Documentary looking at Imperial War Museums in the centenary year of its establishment. Celebrity advocates explore ten key objects from the IWM's collection.
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This year marks the 100th anniversary
of the Imperial War Museum.
Founded during the turmoil of the First World War, its aim -
to record the sacrifices made by men and women in times of conflict.
War changes people's lives irreversibly and the artefacts,
documents and recordings on show here in this museum,
are physical reminders of its impact.
Every object here was owned by someone or used by someone,
be they civilian or military and they all tell a story.
The museum has expanded significantly over its 100 years.
Now taking in sites like Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire,
the Churchill War Rooms
and HMS Belfast.
Delving into the museum's rich collections,
our team of presenters will discover the stories behind
ten specially-chosen objects.
From a humble wallet carried to the Somme by a brave headmaster...
..to the mighty Spitfire that was part of our finest hour.
What an extraordinary treat this is.
I haven't touched anything in here, by the way, and I'm not going to.
And from a ukulele made from boxes by a prisoner of war...
..to the helmet worn by a true war hero.
-So these are all the guys...
-That I saved.
-..that you saved?
Oh, my gosh.
Each of these objects tells its own vivid story of Britain at war.
When the Imperial War Museum was founded,
Britain was still at war with Germany and the Home Front was in
the grip of food shortages.
Chef Ainsley Harriott
has come to the Imperial War Museum's cafe to find out about
an object very close to the nation's heart and its stomach.
I've come to the museum today to look at the ration books.
Can you imagine being told you can only have so much sugar,
so much butter? What were they able to actually make with those foods?
So it's going to be a fascinating afternoon for me.
Anthony Richards is the Imperial War Museum's head of documents.
Rationing was introduced very late on in the First World War.
I mean, even today,
we associate rationing with the Second World War, really.
Absolutely, I would never have known it was connected with the
-First World War.
-No. This is an example of a ration book from 1918.
If we have a look at it, you can see that you've got tickets for meat...
I've never seen one of these, you know?
-Butter and margarine.
-Butter and margarine.
Look at this.
The newly-formed museum used ration books to encourage people
to donate objects relating to the Great War.
"Also, original letters, sketches,
"poems and other interesting documents sent from any of the
"war areas and all kinds of memorabilia,
"even of trifling character."
Great, isn't it?
-It's wonderful. The old way of speaking English.
So how did they get all these people
to send so much personal stuff in there? Because it could have been
-something they remember their loved ones by.
well, right from the museum's origins,
it was decided that the museum would concentrate on personal experience.
Because the original curators of the museum didn't want it to be
-a collection of dead war relics, just big bits of metal.
They wanted to be able to tell personal stories.
What type of things would have been made with these ingredients?
Many people would have been baking cakes and things like that and
sending parcels out to the trenches.
Right at the end of the war,
the government was actually producing guidelines as to
particular recipes that you could make
with the minimum of ingredients.
-The famous example is the trench cake.
This is one I made earlier.
An actual trench cake.
This looks a bit like a scone actually, doesn't it?
It is - very flat.
This is for consumption, then?
Yeah, let's try it.
It is a bit biscuity.
There you are, mate. Get your noshers around that.
Oh, it's quite nice.
I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll cut it up, and if you don't mind,
I'll have a little wander around the museum and see if we can get a few
-of the visitors to try, see what they think of it?
Yeah, not bad at all.
Please, ladies and gentlemen,
come forward, come and try a bit of our trench cake.
Do you like cake, generally?
OK, so this is the original recipe.
It lacks perhaps a little bit of...
-What's your feeling?
I love that first... That first bite says everything.
I think they would have been grateful for anything
If you'd been fighting in the trenches and your loved one
-sent you this, would you be happy?
-Yeah, to have this.
Wouldn't have tea...
..some muddy water, maybe.
Trench cake and muddy water?
These ration books were distributed to everyone throughout Britain.
What a way of advertising,
what a way of saying to people, "By the way,
"whilst you're getting your butter and sugar,
"if you've got anything that's in your loft or in your drawer,
"that you can send to the museum to share your story."
Talking with Tony has just brought it home to me,
you're talking about a personal relationship that the museum
had with these families.
The Imperial War Museum's aim to feature personal possessions as well
as military items
has resulted in a hugely diverse collection of objects -
many of which themselves bear the scars of conflict.
This wallet belonged to teacher Robert Smylie.
And I've brought it back to his old school in Suffolk,
where he was headmaster when the First World War broke out.
The school may have changed a bit in the past 100 years,
but the story of Robert Smylie
is still an important part of its history.
I'm really looking forward
to finding out about Robert Smylie himself,
but I want to find out what the young people know about him.
Because it's about them knowing more about their own school,
about their own environment and the people from this area who went away
and never came home.
'Teacher David Grocott has researched the school's history.'
This is Robert Smylie and this photo was taken in 1914.
He had been in position as headmaster for three years when the
First World War broke out.
