The Imperial War Museum London (IWM London) in Lambeth Road, London, is one of the five museums under the ambit of the Imperial War Museum (IWM). IWM was established in 1917 in the aftermath of World War I to serve as a repository of knowledge for armed conflicts involving United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations in the hopes that it would provide means to study and understand the history, cause and effect of modern warfare. During the opening ceremony on 9 June 1920, Commissioner of Works Sir Alfred Mond emphasised that IWM is not “a monument to military glory”, but instead, will serve as a “record of toil and sacrifice.”
The concept of IWM was conceived in 1917, but it took another three years before its first exhibition was held at the Crystal Palace. True to its objective, the museum doesn’t seek to glorify war or the brave exploits of soldiers. Instead, it sought to record, collect and display the many facets of World War I to present an unadulterated account of the conflict from the perspective of the military and civilian population.
In 1920, the museum was moved to the Imperial Institute in South Kensington (the current site of Imperial College London) owing to its strategic location and upscale surrounding. However, the building proved to be too small. As a result, IWM London moved for one final time – to the abandoned Bethlem Royal Hospital on Lambeth Road which, at the time, was on the verge of being demolished and converted into a public park. After a quick settling in period, IWM London was reopened to the public on 7 July 1936.
IWM London, as well as IWM, is chartered as a non-profit public body under the regulatory management of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Like its counterparts, IWM London coverage of wars extends from World War I to present day conflicts. Aside from the attention-grabbing weapons of war, the museum also exhibits the harsh realities of war such as
• The Holocaust Exhibition, which explores the political and social origin and subsequent impact of anti-Semitism. The model of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Austria in the third floor provides a horrifically accurate view of Nazi atrocities
• Crimes Against Humanity gallery, which focuses on ethnic violence and genocide
Note: Both exhibitions are not suitable for younger children
Other popular exhibits in the museum include:
• The V1 flying bomb and V2 rocket which were used by Germany in the London air raids during World War II
• Harrier GR9 Strike Aircraft which was used in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001
• An assortment of military uniforms, tanks and guns used over the last century
Apart from the permanent exhibits, IWM London also organises temporary exhibitions which explore specific topics and events using mediums such as photography, art and film.
A German V2 rocket from World War II
The easiest way to get to the museum is by Lambeth North tube station, which is located about 250 metres away (7 minute walk). Driving takes about 20 minutes from central London, but please note that there are limited parking spaces near the museum and the area is located within the Congestion Charge zone. The museum is also served by more than half a dozen bus routes.
Opening times for IWM London is between 10.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. daily, except from 24 to 26 December every year.
IWM London Atrium