Imperial War Museum, London

4.5 out of 5 stars 62 Reviews

Lambeth Road London SE1 6HZ United Kingdom. +44 (0)20 7416 5320

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • More trenches
    More trenches
    by Paul2001
  • Field Marshall Montgomery's tank
    Field Marshall Montgomery's tank
    by Paul2001
  • World War One trench diorama
    World War One trench diorama
    by Paul2001
  • HackneyBird's Profile Photo

    Your Country Needs YOU!

    by HackneyBird Written Jan 27, 2015

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Imperial War Museum was established in 1917 to record the events taking place in the First World War which, at the time of the museum's conception, was still being fought.

    The museum was opened on 9 July 1920 by King George V at the Crystal Palace, where it stayed for four years before moving to South Kensington. Then, in 1936, it moved to its present home in Lambeth, which was formerly the Bethlem Royal Hospital or 'Bedlam' mental assylum.

    In 1940 the museum closed its doors for the duration of the Second World War and its collections were moved out of London for safety. It re-opened in 1946 and its collection was expanded to include the recent conflict. In recent years the museums exhibits have been enlarged to include all conflicts since 1914 involving Britain or the Commonwealth.

    At the the time of my visit in August 2014 the museum had just re-opened after a major redevelopment to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War.

    There aremany thousands of items on display, but the ones I found most touching were the smaller personal items, such as the lucky charms, letters and photographs carried by British soldiers in the treches. The Holocaust Exhibition is especially moving but I recommend that you do not take younger children to see it as some of the exhibits are particularly disturbing.

    There is a cafe situated on Level 0 and a Tea Room on Level 1, neither of which I visited, and a museum shop which has a large range of books, DVDs and CDs, postcards and souveniers.

    Entry to the museum is free although there may be a charge for special exhibitions and all areas of the museum are accessible to the disabled.

    Opening times - Museum - Daily from 10am to 6pm (closed 24, 25, 26 December)
    Cafe - 10am - 5.30pm
    Tea Room - open during peak periods (holidays and some weekends)

    The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth The Imperial War Museum. Lambeth. The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth. The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth. The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth.
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Budget Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Paul2001's Profile Photo

    The Imperial War Museum

    by Paul2001 Updated Aug 31, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Imperial War Museum was largely under renovation when I visited back in 1989. Still this did not distract from the fact that this is a quality museum well worth visiting if you are interested in military history.
    The museum is housed in a domed building built in 1815 that used to be Bethlehem Royal Hospital which. In fact the building was once an insane asylum. It primarly tells the story of the military history of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth throughout the 20th century. Special emphasis is given to the two world wars. During my visit you could still see the superb collection of tanks and aircraft however there is much more here to see. This includes many documents, artworks and artifacts used by the all branches of the British military. Recently two floors were opened up that tell the story of Holocaust.
    I visited again in 2010. The renovations have long since been completed. Today the museum is magnificent. The museum today has an amazing amount of ordinance from the two world wars. They include a wide range of tanks, aircraft and a V2 missile. In the basement level there are two excellent permanent exhibits dedicated to the World Wars. These were being created during my first visit to the Imperial War Museum. They are both fascinating and more importantly not simple propaganda. Elsewhere in the museum there are exhibits dedicated to the Holocausts of World War Two (I use the plural as there is also mention of the murder of the Gypsies, homosexuals and political activists.
    Admission to the museum is free and it is open from 10am to 6pm.

    Field Marshall Montgomery's tank World War One Tank, I took this photo back in 1989 World War One trench diorama The facade of the Imperial War Museum More trenches
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • breughel's Profile Photo

    IWM - Amazing Entrance.

    by breughel Updated Jan 19, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    WARNING.
    The museum is closed until July 2014.
    They are transforming IWM London to mark the Centenary of the First World War 2014.

    =====================================

    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.

    Imperial War Museum - Entrance with marine guns. C- Tank of Montgomery. Imperial War Museum - Jagdpanther hit by Cromwell Imperial War Museum - Gallery with planes WW II
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • breughel's Profile Photo

    IWM - Surprizing objects.

    by breughel Updated Dec 23, 2013

    5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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!

    There is an unique WW I Mark V tank from 1918.

