Explore Britain’s military history on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

The Explore History Centre, an innovative new project launched at the Imperial War Museum, London, lets you get up close and personal with history.

The centre offers a location which anyone can visit, free of charge, to immediately access parts of the museum’s vast collection of digitised photos, film, sound recordings, documents, art and books. The easy-to-search web catalogue, interactive multimedia displays and the expertise of staff allows people to discover the hidden treasures from the museum’s archives as well as the personal stories behind them.

Pilot Officer Frederick Cecil Harrold

Accompanying the Explore History Centre is a special display drawing on the diversity of the museum’s collections. This year, the display looks at the momentous events of 1940 – one of the most important years in British military history which determined the eventual outcome of the Second World War: Churchill’s rise to power, the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz are all chronicled in the Explore History 1940 collection. The display showcases some of the icons of 1940 like the Spitfire, ‘hero’ of the Battle of Britain, and Tamzine, one of the famous ‘little ships’ which played such a significant role in Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk. Joining these iconic objects will be a series of smaller artefacts from the across the museum’s collections which reveal the many untold stories behind the well-documented events of 1940. Among these will be personal items belonging to Pilot Officer Frederick Cecil Harrold, who was killed when his Hurricane fighter plane was shot down on 28 September 1940. His family carefully preserved a remarkable collection of belongings found on him including his pilot ‘wings’, a dented cigarette case and even a bent house-key. Find out more at The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Rd, London SE1 6HZ; tel: (020) 7416 5320; www.iwm.org.uk.


The Battle of Britain was fought over Britain between 10 July and 31 October 1940. 15 September became known as Battle of Britain Day, as in 1940 that date had marked the height of the aerial action. In 1945, thousands gathered in London to watch masses of RAF fighters carry out the first of what was to become an annual commemorative flypast over the capital; it became the tradition for a Hurricane and Spitfire to lead. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, based at RAF Coningsby, is the RAF’s tribute to the aviators of the Second World War, and flies several Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Dakota and a Lancaster. The flight is taking part in several events around the country this year to mark the 70th anniversary. For details of the many events planned and to learn more about the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, go to www.raf.mod.uk.