Almost immediately following World War I, the United Kingdom felt it was necessary to have a museum to document the civil and military efforts to win the war. Since it opened in 1917, the Imperial War Museum has grown to encompass five locations throughout Britain, including three locations in London. Its collection and exhibits have also grown to include wars from throughout the UK’s history. Imperial War Museum, London, is the main repository of the country’s war record and, as such, has many interesting items to see. We’ve outlined ten of our favorites below, but you can let us know your own in the comments.
IWM London is full of the planes that have helped to protect Britain and wage war over the decades. From the WWII-hero Spitfire to the modern Harrier, the museum has several planes and aircraft sections (such as a Lancaster bomber’s cockpit) on display. For even more, you can take a trip out to IWM Duxford which has a wider variety in the hangar.
Known as the “Vengeance” rockets, the V-1 and V-2 were part of Nazi Germany’s attempts to destroy military targets and sow chaos on British soil during WWII. The rockets allowed Germany to wage war from a distance without risking its own pilots, and British pilots would sometimes fly up close and nudge them off course.
It is important to revisit the horrors of war in the hopes that we will never see their like again. IWM London’s Holocaust exhibit provides a guided tour through first-hand accounts of the Nazis attempt to wipe out the Jewish people. The graphic nature of the exhibit means it’s not suitable for children under 14 but serves as an important reminder of what hate can do unchecked.
Following on the heels of WWII, wartime allies turned into enemies as the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc countries squared off against the UK and US to determine the world’s future. The war wasn’t fought with guns as much as Bond-esque gadgets, and the museum has items such as suitcases with hidden compartments, hidden cameras, and miniature listening devices are just some of the tools of the spy trade here.
###A Piece of the Berlin Wall
Another artefact of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was built to divide the section of the former German capital into their democratic and soviet sides. While the wall was torn down in 1989 as Communism fell and Germany reunified, several sections have been preserved for posterity, and one with the graffiti that characterized the Western side is on display.
###Steelwork from the World Trade Center
September 11, 2001 was an event with reverberations that went beyond the United States. Launching the “War on Terror”, Britain joined America is seeking to stop terrorists before they could act and some of the steelwork from the World Trade Center is on display as a reminder of this new kind of warfare in which our countries are still engaged.
###“Coupons Required” – Leonora Green
“Coupons Required” by Leonora Green is a 1941 painting that serves as a reminder of how war can affect those at home. It depicts the results of the rationing that was put into place by the British government, showing a week’s worth of groceries that the system allotted to the average family. It’s worth keeping in mind that oftentimes these meager amounts had to be made to last for many meals.
Going back to the war that caused the museum’s founding, visitors to the World War I galleries are taken through a simulated WWI trench. With the sounds of gunfire and shells overhead, visitors walk through a recreation of what a soldier’s life was like while planes and tanks of both sides loom over their heads.
###Lord Ashcroft Collection
This group of artefacts includes the largest number of Victoria Crosses and a significant number of George Crosses, including the stories of men and women who earned them, which demonstrate the heroism that is often required during war. The collection also includes a wide variety of medals and other awards that detail the actions that required soldiers, sailors, pilots, marines, and more to go above and beyond the call of duty.
It wouldn’t be much of a war museum without some tanks, wouldn’t it? First used in World War I, the exhibit will take you through the development of these war machines while also showing off the impressive American Sherman and Russian T34 that helped the Allies win World War II.