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  • Chelsea, London

Second World War

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

James Thurlby, 1943

In Their Own Words: Sergeant James Thurlby

James Thurlby served during the Second World War and turned his talents as a journalist to describing his experiences as a soldier. His writings provide a visceral account of combat and a profound insight into the horrors of war.

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Ted Senior during his time as a prisoner of war, c1943

In Their Own Words: Major Ted Senior

Ted Senior was captured by the Japanese during the Second World War and forced to work on the Thai-Burma ‘Death Railway'. The diary he kept reveals the horrific conditions that he and his fellow prisoners endured.

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Audrey Chitty with Helen Pine at the ATS Training Depot, Sarafand, Palestine, Summer 1942

Audrey Chitty and the ATS in Palestine

Audrey Chitty was one of many women who stepped up to meet the challenges of the Second World War. She played a key role in establishing the Auxiliary Territorial Service in the Middle East.

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Detail from 'Troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force in the Arakan, Burma, 1944'

Troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force in the Arakan, Burma, 1944

This painting by Captain Hugh Micklem depicts West African soldiers on campaign in Burma (now Myanmar) during the Second World War.

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Rex Whistler’s self-portrait, May 1940

Rex Whistler’s self-portrait, May 1940

This self-portrait is one of many depictions of Second World War soldiers on display at the National Army Museum. Here, we take a closer look at the painting to discover more about Whistler's life as an artist and soldier.

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Gerry Chester, during training with the Royal Tank Regiment, c1942

Sergeant Arthur ‘Gerry’ Chester

Gerry Chester served with the tanks of the North Irish Horse in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War. Like other tankmen, he forged a close bond with his crew mates, with whom he endured many hardships and combat actions.

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Section Leader Mary Oldnall of the ATS working electrical apparatus, Shoeburyness, c1941

Hidden voices: Mary Coomer

The voice of Mary Coomer, who served in the ATS during the Second World War, was recently discovered in the National Army Museum's collection of oral history interviews. This is her story, in her own words.

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Valerie Erskine Howe, Auxiliary Territorial Service, on a motorbike, c1944

Hidden voices: Valerie Erskine Howe

What would you do if your partner told you to get out there and 'learn about life' before they would marry you? Valerie Erskine Howe opted to join the Army... in the middle of a war. This is her story.

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3rd County of London Crusader tank and crew, Libya, 1941

The Sale Collection: Operation Crusader

In the fourth instalment, we explore the wartime exploits of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry in 1941. During this time, the men of the unit underwent a baptism of fire in the Libyan desert.

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3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters) keeping fit on board HMT 'Orion' en route to Egypt, 1941

The Sale Collection: Voyaging to war

In the third instalment, we explore the exploits of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry in 1941 as they travel around Africa en route to the desert war in Egypt and Libya.

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Civilians gathered around British tanks, Hamburg, May 1945

The Army and the occupation of Germany

Following their victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, the Allies were faced with administering a country in ruins. British soldiers had a leading role in this, helping to hunt war criminals, rebuild industry and help displaced persons.

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Levison Wood (left) with his dad Lev Wood Senior

Levison Wood: My Grandfather’s War

Author and explorer Levison Wood discovers the story of his grandfather's wartime service in Burma through family memorabilia and National Army Museum archives.

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Explore Second World War events

Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945
Exhibition At Museum

12 September 2020 - 29 September 2024

FREE

Foe to Friend

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.

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A clergyman and Civil Defence workers helping to clear the debris of a London school, 1940
Primary (virtual)

1 June 2024 - 18 July 2025

FREE

London in the Second World War: The Blitz (virtual)

Explore historic artefacts to discover more about the London Blitz and the people who worked to keep civilians safe.

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London in the Second World War: The Blitz
Primary workshop

1 June 2024 - 18 July 2025

FREE

London in the Second World War: The Blitz

Explore historic artefacts to discover more about the Blitz and the people who worked to keep civilians safe.

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School students getting to grips with the handling collection
Secondary workshop

1 June 2024 - 18 July 2025

FREE

World at War: Soldiers of Empire

Discover more about the contributions of soldiers from the British Empire in the First and Second World Wars.

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A view of Vesuvius from Pompeii, c1943
Talk At Museum / Online

28 June 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

World Heritage and War: The Bombing of Pompeii

Professor Nigel Pollard uses the little-known story of the bombing of Pompeii during the Second World War to reflect on the risk that conflict poses to cultural heritage sites.

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Sister Evelyn Morgan character actor
Performance At Museum

30 June 2024

FREE

Soldier Stories: Sister Evelyn Morgan

Meet characters, both real and imagined, from the Army’s past and hear their amazing stories in our galleries.

