Secrets of the Imperial War Museum is a six-part documentary series exploring all five of IWM's branches. Find out more about some of the stories and objects featured in each episode on this page. 

New episode every Friday at 7pm from 26 November on Channel 5. Watch it back on My5

Episode One

Friday 26 November 2021

In the first episode, join the team on HMS Belfast as they race to get her ready for reopening and meet volunteer David, who is helping to restore the ship's 4 inch guns and honouring the memory of his father who served on board the ship. 

 

Discover how IWM's Head of Film Matt Lee is trying to identify a heroic soldier in a famous scene from the 1916 film The Battle of the Somme and explore the story of George Arthur Roberts, the first black firefighter to join the Auxiliary Fire Service. 

 

Meanwhile at IWM Duxford, an expert team continue their vital work to conserve the Victor, one of the most famous aircraft of the Cold War. 

 

  • HMS Belfast with Tower Bridge behind
    © IWM
    HMS Belfast: The Battles

    Our historic ship took part in significant naval operations during her life at sea.

    Find out more about her role in the sinking of the Scharnhorst during the Second World War and her service during the Korean War

     

  • Conserving the Handley Page Victor XH648
    Conserving the Handley Page Victor XH648
    Fixing the Victor

    The Victor is one of the iconic aircraft of the Cold War, capable of carrying a nuclear weapon many times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

    Head of Conservation Jon White and his team at IWM Duxford have been working to care for our Victor. Learn more about the project.  

  • The famous still taken from The Battle of the Somme showing a soldier in a trench carrying a wounded man on his back.
    © IWM. The famous still taken from The Battle of the Somme showing a soldier in a trench carrying a wounded man on his back.
    The Somme

    IWM curator Matt Lee has been working to discover the identity of a man featured in 1916 documentary film, The Battle of the Somme

    Filmed and first released in 1916, the film remains an important early example of propaganda as well as remaining a vital historical record of the early stages of the battle.

    Footage from the film is now synonymous with the First World War and is frequently used to illustrate documentaries covering the conflict. 

     

  • George Arthur Roberts

    George Arthur Roberts was an auxiliary firefighter during the Second World War.

    A uniform like the one he would have worn is on display in the new Second World War Galleries at IWM London and in this episode, curator Vikki Hawkins explores his story.

     

  • Taking to the skies

    IWM Duxford is still a working airfield and visitors can often see aircraft taking off and landing on a normal day.  

    The airfield marshalling team help ensure things run smoothly and this in this episode, we see instructor Johnny showing volunteer Sarah the ropes.  

    Explore the links below to find out more about flying at Duxford.

Episode Two

Friday 3 December 2021

 

Go behind-the-scenes with the team of curators, conservators and contractors as they work to complete an ambitious set of new galleries dedicated to telling the story of the Second World War and the Holocaust in a new way.

 

A new ceiling installation designed to give visitors a sense of the terror of the Blitz is being developed and 90 year old IWM volunteer Kitty is on hand to offer her first hand memories of what it was like to experience an air raid.

 

Climb into the cockpit of our Mark 1 Spitfire as it undergoes a flight test ahead of a flying event at IWM Duxford, join curator Megan as she prepares for a new display of contemporary vehicles and check in with our conservation team as they take a closer look at a special piece of clothing that belonged to Winston Churchill.

  • Two German bombers fly over south-east London on the first day of the Blitz, 7 September 1940.
    IWM C5424
    The Blitz

    Our new Second World War Galleries feature an LED ceiling that shows the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.  

    Find out more about the Blitz in this video presented by curator Ian Kikuchi.

  • Spitfire floodlit against a dark backdrop artwork
    © IWM
    Spitfire

    The Spitfire is one of the iconic aircraft of the Battle of Britain and Duxford has a long history with this special aircraft.  

    Visit Spitfire: Evolution of an Icon from December 27 to find out more. 

