The Culture24 guide to events marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII

By Ed Sexton | 28 August 2009
a wartime poster to recruit air raid wardens

Air Raid Wardens Wanted. Part of the Imperial War Museum's Outbreak 1939 exhibition. © Imperial War Museum

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, a series of events, activities and exhibitions are taking place around the country – Culture24 offers you a taste of what’s on.

Outbreak 1939: Imperial War Museum, London until October 2010

The Imperial War Museum is commemorating the 70th anniversary with an new exhibition, Outbreak 1939. Culture24 editor Richard Moss went along to review the exhibition and talk to some of the people who have provided first hand accounts of their own experiences. A series of talks and related events accompanies the far reaching exhibition.

We’ll Meet Again, Imperial War Museum North, Manchester, until September 27

At Imperial War Museum North in Manchester a series of events planned for the 70th anniversary starts this weekend (August 29) with We’ll Meet Again, celebrating the music of Vera Lynne. Lynne, often known as 'The Forces' Sweetheart', was one of the most highly acclaimed entertainers of the war. The Museum will be filled with the nostalgic sounds of a Manchester ukulele and vocal duo playing the 1940s star's most popular tunes.

Donington on The Home Front, Donington le Heath Manor House, September 20

Join the Home Guard, tommies from the Leicestershire Regiment, jivers, gardeners and cooks as everyone pulls together to get through the Second World War.

a black and white photo of a woman at a piano

Studio portrait of Myra Hess at her piano, 1950s. Her wartime concerts are celebrated at the National Gallery (see below). Photo courtesy Libbie Foster (née Hess)

Lest We Forget..., Royal Engineers Museum, October 24-25

At the Royal Engineers Museum wartime experiences will be bought to life with the help of both Great War and Second World War re-enactors.

Duxford Goes to War, Imperial War Museum Duxford, until December 31

This new exhibition opens on September 3 and features photographs from the Imperial War Museum’s extensive archives, together with rare photographs on public display for the first time. They were collected as part of the research for Historic Duxford, the museum’s new interpretation project and reveal how Duxford changed during the years, months and days in the lead up to the momentous announcement of war at 11.15am on 3 September 1939.

Dame Myra Hess, The National Gallery, London, October 8

The National Gallery will be paying tribute to Dame Myra Hess who initiated, directed and performed in a series of morale-boosting concerts at the National Gallery during the Second World War. This year, award-winning British actress Patricia Routledge and international concert pianist Piers Lane will tell the extraordinary story of Hess and the wartime National Gallery.

two airmen in uniform sitting next to some planes

(above) Meet the airmen of the Battle of Britain at the RAF Museum, Hendon. Courtesy RAF Museum

Annual Enigma Reunion, Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, September 5-6

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of legendary Enigma code breakers Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, Bletchley will host a display of Enigma and other cipher machines from private and museum collections throughout Europe and elsewhere. Code breaking machines from the early 20th century through the cold war years will be represented and guest speakers will be giving talks. The skies above will also come alive On Saturday 5 with a Battle of Britain Memorial Flypast by a Lancaster bomber.

Second World War Evacuee Day, Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum, London, Saturday September 5

In the first four days of September 1939, Operation Pied Piper began to evacuate three million people out of Britain’s cities to the countryside to could escape enemy bombings. This moving day of memories and nostalgia will include an exhibition of evacuees' memorabilia by members of the local Evacuees Reunion Association and an exhibition about local people's experiences during the war entitled Woolwich and the Blitz. Firepower's own living history team will also be on duty for the event.

Battle of Britain Day, Royal Air Force Museum, September 12-13

The Royal Air Force Museum will be commemorating the Battle of Britain with a series of events on September 12-13. On each day there will be re-enactments of a ‘scramble’ and raid interception and visitors will also be able to ask the pilots about their experiences during the great battle in the sky.

There will also be the opportunity to see how the pilots would have lived, and to try on authentic RAF uniforms and flying clothes.

an abstract painting of a figure on a yellow background

Hughie O’Donoghue, Yellow Man III (see Leeds Art Gallery below) Courtesy Leeds Art Gallery

National Trust properties commemorate 70th anniversary of World War Two

70 years on from the outbreak of the Second World War on September 3 1939, the National Trust is promoting the properties in its care that played an important role in the war effort.

Many historic houses and areas of coast and countryside in the care of the Trust offer unique insights into war work that was going on behind the scenes.

A top-secret radar-testing site, a mansion that housed mapmakers for the Dam Buster raids at Hughenden Manor, a former RAF hospital and the home of Sir Winston Churchill at Chartwell are just some of the places where the atmosphere of wartime Britain can still be experienced.

For more information on any of the events and venues go to the National Trust website

Reflections on War, York Art Gallery, Thursday September 3 – November 15

Thought-provoking memories and notions about war form the basis of this new exhibition marking 70th anniversary. 50 people from North Yorkshire aged 11-93 have used the collections at the Gallery and York Castle Museum as inspiration for their thoughts as part of the Territories project.

Participants have considered the extreme circumstances of war and its impact on real lives – from the heat of battle and the tragic loss of life to stories of heroism and comradeship.

Hughie O’Donoghue: Anabasis - The Journey as Metaphor, Leeds Art Gallery, September – November

All the works chosen for this new exhibition by Royal Academician O’ Donoghue deal with journeys in one context or another. Whilst some of his journeys are metaphysical, some are also literal – like his Yellow Man series, inspired by Van Gogh’s ‘The Painter on the Road to Tarascon’, which only exists in photos after being lost during a WW2 bombing raid.

O’Donoghue’s fascinating work also draws on the wartime, diaries, photographs and experiences of his father, who served throughout the Second World War.