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German soldiers on Focha Street, Warsaw, August 1944
Talk At Museum / Online

26 July 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

The Warsaw Uprising

Hear from Dr Paul Latawski as he recounts the events of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, highlighting its importance within the context of the Second World War.

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Parachute drop with toy soldiers
Workshop At Museum

6 - 9 August 2024

FREE

Parachute Drop

Help the Allies prepare for the D-Day landings by creating your very own parachute and then dropping it behind enemy lines.

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Storyteller Lauren Greirson with a tank
Tour At Museum

13 - 16 August 2024

FREE

Blitz Storytelling Trail

Join us on an immersive storytelling tour as we help a time-travelling member of the ATS get back home.

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Polish gunners fire 25 pounders, Italy, 1944
Talk At Museum / Online

30 August 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

Breaking the Gothic Line

Dr Paul Latawski recounts how the formidable Gothic Line was breached during the Italian Campaign of the Second World War.

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'Churchill’s Spaniards' book cover
Talk At Museum / Online

6 September 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

Churchill’s Spaniards

Join Séan Scullion as he reveals the story of the Spanish Republican volunteers who served in the British Army during the Second World War.

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Leading Aircraftwoman Pearl Bradburn recording details of casualties before take-off from Bazenville, Normandy, 1944
Talk At Museum / Online

20 September 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

Getting Them Home: The Flying Nightingales

Dr Emily Mayhew tells the remarkable story of the Flying Nightingales, a group of nurses who flew across the Channel to help evacuate injured soldiers from the beaches of Normandy.

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Explore Second World War learning resources

The Blitz: Gallery Trail
Trail

KS2 (Ages 7 to 11)

The Blitz: Gallery Trail

Follow this gallery trail, accompanied by ATS servicewoman Shirley Hamilton, to find out more about the Blitz.

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History of Warfare: Gallery Trail
Trail

KS3-KS5 (Ages 11 to 16+)

History of Warfare: Gallery Trail

Follow the trail to find ten gallery objects that explore the nature of warfare and the British Army through time.

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Second World War: Gallery Trail
Trail

KS3-KS4 (Ages 11 to 16)

Second World War: Gallery Trail

Follow this gallery trail to find out more about the role of the British Army during the Second World War.

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Auxiliary Territorial Service personnel operating anti-aircraft defences, c1940
Quiz

KS2 (Ages 7 to 11)

Britain and the Blitz in the Second World War: Quiz

Put your knowledge of the Blitz to the test in this interactive quiz.

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Outside an advanced dressing station at Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, Western Front, April 1917
Timeline

KS4-KS5 (Ages 14+)

Health and Medicine in the Army: Interactive Timeline

Uncover the history of medical developments in the British Army through this interactive timeline packed with nearly 200 sources.

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Indian Army troops travelling upstream on a barge, Mesopotamia, c1916
Timeline

KS3-KS5 (Ages 11+)

India, Empire and the Army: Interactive Timeline

Explore the history of the British Army in India and the British Empire's Indian armies through this interactive timeline packed with over 200 sources.

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Members of the Coldstream Guards during an infantry exercise in Germany, c1977
Timeline

KS4-KS5 (Ages 14+)

Britain, the Army and the Cold War: Interactive Timeline

Explore the British Army’s role in the Cold War through this interactive timeline packed with over 100 sources. 

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'The Divided Dominion', poster, published 21 June 1947
Video

KS3-KS4 (Ages 11 to 16)

The Partition of India: A Poetic Retelling

Discover more about the Partition of India and the events leading up to it through this poetry film, featuring archival images and original epic poetry.

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British soldiers and locals watch the burning of Belsen, May 1945
Video

KS3-KS4 (Ages 11 to 16)

The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen

Uncover the story of the Army’s liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the tail end of the Second World War in Europe.

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Recruiting leaflet, Army Cadet Force, 1991
Timeline

KS3-KS5 (Ages 11+)

Army Cadets: Interactive Timeline

Explore the history of the British Army Cadet Force and the Combined Cadet Force through this interactive timeline. 

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Let's Talk Tanks
Video

KS2 (Ages 7 to 11)

Let’s Talk Tanks

Set off on a mission to find out more about the everyday lives of tank crews during the Second World War in this family friendly video.

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Black Poppy
Video

KS2-KS3 (Ages 7 to 14)

BlackPoppyRose at the National Army Museum

Explore the theme of remembrance and the service of African and Caribbean men and women in the British Army with BlackPoppyRose.

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