Five museums where you can learn about the Second World War
Interested in the Second World War? These five museums have much to explore, from the home front to battles on land, at sea and in the air.
Discover the history of World War II through artefacts, immersive and interactive displays, in some cases, as in Bletchley Park, set in the locations where the events originally took place. Get a glimpse of what life was like at the time with reconstructions and personal stories from veterans. Visit Churchill's Cabinet Rooms, sit in a Spitfire or explore the only surviving WW2 submarine. All free or discounted entry with your National Art Pass.
During the Second World War, an underground complex near Westminster was home to the rooms where the War Cabinet would meet, plot, and take shelter during the London blitz. These rooms recently featured in the Academy Award winning film about Churchill, Darkest Hour.
Today, the complex has been transformed into a museum exploring the life of Churchill and the influences that shaped him. A highlight is the map room, which has been left exactly as it was when the lights were switched off at the end of the war in 1945.
The Victorian mansion at Bletchley Park was the epicentre of Britain's codebreaking efforts during the war. Bletchley served as the headquarters of the Government Code and Cypher School, the precursor to GCHQ, and was home to pioneering cryptographers including Joan Clarke and Alan Turing, whose Bombe machine eventually broke the Enigma code and changed the course of World War II. Discover the story which formed the basis of the 2014 film The Imitation Game through the museum's immersive displays, films, artefacts and reconstructions, in the very location where it all took place in the 1940s.
The UK's only museum dedicated to the Normandy landings that took place on 6 June 1944, the D-Day Museum uses archive films, landing craft and weapons to tell the story of one of the most decisive encounters of the war. There are also displays of personal memorabilia, maps, uniforms, vehicles and other historic artefacts.
The achievements of the allied troops are celebrated in the stunning Overlord Embroidery, a 20th-century answer to the Bayeux Tapestry, which was commissioned in 1968. It contains 34 hand stitched panels and is 83 metres long.
Based in Portsmouth, home of Britain's navy, the National Museum of the Royal Navy is one of the country's greatest maritime museums, telling the stories of the men and women of the Royal Navy through award-winning permanent galleries and exhibits. Highlights from the Second World War include HMS Alliance, the only surviving British submarine from the era on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.
With a world-class collection of aircraft and artefacts, the Royal Air Force Museum explores the world's oldest independent air force from its inception in 1918 to the present day. Visitors to the museum can listen to Winston Churchill giving his historic Battle of Britain speech to the nation from his office at 10 Downing Street, while Second World War aircraft on display range from the ubiquitous Lancaster to a prototype for the RAF's first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor. You can even take a seat in the cockpit of a Spitfire.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.