irish war of Independence, The Russian Revolution and The Greco-Turkish War.

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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?

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First World War

The Christmas Truce of 1914

The photographs, letters and interviews in IWM’s collection tell the real story of the Christmas Truce. In this video, Head of Documents and Sound Anthony Richards explains how the truce came about, its impact on the course of the First World War and why it never happened again after 1914.

Wounded soldiers at the Somme
© IWM
First World War

Top 10 most important battles of The First World War

Discover the 10 most important battles of the First World War from 1914-1918. From the longest, deadliest and most difficult battles of the First World War to the battles which would define nations and change warfare forever.

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Animals At War

7 Animals That Went To War

From dogs and horses to bears and pigs, animals have accompanied men and women into combat throughout history. As modes of transport and communication, protectors and companions, they have fulfilled a variety of roles at war. In this video, we take a look at seven animals that have fought and worked alongside humans on the battlefield over the past 100 years.

Nuremberg thumbnail
© IWM
Holocaust

Nuremberg Trials: Films that brought the Nazis to justice

The Nuremberg Trials were held at the end of the war to try the leading figures of the Nazi regime. This was the first time that international leaders had attempted to put another nation on trial for war crimes, and numerous innovations were introduced in the trials, including the extensive use of film. 

Archduke Franz Ferdinand superimposed on a newspaper announcing 'War with Germany'
First World War

The causes of the First World War

By the summer of 1914, Europe was in a crisis. Just a few weeks before, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, had been assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist. Now, the continent’s largest armies were mobilising against each other with new nations joining the fight seemly every week. The world watched with bated breath as Europe marched to war. So what happened? How did a seemingly insignificant scuffle in South-Eastern Europe become a World War? And why did Britain decide to get involved?

Winston Churchill superimposed on papers showing his 'We shall fight them on the beaches' speech.
Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill's Speeches | Why are they so good?

Winston Churchill has many famous speeches. From 'We shall fight on the beaches' and 'Their finest hour', to 'Blood, toil, tears, and sweat' and 'The few', Churchill's words have shaped how we remember the Second World War. But what made his speeches so special and how did his words affect the outcome of the Second World War?

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First World War

Did the First World War transform women's lives?

Delving into the IWM film and sound archives, we uncover some incredible true stories of the women who served and worked during the First World War.

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. 

Adolf Hitler in Blue and Josef Stalin in Red superimposed on a map of Operation Barbarossa
Second World War

Operation Barbarossa Explained: Why Hitler failed to defeat Russia

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Adolf Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. Beginning in June 1941, this blitzkrieg attack on Russia and its leader Joseph Stalin would ultimately decide the Second World War. In this episode of IWM Stories, John Delaney takes a look at why Operation Barbarossa failed with the help of archive film, photographs and battle maps.

A ship loading troops from Dunkirk's harbour mole while the city burns in the background
Second World War

Why the Dunkirk evacuations were an unexpected success

The allied evacuations from Dunkirk in 1940 are often described as a miracle. After Germany's Blitzkrieg swept through France and Low Countries expectations for Operation Dynamo were dismally low, and yet over 338,000 allied soldiers were saved. So how did they do it?

Split screen with the disastrous Dieppe landings on one side and a Mulberry Harbour on the other
Second World War

Mulberry Harbours explained: The invention that kept D-Day afloat

2 years before D-Day and Operation Overlord, the Allies mounted a daring rehearsal raid on the French port of Dieppe. The attack ended in disaster, but out of its ashes came one of the greatest unsung inventions of the Second World War, one that would keep the Allies in the fight when they returned to invade Normandy: the Mulberry Harbours.

HMS Belfast and Scharnhorst thumbnail
Second World War

Battle of North Cape: HMS Belfast and the sinking of the Scharnhorst

Scharnhorst was one of the most dangerous German warships of the Second World War, and the last of her kind. In late December 1943, she was sunk, after attempting to intercept two Arctic convoys. What happened at the Battle of North Cape?

British troops going over the top superimposed onto a map of the Battle of the Somme
First World War

Who won the Battle of the Somme?

