Most surprising "souvenir" of WW II found at the museum was for me the large bronze eagle from the German Reichs Cancellery in Berlin.
I have seen documentary films on the assault of the Reichs Chancellery by the Soviet troops (April 1945) and the removal of the Nazi emblems of the building by soldiers who climbed at the top, but I could not imagine that this eagle had been given in 1946 by a Russian officer to a member of the British occupying force in Berlin!
Bullets holes from the battle of Berlin can be seen in the wings of the eagle.
The Soviet tank T34/85 in the "large exhibits gallery" intrigued me; it was so freshly painted!
Documentation at the Imperial War Museum is always excellent so that I got the explanation. This example was not from WW II when about 40000 T34 - the best medium battle tank of the war - were built in the Soviet Union, but was produced in Czechoslovakia in 1955 and captured from the Arabs by Israeli forces who gave it to the museum in 1977! It was repainted at the colours of a Soviet Tank brigade from 1945.
Two very different ways of acquiring objects by the museum!
It was my second visit and I felt as amazed as ten years ago to discover in the middle of a park a neo-classical building guarded by two enormous marine guns standing in front of the entrance.
As soon as one enters the museum, by the "Large Exhibits Gallery", he is facing tanks, heavy artillery guns, and hanging from the ceiling, a number of planes from WW I and WW II.
Among the tanks are the widespread M4 Sherman tank which equipped I think nearly all allied armies (in the west) and the Soviet T34 who equipped all countries under Soviet influence.
Interesting is a M3A3 Grant tank, painted in desert yellow, which was used by Montgomery for observation on the battlefields of North Africa in 1942-43 (photo 2). This American medium tank gave British forces a chance to resist their German counter parts. Particular is the fact that the main 75 mm gun is mounted in the hull and not the turret so that the whole tank had to be aimed at the target when firing. On Monty's tank the 37 mm gun in the turret was a wooden dummy to make extra room inside for communication equipment.
Montgomery wanted this tank to be kept by his old regiment Royal Warwickshire as souvenir so that the tank ended at the museum.
On the German side is shown an imposing (44 tons) Jagdpanther tank destroyer from 1944 of which 382 were built and mainly used in the Ardennes offensive from December 1944.
This particular command version (photo 3) did not reach the Ardennes but was immobilized in September near Hechtel, Belgium by three armour piercing rounds from a Cromwell tank of the Welsh Guards who had liberated Brussels (ref. my intro page on Belgium).
Among the planes are shown the widespread Spitfire, P-51 Mustang, Focke Wulf 190, Heinkel 162 and a V2 rocket (photo 4).
The so called "Large Exhibits Gallery" is in fact rather small and to see more tanks or planes one has to visit other museums in the UK like the Tank museum of Bovington, Dorset or the Aviation museum at Duxford, Cambridgeshire.
Open daily 10.00am - 6.00pm. Free.
Closed 15, 24, 25 and 26 December.
On the south bank of the Thames the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy Light Cruiser is moored and is now a museum run by the Imperial War Museum. It was launched in 1938 and took part in the blockade against Germany, escorted Arctic convoys to Russia, involved in the Battle of North Cape, took part in the Normandy Landings, joined the British Pacific Fleet and saw action during the Korean War and retired in the 60's before being taken over by a trust who opened to the public since 1971.
Now you can explore the nine decks and get an idea of what went on during the days that the boat was in action.
Open 10 am - 5 or 6 pm depending on the season
Admission fee around £14
The Churchill War Rooms are devoted to that most famous – if not infamous – of British 20th century statesmen, Winston Churchill. In truth, they constitute a part of the Imperial War Museum, and are the actual offices in which Churchill and his Army staff planned their efforts during the Second World War. Despite the fact that they were constantly in use during hostilities, they were abandoned and neglected following the war, until the 1970s. At that time, public pressure for the right of ordinary citizens to visit the rooms had grown considerably, and the government agencies that were tasked with the upkeep of the site finally decided that the rooms should become a museum. It wasn’t until the late 1980s, however, that they passed over to the Imperial War Museum as a fully functional museum devoted to the work of Churchill. Fifteen years later they were expanded, and the site was turned into a museum of Churchill’s life.
