The Imperial War Museum tells the story of Britain at war, from World War I to the present, through a collection of ten million items – from guns to planes and medals to cyanide pills – at five locations in England.
In this episode, we descend into Churchill’s top-secret underground bunker to discover why he was an irreplaceable leader. We find out how a London housewife became a spy who withstood horrific Nazi torture to protect a vital secret, and then take cover in a World War I trench to reveal the story of a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose discovery turned the tide of the war. We meet an aging cold warrior who exposes dark truths about atomic weapons hidden from the British people for 50 years, then fly above Iraq with British top guns to discover how to stay frosty when enemy missiles lock on. And finally we follow a team of military researchers as they close in on the holy grail of camouflage: how to make a soldier invisible.
The museum was opened in its first location, Crystal Palace, by King George V on 9 June 1920.
The museum's collection features approximately 150,000 works of art, including 14,000 paintings, 30,000 international war posters, a large video and photo archive and more than 10,000 private documents of people involved in warfare.
The museum is housed in a building originally erected for the Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam).
Duxford, Cambridge is the Imperial War Museum’s largest branch and Britain's largest aviation museum.
Key Episode Facts
Millions of shells were fired during WW1. A German FK 16 artillery gun would send out over 360 metallic balls and be able to strike from 10km away.
Laurence Brag was the youngest person to win a Nobel Prize. He invented the sonar equipment that helped silence the German field guns.
Odette Sansom became the ‘housewife spy’ after mistakenly sending photographs of herself to the war office. They saw her potential and called her up for espionage duties.
Odette was the first woman to receive a George Cross which bares the inscription “For Gallantry”.
During WW2 bombings Churchill was reluctant to withdraw to the ‘War Rooms’ bunker. So much so that his bodyguard even attempted to lock him in to prevent him going to the roof to assess the damage.
The Tornado was chosen as the best plane for Gulf War bombing raids as it can fly as fast as 650mph and as low as just 150ft above the ground.
The JP233 cluster bomb, used in the Gulf War raids was specifically designed to make holes through very thick runways, creating an explosion underneath the concrete which led to maximum damage.
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