The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st of July 1916. The British army took over 57,000 casualties on the first day alone making it the bloodiest day in British military history. But who really won the Battle of the Somme? To find out we have to look at the Somme beyond the first day.

HMS Belfast in Korea thumbnail
Cold War

Korean War and HMS Belfast: The hottest point of the Cold War?

The Korean War broke out on the 25th June 1950 when communist North Korea invaded South Korea. HMS Belfast was soon in action. In her two years of service in Korea, she saw more action than at any point during the Second World War. The Korean War was primarily fought on land, so why did HMS Belfast see such intense action during this period?

British workers getting their tea at a food truck donated by the people of British Honduras
Second World War

What role did the British Empire play in the Second World War?

In 1940 the British Empire contained a quarter of the world's population and a fifth of its landmass, all of which, bar Ireland, was also at war with Germany. Far from standing alone, as the war spread across the globe, Britain relied on the people, land and resources of its Empire to continue fighting.

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Second World War

Was the Big Wing a bad idea?

The RAF were regularly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain, earning them the name of the Few. One solution to this was the Big Wing. But was the Big Wing a good idea or not?

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.

A group of French refugees, including three children, sit in a good vans that they had to travel. They are leaving their occupied towns of France for the unoccupied territory when the Germans came.
© IWM KY 12965B
Second World War

Life under Axis occupation

Almost 700 million people were under occupation during the Second World War, but their experiences varied widely depending on where they were and who they were. Some people chose to risk their lives to resist their occupiers, others chose to collaborate, and many simply tried to get on with their lives as best they could.

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First World War

The History of the Remembrance Poppy

During the First World War, millions of soldiers saw the poppies in Flanders fields on the Western Front. Over 100 years later, the poppy is still a world-recognised symbol of remembrance of the First World War, and millions of people choose to wear a red poppy in November. But when did this tradition start? Find out in our film. 

British West Indies Regiment troops loading shells on the Western front
First World War

The black British soldiers who were deliberately forgotten

Though black units played a vital role in Allied victory in the First World War, once the war was over their contribution was deliberately forgotten in an attempt to protect the British Empire. In this episode of IWM Stories, Alan Wakefield looks at who these men were, what they did, and why they've been forgotten.

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.

Vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken over Dresden, Germany, following the two devastating attacks on the city by aircraft of Bomber Command on the night of 13/14 February 1945. A large number of fires still burn fiercely in the vicinity of the central goods depot and marshalling yards south of the River Elbe.
© IWM C 4973
Second World War

Allied bombing of Germany

Over the course of the war, the strategic bombing campaign developed from a limited force into a weapon of immense destructive power, with hundreds of cities subjected to air attack alongside military targets. How had the bombing campaign escalated? Was strategic bombing effective? Did it actually weaken Germany’s war industries and break the German people’s morale? 

Map Room
Churchill War Rooms

The Map Room at the Cabinet War Rooms

The Map Room at the Cabinet War Rooms was staffed day and night throughout the Second World War. In this video, find out exactly went on in the top secret Map Room, who worked here, and why will some of these details will continue to remain a mystery to this day.

A map showing the furthest German during the Battle of the Bulge. Adolf Hitler is superimposed on top. The text reads: "Why the bulge failed".
Second World War

Why the Ardennes Offensive was Hitler's last

The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s final throw of the dice. With Germany in retreat across all fronts and a worsening situation at home, Hitler hoped to force the Western Allies out of the war. But almost nothing went to plan. German forces were able to create a bulge in the Allied line, but by the end of January that bulge was closed. In this episode of IWM Stories, curator Adrian Kerrison takes an in-depth look at the Battle of the Bulge and why it failed.

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.

A map of the Japanese attack on Singapore with British general Percival superimposed. The text reads: "Britain's biggest defeat".
Second World War

Why did Singapore fall?

On the 15th of February 1942, Lt General Arthur Percival signed the largest surrender in British history at Singapore. The city was supposed to be a fortress, but his force of 85,000 men had been defeated by just 35,000 Japanese troops. So how did the Japanese defeat a numerically superior force? Why wasn’t Singapore an impregnable fortress? And could the British have held out?