This museum does not glorify war in any way but is purely the history of war. Formerly a lunatic asylum it now houses many exhibits from Britain's involvement in conflicts across the globe over many years.
There are always changing exhibits - we saw an excellent Children at War exhibition when we were there in late 2008 and there was also a James Bond exhibition ( at a cost of £8 for Bond exhibition).
Mainly static displays but there is a very good recreation of a World War One trench complete with smells and a Blitz exhibition where you see and feel the effects of London in a 1940 bombing raid. The 1940s house is also a very good exhibit.
Of special note is the cafe - expensive as all museum cafes are in London but a good choice of some well made dishes and cakes.
Revisited 2012 - still as interesting and now has a larger cafe area.
Even if you don’t think you have a particular interest in war (its machinery, its politics or whatever), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much there is to appeal to you here. And for lovers of planes, boats and very big guns, it’s a must!
I don’t include myself in the latter and usually give the exhibits in the main hall only a quick glance before heading to something of more interest to me, but on a recent visit with a friend even I got intrigued by the size of some of the weapons on display and the stories behind them.
More fascinating for me however are the social history sections. On that latest visit we toured a mock-up of a typical family home from World War II (see bedroom in photo 4), and although all three of us were born over ten years after the end of the war we could still spot familiar packages and toys from our childhoods! This exhibit is part of a special exhibition, The Children’s War that will end in January 2012, so hurry if you want to see it.
Another fascinating exhibit from that period is the Blitz Experience, which is a permanent fixture. You may have to wait to visit this but I think it’s well worth doing so. A group of you will be escorted into an air-raid shelter where in near-darkness you hear the thuds and crashes on bombs falling overhead, and inside the shelter the voiced fears of those supposedly around you. Then the “all clear” sounds and a warden escorts you outside. You find yourself in a London street more or less destroyed – buildings are burning, shop windows shattered, and people nearby are talking about the houses that were hit and neighbours who didn’t make it. Coming from the generation whose parents lived through all this I found it very moving to have the stories they had told me brought so vividly to life.
Even more harrowing, and consequently not recommended to children under 14, is the Holocaust Exhibition (and under 11s are not allowed at all here). I haven’t seen this since it has been greatly expanded – check the website before going as some may find it rather too close to reality I think.
More suitable for younger children is the mock-up of a submarine in the main hall – when we were last there I bumped into a friend whose three year old son could not be dragged away from all the various buttons that can be pressed, bunks “slept in “ and periscopes raised and lowered!
When you’ve seen enough there’s a reasonable café for light refreshments, and a good shop with a wide range of souvenirs, books, DVDs etc. Entry to the museum is free, though there is a charge for some special exhibitions – check the website below to see what’s on at the moment.
The name might sound to you like a pompous empire glory thing and in a way it maybe is, but it is so much more, and definitely not a museum glorifying war as such. This shows you the horrors of war too, and also gives you a fair bit of British history if you're a buff. The museum experts are frequently enlisted to help UK television companies with historic and war technical material. Some exhibitions are OK for young children whilst others (such as the one on the holocaust which is recommended from 14 years) are certainly not so if you plan a visit with the kids it is worth checking the website to plan your day better.
I went back a few years ago since the family had never been, and we could easily have stayed longer since there is so much to see. My husband visited the holocaust exhibition and said that whilst he did not learn that much new, it was a "must" in a museum such as this and very well done. I instead took my daughter to the temporary exbibition on children during WWII, which she found a bit scary since the children had to bring gas masks to school, and many were evacuated away from their parents. We discussed this a lot and cheered up with a visit to an exbitition on life in submarines. Otherwise the great hall where you first end up is what attracts children the most since it doesn't tell any stories but show planes hanging from the ceiling, Montgomery's tank, a Falkland rocket and lots more. It is certainly not only British vehicles but a mix.