  • Winston Churchill shows off his famous 'siren suit' to General Dwight D Eisenhower, during a tour of Allied invasion forces in Kent, 12 May 1944.
    © IWM H 38458
    Siren Suit

    You can see one of Winston Churchill’s iconic outfits on display at Churchill War Rooms.

    A onesie – known as a siren suit – was something he would wear even when meeting world leaders and senior military commanders. In this photograph, he is pictured with Dwight D Eisenhower.

  • Wingwalker on a Stearman
    ©IWM
    Flying Days

    In this episode, IWM Duxford welcomes visitors to one of our spectacular flying events. Find out more about our 2022 season of airshows and flying days. 

Coming up on Secrets of the Imperial War Museum

  • Curator Kate Clements stands in front of an empty display case in the Second World War Galleries
    Episode 2

    3 December

    Work continues on IWM’s new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries. Curator Kate Clements meets up with 90 year old volunteer Kitty, who shares her memories of life during the Blitz. Meanwhile at IWM Duxford, staff welcome visitors to the first flying event of the year as a Spitfire with a special story takes to the skies.

    We also join IWM experts as they carefully check on the condition of the objects the museum cares for – from the famous 'Onesie' siren suit worn by Winston Churchill to aircraft and military vehicles.

  • Husky on display at IWM Duxford
    Episode 3

    10 December

    A soldier who survived an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2012 visits IWM Duxford with his nine year old daughter to see the vehicle that saved his life, now on display in the AirSpace hangar. 

    Meanwhile, staff explore some of the other special stories associated with objects in the IWM collection, including a Spitfire flown during the Battle of Britain.

    The team working on the new Second World War Galleries install a small boat with a big story – one of the famous ‘little ships’ used during the Dunkirk evacuations.

  • Five members of the Fire Crew at IWM Duxford stand in front of a fire engine
    Episode 4

    17 December

    A piece of the USS Arizona, one of the ships sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, arrives at IWM and curator Vikki shares how the team working on the new Second World War Galleries will use it to share the story of what happened that day.

    At Churchill War Rooms, we explore a hidden room where a top secret telephone line allowed Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to have private conversations during the Second World War.

    The fire crew at IWM Duxford scramble for a drill as they rehearse how they will deal with every eventuality as the airfield prepares to welcome hundreds of rare and delicate historic planes this year.

    IWM’s Head of the First World War Alan Wakefield meets a man who has discovered a chest full of lost First World War letters and artifacts under a bed when he was clearing out his step father’s house.

     

     

  • Episode 5

    Coming soon

    Curator James Bulgin meets the granddaughter of a man who was murdered at Auschwitz to understand more about his life and to discuss the museum’s ambitious plan to honour his memory as part of our new Holocaust Galleries.  

    Meanwhile conservation staff are busy as a section of Nazi concentration camp barrack has just arrived from Germany for the gallery – but it’s soon clear that the priceless object will need a lot of specialist conservation work before it can be put on display.

    Plans to overhaul a First World War display at IWM North are underway, as curator Laura Clouting trawls through the museum’s vast store of objects and stories to find a fresh way to explain what life was like for soldiers in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme.

    And we find out how the runway at IWM Duxford is cleared of birds so that vintage aircraft can take off safely.   

  • Episode 6

    Coming soon

    The final touches are being made ahead of the opening of the new £30 million Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries at IWM London. Uniforms for the central cases are ready for display and museum staff have gathered for an unusual meeting to try out different poses to decide exactly what sort of mannequins need to be specially built for the delicate items.

    While the museum has countless personal stories, many communities and individuals are underrepresented across its collections. Improving the diversity of IWMs collection of stories and objects to show a wide range of experiences of war and conflict is critical and a growing focus for the museum.

    In the stores at IWM Duxford, curator Alan Wakefield is working to address this gap and has just acquired the bracelet of Sergeant William Robinson Clarke, the first black pilot to join the Royal Flying Corps, to help tell the story of his vital contribution to the war.

     

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