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First World War

Medicine in the First World War

The First World War was one of the deadliest conflicts of all time: the weapons of shells, machine guns and poisonous gas used en mass for the first time resulted in a scale and severity of injuries that had never been encountered before. This video explores how the medical services evolved to meet these challenges. 

Margaret Thatcher superimposed onto a map of the Falklands with British and Argentinian flags on either side.
Cold War

Why the Falklands Conflict happened | Episode 1

In the first episode of our five-part Falklands series IWM Curator Carl Warner looks at why the Falklands Conflict happened. Why did Argentina believe they could take the Falklands without a fight? What was the invasion like? And why did Britain choose to fight for these islands 8,000 miles from home?

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Cold War

Falklands Conflict at Sea | Episode 2

In this video, IWM Curator Alan Jeffreys tells us about the Falklands Conflict at Sea. We look at an Exocet Missile on display at IWM London and some objects that belonged to commander of a naval bomb disposal team, Nigel 'Bernie' Bruen including a scorched alarm bell from RFA Sir Tristram.

Sea Harriers flying low over the South Atlantic
Cold War

Falklands Conflict in the Air | Episode 3

When the Falklands Conflict began Argentina seemingly had a massive advantage in the skies. They had over 100 aircraft of varying types. Some could operate from the Argentinian mainland and others could operate from airstrips on the Falklands themselves. Meanwhile, the British Task Force initially had only 20 Sea Harriers. It was up to them to protect the Task Force at sea as well as the troops on the ground, but to many that seemed like an impossible task.

British troops landing at San Carlos on East Falkland
© IWM (FKD 2744)
Cold War

Falklands Conflict on Land | Episode 4

In this penultimate episode of our Falklands series, IWM curator Hilary Roberts explores the land campaign. What was each side’s strategy? What mistakes did they make? And why - despite fierce Argentinian resistance - did the British eventually come out on top?

Falklands Aftermath video thumbnail
Falklands Conflict Aftermath | Episode 5

Falklands Conflict Aftermath | Episode 5

The Falklands Conflict of 1982 only lasted for 74 days, but it had lasting consequences which continue to be felt today. In Episode 5, the final episode of IWM's five-part series, find out about the far-reaching effects of Britain's conflict for its South Atlantic territories. 

HMS Belfast's armament - video still
HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast's Armament: How to fire the 6-inch guns

HMS Belfast's primary armament throughout her life was her 6-inch guns. In this video, our experts take us from the Gun Direction Platform to the Fire Control Table, then into A-Turret and A-Turret's shell room to see how exactly they worked.

Erwin Rommel superimposed onto a map of North Africa with red arrows pointing towards the town of Tobruk.
Second World War

How Erwin Rommel became The Desert Fox

In this episode of IWM Stories, John Delaney explores Rommel's first campaign in the desert. How did he pull off such a stunning reversal? How did the British stop him at Tobruk? And is Rommel’s reputation deserved?

Posed photo of British airborne troops moving through a shell-damaged house in Oosterbeek, 23 September 1944.
© IWM (BU 1121)
Second World War

Why did Operation Market Garden fail?

Operation Market Garden is one of the most controversial episodes of the Second World War, featuring daring assaults, strategic blunders and heroic defences. A battle which would come so close to success, before falling at the final hurdle. In this episode of IWM Stories, curator Sean Rehling examines why Operation Market Garden failed.

A still of a sniper from the video game superimposed onto an image of a Second World War sniper. The text reads: How accurate is Sniper Elite?
Second World War

What can Sniper Elite tell us about real life WW2 snipers?

In this episode, we delve into the IWM Collections to take an in-depth look at Sniper Elite's weapons like the Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk1 (T) and Welrod Silenced pistol. We'll also explore the game's missions and tactics, comparing them to the true stories of men and women who actually fought in the Second World War.

 A mine explodes close to a British truck as it carries infantry through enemy minefields and wire to the new front lines.
© IWM (E 18542)
Second World War

How the Second Battle of El Alamein was won

The Second Battle of El Alamein is one of the most famous of the Second World War, an old-school infantry slog through deadly minefields more akin to the First World War than the Second. A battle which would prove the tide of the war had truly turned in the Allies' favour. In this episode, Bryn Hammond examines how the Allies won the Second Battle of El Alamein.