We left our daughter at the Easter drawing competition and went to see the exbititions on the World Wars (with separate bits on the D-Day and Normandie landings). The First World War bit included not just the background story, but also the beginnings of wartime photography, and a model of trenches where you could see their zig zag patterns to keep enemies out. It finished with a walk through a mock-up trench with sound effects such as an officer speaking to his men before the went over the top, and it was interesting to us who have lived in Belgium and visited Ieper. The WWII exhibition deals with the run up to war and finishes with "the Blitz" which is a similar mock-up model room where you can experience the Blitz (a lot cheaper than at Britain at War since the museum is free). The queues to this are horrendous during school holidays so arrive early or avoid holiday times if it is a must for you.
We never tried the café, but the souvenir shop is great and full of Churchill souvenirs, books on WWII and other wars, plane- and ship models, propaganda posters and lots more. This is a place where you can easily spend a full day.
More extensive and most interesting are the collections shown on the lower ground floor.
There are three main parts: First World War, Second World War and Conflicts since 1945.
The presentation is excellent and for me the best from the World War museums I have seen.
WW I has following rooms: Origin and outbreak, Recruitment in Britain, Western Front, War at Sea and in the Air, War in the Balkans, Turkey, and East Front. Most spectacular is the "Trench Experience" of a fight at night in trenches; only missing is the mud. Terrible documentary films are shown.
WW II starts with the Blitzkrieg. Documentary films show the invasion of Belgium and France by the German Panzer troops. Follow the Battle of Britain, the Home Front, Bomber Offensive, the War at Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East, Europe under the Nazis, Eastern front, War in the Far East and the final North West Europe Offensive.
Spectacular is the "Blitz Experience". There is also a special room dedicated to Montgomery.
The last part is that with various conflicts since 1945 like Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, etc.
It is a very complete survey, well documented and always keeping in mind the didactic side. The Imperial War Museum is widely visited by children. Only the "Holocaust Exhibition" on floor 3 and the "Crimes against humanity" on floor 4 are closed for children under the age of 11.
Open daily 10.00am - 6.00pm. Free.
Closed 15, 24, 25 and 26 December.
Launched in 1938, HMS Belfast was one of the most powerful light cruisers ever built and is currently the only surviving ship of its kind that was on active duty during World War II.
The damage caused by a German submarine at the beginning of the war were not enough to keep the Belfast out of circulation, but he continued on active duty in military contest until 1952, including participation in the destruction of the cruiser Scharnhorst (War II World), the Normandy landings and the Korean War. He continued in service until 1965.
Botado en 1938, el HMS Belfast fue uno de los cruceros ligeros más poderosos jamás construido y es actualmente el único buque superviviente de su tipo que estuvo en servicio activo durante la II Guerra Mundial.
Los daños producidos por un submarino alemán al principio de la guerra no bastaron para mantener al Belfast fuera de la circulación, sino que éste continuó prestando servicio activo en contiendas militares hasta 1952, incluyendo su participación en la destrucción del crucero Scharnhorst (durante la II Guerra Mundial), los Desembarcos de Normandía y la Guerra de Corea. Siguió en servicio hasta 1965.
This museum is massive. The front approach itself is impressive, with 2 huge cannon guns mounted in front of the building. Each weigh over 100 tonnes, with a range of 16 miles using cannons weighing almost a tonne itself! Both were actually mounted on ships from 1914 and used in WWII as well!
Upon entering, after the security-check you arrive at the inside main hall to be greeted by a sight of all sorts of weapons: carriage gun cannons, airplanes, missiles, rockets, German dreaded V2 rockets, Britain's first nuclear head, lots of tanks, etc.
Each weapon has an explanation plate in front, with all sorts of data on the exhibit.
There is a submarine section on the right, which is very educational, offering interactive learning as well.
