Five Second World War museums

  • 21 January 2015

To mark the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's death, we've rounded up Britain's best museums exploring the Second World War, from artillery in Hampshire to Spitfires in London.

1. Churchill War Rooms, London
50% off entry with National Art Pass

During the Second World War, an underground complex near Westminster was home to the Cabinet War Rooms, where the War Cabinet would meet, plot, and take shelter during the London blitz. 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.

2. Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
50% off entry with National Art Pass

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 Alan Turing and Joan Clarke, whose story formed the basis of the 2014 film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. 

​3. D-Day Museum, Hampshire
50% off entry with National Art Pass

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. The achievements of the allied troops are celebrated in the stunning Overlord Embroidery: a 20th-century answer to the Bayeux Tapestry which, at 83 metres, is the longest embroidery of its kind in the world.

4. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hampshire
Free entry with National Art Pass

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, which recently reopened to visitors following a £7m restoration project.

5. Royal Air Force Museum, London
Free entry to all

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 and Spitfire to a prototype for the RAF's first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor.

Bonus trip: Churchill's Scientists, Science Museum, London
Free to all

The Science Museum has brought together photographs, film footage and artefacts to explore the lives and breakthroughs of the scientists who worked under Churchill's government. The exhibitions highlights the work of some of the war's less well-known scientists, including Elsie Widdowson and Robert McCance, who wrote the seminal nutritional text The Composition of Foods while devising the war diet.

Tags: What to seeMuseums and galleriesGreat days out