    IWM - Eagle from Reichs Chancellery, Berlin 1945 Imperial War Museum - Soviet T34/85 tank. Imperial War Museum - Mark V tank 1918
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • breughel's Profile Photo

    IWM - Lower ground floor.

    by breughel Updated Dec 23, 2013

    5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Imperial War Museum - Trench command post. Imperial War Museum - Letter from home.
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • davidjo's Profile Photo

    EXPERIENCE LIFE ON A WAR SHIP

    by davidjo Updated Dec 15, 2012

    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

    HMS BELFAST
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Photography

    Was this review helpful?

  • mikey_e's Profile Photo

    Churchill War Rooms

    by mikey_e Written Dec 11, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Monument to Bali bombing outside the rooms Outside the War Rooms Close up of Clive statue outside the rooms Street view of the rooms Cockeyed view of the rooms
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Britannia2's Profile Photo

    Imperial War Museum

    by Britannia2 Updated Mar 26, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    The Imperial War Museum London bus that went to Flanders 1914 - 18 1940s house in the museum WW1 tank The cafe extends in to the museum
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Seniors

    Was this review helpful?

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Imperial War Museum

    by toonsarah Written Sep 12, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Front of the Imperial War Museum Main hall exhibits Montgomery's tank World War 2 house - children's bedroom Mock-up of World War 1 trench
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Sjalen's Profile Photo

    Imperial War Museum

    by Sjalen Updated Apr 27, 2011

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    The famous entrance
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Seniors
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • mindcrime's Profile Photo

    Imperial war museum

    by mindcrime Updated Apr 6, 2011

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    We don’t really like War Museums but after several visits in London we decided check the Imperial War Museum that opened to the public in 1920 in a different area and moved here in 1936 on the site of Bethlem Royal Hospital(which was world’s first and oldest hospital specialized in mental illness but that’s another story).

    In front of the museum you can see 2 large cannons (pic 1) but for me the stone(pic 2) with a graffiti was more interesting. It is actually a Section of the Berlin Wall and hosts the graffiti “Change Your Life” made by the artist Indiano.

    Once inside the museum (pic 3) we came across many war planes, military vehicles and equipment but also the remains of a car that was bombed in Baghdad(Iraq) in 2007(!). The museum is small in size and hopefully it doesn’t glorify war so we spent some time check some interesting archives, personal letters and official documents, pictures and some small video documentaries. On our way out we noticed children’s paintings about war(pic 4), some of them can see the reality of war better than adults, that’s why most of them write simple things like “war is very bad…”

    It is open daily 10.00-18.00 and there’s no entrance fee (except special exhibitions)
    The gift shop has some beautiful post cards, many books and typical souvenirs.

    Right next to the Imperial War Museum we walked into Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park. It was opened in 1934 (it was formerly the grounds of Bethlem Hospital). The land was bought by lord Rothermere who presented it to the London County Council to be laid out as a park and named in memory of his mother.

    A small part of the park is the Tibetan Peace Garden(pic 5) that was opened by Dalai Lama in 1999.

    Imperial war museum interior of Imperial war museum children's painting at Imperial war museum Tibetan Peace Garden
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Rojo72's Profile Photo

    Imperial war museum

    by Rojo72 Updated Apr 4, 2011

    The Imperial war museum is something for those of you who take interest in the more cruel sides of humankind.

    It portrays the wars that the Empire was involved in from 1914 and onwards. You will see examples of guns, tanks, supply-chains and so on.

    Open daily Except Christmas weekend, admission is free except for special exhibitions. You can rent audio guides for £3.

    Me at the Imperial War museum
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • lina112's Profile Photo

    HMS Belfast

    by lina112 Written Apr 14, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Durfun's Profile Photo

    Comprehensible study of war & effects

    by Durfun Updated Jan 3, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Approaching IWM from the main gates Entrance view: V2 cross-section (L), UKwarhead (R) Terrible Trenches exhibition entrance Hiroshima's Little Boy replica Domestic Indoor Bomb shelter
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • jorgec25's Profile Photo

    So much to see

    by jorgec25 Written Sep 9, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    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.

    Imperial War Museum Imperial War Museum Imperial War Museum Imperial War Museum Imperial War Museum
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: London

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

8 travelers online now

Comments

Hotels Near Imperial War Museum
4.0 out of 5 stars
3 Reviews
0.1 miles away
Show Prices
3.5 out of 5 stars
0.2 miles away
4.5 out of 5 stars
5 Reviews
0.2 miles away
Show Prices

View all London hotels