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.

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?

A Ukrainian solider firing an NLAW from the hatch of an armoured vehicle.
© Military Television of Ukraine licensed under Creative Commons 4.0.
Contemporary conflict

Why have Ukrainian ATGMs destroyed so many Russian tanks?

Anti-Tank Guided Missiles or ATGMs have become a defining symbol of the Ukrainian fight against Russian invasion. They have destroyed countless armoured vehicles and provided endless material for viral social media clips. But why have ATGMs been so effective in the war so far, and could that be about the change?

Captain Price looks into the camera, weapon in hand, as sparks fly around him in the smoke.
© 2019 Activision Publishing, Inc.
Contemporary conflict

What is real life modern warfare actually like?

Call of Duty is the best selling first person shooter franchise of all time. But how realistic is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)?

HMS Dreadnought at sea. HMS Dreadnought was brought into service in 1906, and the class of ships called the ‘dreadnoughts’ were named after her.
© Wikimedia commons via U.S. Naval Historical Center
First World War

Why the dreadnoughts barely fought in the First World War

At the outbreak of the First World War, both the German and British fleets had over a dozen dreadnought battleships each. But the dreadnoughts only saw action in a major battle once during the war. In this video, curator Will Martin explores what happened to the great naval battles of the First World War, and how the u-boats and merchant ships came to play the pivotal role. 

Danish fishermen (foreground) ferry a boatload of fugitives across a narrow sound to neutral Sweden. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives # 70737.
© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives # 70737
Holocaust

Why 95% of Danish Jews survived the Holocaust

It was the evening of 1 October 1943, when German Police and members of the Danish SS descended on Copenhagen with orders to round up and deport Denmark’s Jewish population. It was the night of the Jewish New Year - Rosh HaShanah - and the German Police were expecting to find Jewish families at home celebrating. What they found instead was empty house after empty house. Someone had tipped off the Jewish community. Someone had tipped off the Jewish community...

Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig on horseback inspecting soldiers. He is highlighted by a red circle
First World War

Were British WW1 soldiers really lions led by donkeys?

The First World War is often remembered as a futile slugging match between uncaring commanders who sent thousands of men to their deaths. In Britain it’s the mud-soaked trenches of Passchendaele which capture public imagination. While Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig is remembered as the butcher of the Somme. But were British soldiers really lions led by donkeys?

Map of South West Sicily showing Allied landings and Axis counter attack on Gela.
© IWM
Second World War

Operation Husky: The largest amphibious invasion of the Second World War

In 1943 the Allies took their first steps on Axis home soil when they invaded the Island of Sicily. The invasion would be a huge test of Allied planning, logistics and relationships, as Montgomery and Patton raced to capture the Axis port of Messina. But was the campaign a success or a failure?

Map of The Schlieffen Plan with superimposed image of Kaiser Wilhelm - could be an alternative
© Wikimedia commons
First World War

The Schlieffen Plan explained

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Germany had a massive problem. The alliance between France and Russia left them totally surrounded, with only Austria Hungary on their side. Outnumbered, Germany's chances in a long war were slim.

French and British forces counterattacked at the Battle of the Marne and forced the Germans back. Leaving their plan for a short war in tatters. So, what went wrong? Why did the German plan fail? And how close did it come to succeeding?  

Still from footage of the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka - the only jet-powered suicide aircraft, suspended from the ceiling of IWM London.
© IWM
Second World War

How effective was the Japanese kamikaze campaign?

In the later stages of the Second World War in the Pacific, Japan was desperate. They turned to a new tactic - kamikaze. The kamikaze campaign trained attack squadrons specifically for this purpose, and brought into combat a new aircraft - the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka - the only jet-powered suicide aircraft.

They first saw action at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, where extensive damage was done to the Allied fleet. But overall, how effective were these aircraft and this campaign?

German Field Marshall Albert Kesselring superimposed onto a map of the Allied beachhead at Salerno. Red arrows show his plan of attack.
© Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R93434 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Second World War

The disaster at Salerno

In July 1943, the Allies made the decision to invade the Italian mainland. It was supposed to be the ‘soft underbelly’ of Europe. But the reality was very different. After landing at Salerno, Allied troops were within days of being pushed back into the sea. What went wrong?