You will find many rooms categorised by the era & location of the wars - from pre WWI upto modern day & recent conflicts eg Bosnia, Kosovo, etc.
You can even walk through a pre WWII 1930s 3 bed house, with all decor matching that period, complete with a protective H 'cage' to serve as a shelter during any air raids.
The museum also has a Blitz experience, where every 10 minutes, 20 people enter a darkened room and listen to broadcasts recreating a live bombing period, and then you walk through recreated bombed London streets!! Quite realistic in fact. You'll even feel the 'earth move' during a simulated air raid!!
In another separate (paid) section 'Terrible Trenches', trenches are also to be found - these are very realistic, giving you a real feeling of how conditions would have been in & around them.
Artifacts, billboards, ration tickets, actual kids' diary entries, etc are also on display, giving an account on conditions 'through the eyes of children.'
Upstairs is a Holocaust exhibiton, capturing the scale of the horrific atrocities committed by the Nazis.
This place is a must-see in my opinion.
Being a fan of the World War II military history, I had high hopes about the Imperial War Museum, since many of the books I have read on that subject are editions of the museum.
My expectations were overcome. The museum houses an incredible amount of information, exhibits and pieces of warfare: tanks, planes, guns, submarines. I could even see the remains of a
Japanese Zero plane. Not to mention Montgomery command tank.
If you are interested in military history, especially World War II, you will love this museum.
Walking around Lambeth the magnificent dome of the IWM may be seen in the distance. And approaching you discover the peaceful and green environment surrounding this very nice building ruling the neighbourhood.
Yet inside, you discover the way to enclose a hughe collection of original tanks, artillery guns, planes, flying bombs and many other war tools into an inner courtyard very well displayed and lighted by the sun from the cover above. In fact the use of space is good, real 3D, allowing you to walk around each of these items and watch it from every angle, even climbing the upper corridors to see everything from an upper sight. The collection isn't big but fantastic anyway and you will find WWII planes like the famous Spitfire, the P51 Mustang or the german FW190 but WWI planes too like a Camel or a BE2, a WWI tank Mark5 and WWII tanks like a german Jagdpanzer, an american Sherman, the soviet T34, british Matilda, Grant and Churchill, etc. There's a canopy of a Lancaster bomber, another one from a japanese Zero fighter, german flying bombs V1 and V2, german and british artillery, human-guided torpedoes...and the motorbike from Col. Lawrence (yes, "Lawrence from Arabia").
And, of course, as every museum here, you may enter the coffee or buy at the very well assorted gift shop, with lots of books and stuff about the great wars.
A nice and very worthy museum. Don't miss!.
Yet another free museum in London (the audioguides cost, but are worth it) that is just fantastic. There are some really interesting exhibits and really neat artifacts. Kids would like it as well (or at least parts) as there are some good exhibits for them. I would recommend this museum for any history buff. But if you only have a few days in London, then you can go without. There are plenty of other places unique to London that would be better worth your time. I've posted some photos and a narrative of my time in London at:
I suppose the name conjures up a museum dedicated to the glorification of war but the reality is quite the reverse. Yes, the museum pays homage to the courage and heroism of those that have fought in conflicts around the world and is heavily influenced by the two world wars but the museum really shows war for what it is. There is a section devoted to crimes against humanity and a Holocaust section that puts it all in perspective (not suitable for children under 14). There is also a very informative display on espionage and the people that fight wars from within. There are also impressive displays of first and second war aircraft and tanks. Being in Lambeth it's a little bit off the beaten track but only two stops south of Embankment on the Bakerloo line of the underground so it's very accessable. There is a good cafe and museum shop as well and its also a good place to take the kids as they can scramble about in trenches and aircraft cockpits. There is also a fine collection of paintings and photographs.
See some of the tanks, aircraft and weapons used in the World Wars in a visit to the Imperial War Museum. The entrance is free and is quite an interesting visit to get to know the history of the World Wars. Open from 10.00am - 6.00pm