• CLOSED
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London
National Army Museum
  • CLOSED
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London

Second World War

British troops practising for D-Day, 1944

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

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

The battle for Italy

From 1943 to 1945, the Allies fought an attritional campaign in Italy against a resolute and skilful enemy. Far from being the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’, Italy became one of the Second World 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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Major David Stirling, c1942

David Stirling: The Phantom Major

Colonel David Stirling was a pioneer of British Special Forces. In 1941, he founded the Special Air Service (SAS) in Egypt to undertake small-scale raids behind enemy lines.

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Gun disguised as a pen for use by SOE agents, 1945

Special Operations Executive

Formed in 1940, SOE was an underground army that waged a secret war in enemy-occupied Europe and Asia. Its agents demonstrated incredible courage and resourcefulness in their guerrilla war.

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Explore Second World War events

First World War recruiting poster showing a line of civilians turning into soldiers
Secondary (virtual)

7 September 2020 - 23 July 2021

FREE

What is Total War? (virtual)

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

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London in the Second World War: The Blitz
Primary workshop

7 September 2020 - 20 July 2022

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

12 September 2020 - 1 July 2021

FREE

Foe to Friend

More than a million British soldiers have lived and served in Germany over the past 75 years. Immerse yourself in their stories and 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)

15 January - 23 July 2021

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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British vehicles pass through a Greek column, 1941
Patrons Only

24 - 29 April 2021

FREE

The Battle of Crete WWII, Defeat and Defiance (Battlefield Walk)

A special tour of the beautiful Mediterranean island of Crete, exploring the famous battle of May 1941 and its aftermath.

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'Guidance from the Greatest' book cover
Talk

7 May 2021, 12.00pm

FREE

Guidance from the Greatest

Join Gavin Mortimer as he considers what society today can learn from the Second World War generation.

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What is Total War?
Secondary workshop

6 September 2021 - 20 July 2022

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.

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Explore Second World War learning resources

Operation Science: Supply Drop
Video

KS2-KS3 (Ages 7 to 14)

Operation Science: Supply Drop

Explore the science behind parachutes and see how well Brussel sprouts can fly in this festive-themed video.

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Askaris moving a field gun into position, c1914
Source Pack

KS2-KS5 (Ages 7 to 18)

Black History in the National Army Museum Collections

Explore the history of black soldiers in the British Army through collection-based objects and stories.

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Jungle Survival Quiz
Home Activity

KS2 (Ages 7 to 11)

Jungle Survival Quiz

Have you got what it takes to survive in the jungle? Try our quiz to find out.

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How to Draw: Desert edition
Home Activity

KS1-KS2 (Ages 5 to 11)

How to Draw: Desert edition

Use our step-by-step instructions to try your hand at desert-themed drawings.

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How To Draw: Transport
Home Activity

KS1-KS2 (Ages 5 to 11)

How to Draw: Transport edition

Use our simple step-by-step instructions to draw Army-related transport.

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Pack your bag: Scavenger hunt
Home Activity

KS1-KS2 (Ages 5 to 11)

Pack your bag: Scavenger hunt

Download our at-home scavenger hunt and get ready to pack your bag for an adventure around the house.

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How to Draw: Second World War edition
Home Activity

KS1-KS2 (Ages 5 to 11)

How to Draw: Second World War edition

Use our simple step-by-step instructions to have a go at drawing items from the Second World War.

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Morse code challenge
Home Activity

KS2 (Ages 7 to 11)

Morse code challenge

Can you crack the code? Try our Morse code challenge at home!

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Join the conversation

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