British troops practising for D-Day, 1944

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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.

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Explore Second World War stories

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lieutenant Colonel Robert 'Paddy' Mayne near Kabrit, Egypt, 1942

'Paddy' Mayne: An Irish Lion

Lieutenant-Colonel 'Paddy' Mayne is a legendary figure in the history of the Special Forces. A celebrated sportsman with a turbulent character, he played a vital role in the early successes of the Special Air Service (SAS), becoming one of its most important commanders.

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Lieutenant Jock Lewes, 1940

'Jock' Lewes: SAS mastermind

As the co-founder of the Special Air Service (SAS), Lewes played a vital role in establishing the unit’s ethos and high standards of training and discipline.

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Explore Second World War events

What is Total War?
Secondary workshop

3 September 2018 - 23 July 2019

FREE

What is Total War?

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

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London in the Second World War: The Blitz
Primary workshop

3 September 2018 - 23 July 2019

FREE

London in the Second World War: The Blitz

Use sleuthing skills to discover the stories revealed in our Second World War time capsules. Delivered in partnership with the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

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The art of persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games
Exhibition

6 April 2019 - 24 November 2019

£6.00

The art of persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games

This major exhibition explores the life and legacy of the iconic designer Abram Games, focusing on his time as ‘Official War Poster Artist’ during the Second World War.

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Food for thought: Digital poster design
Workshop

29 May 2019

FREE

Food for thought: Digital poster design

Get inspired by the work of Abram Games and use iPads to make a digital poster.

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D-Day: The soldiers' story
Talk

7 June 2019, 11.30am

FREE

D-Day: The soldiers' story

Giles Milton explores a narrative of D-Day shaped through the tales of survivors.

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Spotlight Saturday: D-Day
Workshop

8 June 2019

FREE

Spotlight Saturday: D-Day

Join us for this day of talks, tours and family activities as we mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

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Kohima: Britain's greatest battle?
Talk

11 June 2019, 6.30pm

£10.00

Kohima: Britain's greatest battle?

Marking the 75th anniversary of the battles of Imphal and Kohima, historians James Holland and Robert Lyman discuss their immediate impact and wider significance.

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Forgotten Allies
Screening

12 June 2019, 6.15pm

£20.00

Forgotten Allies

Join Grammar Productions and special guests for the world premiere of 'Forgotten Allies', before it airs on UK TV later this year.

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Curator tour: The art of persuasion
Tour

13 June 2019, 11.00am

£10.50

Curator tour: The art of persuasion

Join a curator on an hour-long guided tour of our special exhibition, 'The art of persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games'.

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Persuading the people: British propaganda in the Second World War
Talk

14 June 2019, 11.30am

FREE

Persuading the people: British propaganda in the Second World War

From crude to comic, Professor David Welch discusses British propaganda and illustrates his talk with artefacts from the Second World War.

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Abram Games: Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means
Screening

14 June 2019, 2.00pm

FREE

Abram Games: Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means

Find out more about the life and legacy of Abram Games at this documentary film screening.

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D-Day dance
Late

22 June 2019, 7.30pm

£15.00

D-Day dance

Get your fill of '40s-themed fun in an evening of swing, gin and dancing.

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