Imperial War Museum - Secret War Exhibition

Richard Moss

A great place to get the real story of Britain's recent involvement in espionage is the Secret War Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, London.

Shows a photo of a machine resembling a typewriter in a wooden box.

The machine at the heart of the matter - the Enigma encoding device. Coded signals from these machines were sent to Nazi forces all over the world during WW2. Picture Courtesy: Imperial War Museum.

The only complete overview of the history of 20th century espionage in the UK, this permanent exhibition shows how Britain's secret government agencies, MI5 and MI6, have developed since their establishment before the First World War.

a photograph of a canoe

SOE agents were landed on the French coast in WW2 by canoe, small boat and by parachute. The canoe pictured was used by a specialist Royal Marine detachment in the infamous attack Bordeaux Harbour in December 1942. The men who took part in this daring raid became known as the Cockleshell Heroes and only two of them survived. Picture Courtesy: Imperial War Museum.

It's an atmospheric and comprehensive exhibition packed with artefacts and augmented with sound recordings and film . The exhibition is particularly strong on code breaking and the work of SOE during the Second World War and exhibits include an original German Enigma cipher machine, notebooks, bottles of invisible ink and hoards of equipment and specialist weaponry. Visitors can also view film footage that gives a unique insight into the training of SOE agents during the last war.

a photograph of an army truck painted in sand camouflage

The Secret War exhibition has a wealth weaponry dating from World War Two. Pictured is an original Chevrolet belonging to the Long Range Desert Group - as used in the North African Desert campaigns. Picture Courtesy: Imperial War Museum.

There are also several rooms of cold war related material with exhibits including a radio used by MI6 agents. The files of individual agents can also be accessed through the use of interactive videos.

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