British troops practising for D-Day, 1944

Featured

Second World War

The Second World War took place between 1939 and 1945 and was the bloodiest conflict in human history. It split the world's nations into two opposing military alliances, the Allies and the Axis Powers.

Read this story

Explore Second World War stories

Luck and superstition

Luck and superstition

Chance plays a significant part in deciding a soldier’s fate on the battlefield. Here we look at examples of close shaves and extraordinary escapes, and examine some of the superstitions soldiers draw on for comfort and protection.

explore this story
The war on glamour

The war on glamour

During the Second World War, the Army relied on women to perform essential military roles. But some of the tactics used to recruit new members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) proved highly controversial.

explore this story
Abram Games in his studio, c1941

Abram Games and the power of the poster

Abram Games was 'Official War Poster Artist' during the Second World War. Always direct, and occasionally controversial, his posters have left a legacy that continues to influence the art of persuasion used by visual designers today.

explore this story
Abram Games poster, 'Your Britain. Fight for It Now', 1942

Abram Games, ABCA and the fight for post-war change

During the Second World War, Abram Games produced a series of posters for the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. These aimed to remind soldiers what they were fighting for, while also offering a glimpse of the post-war society they could aspire to.

explore this story
The 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers with Achilles tank destroyers near Ferrara, April 1945

The battle for Italy

For almost two years during the Second World War (1939-45), the Allies fought a bitter struggle in Italy against a determined and skilful enemy. Far from being the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’, Italy became one of the war’s most exhausting campaigns.

explore this story
Gurkhas open fire during an attack near Palel, April 1944

Battles of Imphal and Kohima

These formed the turning point of one of the most gruelling campaigns of the Second World War. The decisive Japanese defeat in north-east India in 1944 became the springboard for the subsequent re-conquest of Burma.

explore this story
ATS women at a train station, 1944

Breaking boundaries

During the Second World War women took on increasingly diverse roles. But, like their First World War predecessors, they were still prevented from fighting.

explore this story
Field Marshal Auchinleck, c1947

Claude Auchinleck: The auk

After initial successes in North Africa during the Second World War, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck transferred to India as Commander-in-Chief. His unstinting logistical support there was vital to the Allied re-conquest of Burma.

explore this story
East African soldiers with a captured Japanese flag, 1944 

The Far East campaign

Between December 1941 and August 1945, British Commonwealth troops and their allies fought a bitter war across the vast expanses of Asia and the Pacific Ocean against a tenacious and often brutal enemy.

explore this story
Major Herbert 'Blondie' Hasler and a colleague paddling a canoe, c1942

Herbert 'Blondie' Hasler: A Cockleshell Hero

Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler was an inventor, pioneering yachtsman and special forces canoeist. In December 1942, he led the daring ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ raid on Bordeaux harbour.

explore this story
Captain Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott, c1944

Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott: Covert beach surveyor

During the Second World War, Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott founded the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties to undertake covert beach reconnaissance. This proved vital for the success of Allied seaborne invasions.

explore this story
Captain Roger Courtney, 1943

Roger Courtney: SBS pioneer

Major Roger ‘Jumbo’ Courtney founded the Special Boat Section during the Second World War. This became one of Britain’s most important Special Forces and was a parent unit of the modern Special Boat Service.

explore this story

Explore Second World War events

Secret Alliances: British Special Operations and Intelligence in Norway, 1940-45
Talk

17 April 2020, 11.30am

FREE

Secret Alliances

CANCELLED: Dr Tony Insall discusses the work conducted by the Secret Intelligence Service and Special Operations Executive alongside local resistance in Norway during the Second World War.

find out more
The Lived Experience of British Forces in Germany, 1945-2019
Talk

8 May 2020, 11.30am

FREE

The Lived Experience of British Forces in Germany, 1945-2019

CANCELLED: Historian and curator Dr Peter Johnston reveals the human stories behind our new exhibition 'Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945'.

find out more
Victory Dance
Late

8 May 2020, 7.00pm

£20.00

Victory Dance

CANCELLED: Celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and jive the night away at our 1940s dance.

find out more
Why the Allies Won
Talk

8 May 2020, 1.45pm

FREE

Why the Allies Won

CANCELLED: Renowned historian James Holland discusses the events that brought the Second World War in Europe to an end in 1945.

find out more
VE Day 75: Wartime Weekend
Exhibition

8 - 9 May 2020, 10.00am

FREE

VE Day 75: Wartime Weekend

CANCELLED: Celebrate 75 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe. Be transported back in time with our Victory Street, military music, and topical talks.

find out more
Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945
Exhibition

8 May 2020 - 8 May 2021

FREE

Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945

POSTPONED: More than a million British soldiers have lived and served in Germany over the past 75 years. Follow their evolution from conquerors and occupiers to allies and friends.

find out more
Eight Days at Yalta
Talk

20 May 2020, 6.30pm

£5.00

Eight Days at Yalta

CANCELLED: In 1945, as Allied forces advanced across Europe and into Germany, their political leaders met at Yalta. Join Diana Preston to explore the choices they made for peace.

find out more
How Germany Remembers
Talk

22 May 2020, 11.30am

FREE

How Germany Remembers

CANCELLED: Join Angela Findlay as she discusses Germany's unique process of remembrance following the Second World War, with a focus on the 'counter memorial' movement.

find out more
When We Fall
Talk

28 May 2020, 6.30pm

FREE

When We Fall

CANCELLED: Author Carolyn Kirby discusses the life of Janina Lewandowska, the only female victim of the Katyn Massacre and the inspiration behind her latest novel.

find out more
The Indian Contingent at Dunkirk
Talk

29 May 2020, 11.30am

FREE

The Indian Contingent at Dunkirk

CANCELLED: On the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk, join Ghee Bowman as he discusses the largely forgotten stories of the 300 Muslim Indian soldiers who were there.

find out more
Air Support in the Second World War
Talk

5 June 2020, 11.30am

FREE

Air Support in the Second World War

CANCELLED: Brigadier Ben Kite tells the story of how the British Army incorporated air power to support some of its most famous campaigns of the Second World War.

find out more
What is Total War?
Secondary workshop

1 - 30 July 2020

FREE

What is Total War?

Investigate the concept of Total War by tracing the steps taken to prepare for industrialised conflict in the First and Second World Wars.

find out more

Join the conversation

"First time @NAM_London today. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought the presentation & interpretation made the subject accessible..."