Trinity Bomb detonation, showing large yellow cloud made by the explosion of the atomic bomb
IWM Duxford

The history of Britain's nuclear weapons

In the late 1940s, Britain was desperate to enter the arms race. And by 1952 it succeeded, becoming the third nuclear power in the world. But why did Britain want nuclear weapons when already close allies with the US? And why do they still have them today? Curator Paris Agar answers these questions in this video.

The destroyed remains of the Monte Cassino monastery in the background and General Mark Clark in the foreground
© Background image: Courtesy of SMU Central University Libraries. Portrait image: Public domain
Second World War

Monte Cassino: The bloodiest battle of the Italian Campaign

By October 1943, the Allies were facing an ugly truth. Invading Italy was seen as a chance for a quick victory. But Albert Kesselring’s German forces had put an end to that. Now, before them stood the most formidable challenge yet and more bloody fighting. 

Admiral Sir Dudley Pound superimposed onto a map of the arctic ocean which shows convoy PQ-17 dispersing
Second World War

Why convoy PQ-17 was doomed to destruction

In this video, IWM's Rob Rumble joins us from HMS Belfast in an attempt to uncover the biggest loss to a British convoy of the Second World War. Why did Admiral Pound give the order to scatter? What was it like for the sailors and U-Boat crews? And how did the disaster of convoy PQ-17 affect the outcome of the Second World War?

HMS Belfast's armament - video still
HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast's Armament: How to fire the 6-inch guns

HMS Belfast's primary armament throughout her life was her 6-inch guns. In this video, our experts take us from the Gun Direction Platform to the Fire Control Table, then into A-Turret and A-Turret's shell room to see how exactly they worked.

Adolf Hiter looking left towards a flying V2 rocket. To his right is a mushroom cloud. in a bright yellow/red and orange sky.
© IWM
Second World War

Why the V2 rocket was a big mistake

In September 1944, Germany launched its brand-new wonder weapon for the first time – the V2. Designed to destroy the morale of the Allies, the so-called vengeance weapon was an awesome technological achievement. Hitler genuinely believed it could turn the war back in his favour. Instead, the first V2 crashed soon after lift-off - a preview of things to come. 

A collage of black and white imagery containing a photo of Double agent 'Juan Pujol Garcia', documents overlaid on an image of soldiers landing on a beach, D-Day soldiers prepare to inflate a dummy tank, a soldier stands next to an inflatable tank.
© NARA
Second World War

The Lies and Deceptions that made D-Day possible

On Tuesday 6 June, 1944, nearly 160,000 allied soldiers landed along a 50-mile stretch of coast in Normandy. Thanks to a series of deception efforts undertaken by the Allies, the bulk of Germany’s defensive forces were 150 miles away from Normandy when the landings were taking place.

General Norman Schwarzkopf super imposed onto a map showing the Coalition battle plan for Operation Desert Storm.
© IWM
Contemporary conflict

Operation Desert Storm: How to win a war in 100 hours

In 1991 the Persian Gulf was the site of a new kind of conflict: Operation Desert Storm. With the latest warfighting technology at their disposal, a US led coalition dismantled the world’s 4th largest army within a matter of days. 

Sepia image of Adolf Hitler on a montage background of images including troops and an image of a swastika.
© IWM
Second World War

Why did Hitler invade the Soviet Union?

In the summer of 1941 Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Often described as an epic strategic blunder, the invasion was supposed to reach Moscow in weeks. Instead, four years later, Soviet troops would take Berlin and destroy Nazi Germany. But was the move really a mistake?

More videos

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. 

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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.

HMS Belfast leaving Scapa Flow for the Normandy beaches in June 1944. The cruiser is reported to have fired some of the first shots on D-Day.
© IWM (A 25665)
D-Day

HMS Belfast and D-Day

Watch IWM curator John Delaney explore the significance of what the ship and her crew did that day - and hear the voices of the men who were on board and witnessed the events first hand. Discover the role HMS Belfast played on D-Day.