This is a letter that he sent to all of the parents of the boys
-of Sudbury Grammar School.
-"On September 13th,
"I received an official letter asking whether I was prepared to
"accept a commission.
"That is not the kind of work which I prefer to do,
"but there is only one honourable answer to a request made by
"military authorities in time of war."
What is remarkable about Robert Smylie is that he...
..was 40 years old at the outbreak of war.
But he felt a sense of duty and a sense of commitment.
Maybe as a teacher,
Robert Smylie felt he had to continue looking out for the
young men of his country.
By late 1915, he was on the Western Front and in July 1916,
his regiment was sent to the Somme.
Two weeks later, Smylie, now a captain, led his men into battle.
We've got this remarkable artefact from the Battle of the Somme -
Robert Smylie's wallet.
And as you might expect, we've got within it
a picture of his wife and indeed his three children.
Most touchingly, we have, in the centre of this artefact,
this damage here,
which we believe is caused by the bullet that took his life.
Did you have anything similar when you were in service?
Yeah, I think most service people take some sort of memorabilia,
some sort of keepsake, something that attaches you to your family.
Yeah, I had a wallet in...
It was surrounded in a plastic envelope.
Mine got thrown over the side,
because when they stripped off my clothes, they were still ablaze,
so the easiest thing was to cut them off straightaway
and throw them over.
So it's probably still at the bottom of the sea, all sealed still.
But...it had all my poker winnings in it.
'To this day, the school still holds a two-minute silence for
'Robert Smylie every year.
'I've come to talk to some of the students about his legacy.'
How are we, guys? You OK?
What do you think about the fact
that Mr Smylie didn't have to go to war?
He was very brave to do it and
he got a lot of respect from it and things like that.
Cos he didn't have to do it but he did it cos he felt that was
-the right thing to do.
-He had three children and yet he still wanted
to go and be a part of all those young people,
people like yourselves, that he'd taught,
he'd been headmaster with and for.
I think in 1914, lots of people were keen to go to war.
Someone of his age wasn't obliged to go but his love for the country,
I suppose, was shown. I think pupils...
I know I certainly would respect his desire to do that.
I'm thrilled that the school has taken on
Robert Smylie's history and his sacrifices.
They have taken it all to heart and that's really important.
I was 16 when I joined up.
A young man with no responsibilities.
But it was very different for Robert Smylie.
He left behind three children and his wife and I find a bit of me is
angry at him for doing that. But you have to respect somebody that makes
a decision and sticks to it, whatever the consequences.
He still went and did his duty.
He still represented and stood in front and led all of his men,
which takes a heck of a lot of courage.
When the First World War ended,
the loss of a generation of men changed the way we commemorated
our fallen soldiers.
Artist Cornelia Parker
is fascinated by ideas of war and memory
and has come to Richmond to look
at an early object from the Imperial War Museum's collection that will
forever be associated with remembrance.
I'm always very interested in the found object
and things that have
become culturally significant, you know, almost cliched.
I'm very interested in how that icon came into being and how it's
manufactured and who makes it
and so the idea of coming here was very exciting.
Brian Love is a tour guide here at the Poppy Factory.
So here, Cornelia,
we've got a poppy that was made later, 1929.
It's made of silk, it's got hair bristles in it
and it has a metal stud
which says, "Haig Fund".
So this poppy is part of the Imperial War Museum's collection,
but I think you have something to do with it, don't you?
This is the one I gave them.
So I'm proud to see it again,
it's like a relative, a long-lost relative.
The power of the poppy as a symbol, has its roots in the battlefields
of the Western Front.
When the servicemen first went to France,
they found corn poppies growing on devastated areas of ground and they
used to pick them and wear them in their felt caps, then,
before steel helmets,
as a lucky talisman.
Since the First World War,
the poppy has become a universal symbol of remembrance.
When Cornelia came here back in 2014 to research her work on war and
memory, it wasn't the poppies themselves that most inspired her.
This machine was the thing I saw when I first came here.
I was so struck by all the holes
being punched out of this piece of paper.
It puts hairs on the back of my neck,
it's almost like the loss of all the men.
I just thought, "This is what I'm looking for."
In the final artwork,
Cornelia hangs swathes of this leftover red poppy paper
in an installation entitled War Room.
Somehow, the paper with the poppy holes in it meant even more to me
than the actual poppies. It's almost like the negative space, it's like,
-"Where did all the flowers go?"
Another contemporary artist interested in ideas of commemoration
and sacrifice is Steve McQueen.
His work on the Iraq war, Queen And Country,
is on permanent display here at the Imperial War Museum, London.
I think it was in 2003 when I went to Iraq for the first time.
The one thing I did come away with was the camaraderie of the troops.
I thought, "These people have to be represented,
"and represented in a way
"that people could participate in their memory."
And I started thinking about war letters and stuff like that.
Steve decided to use portrait photographs of men and women who had
died in Iraq and turned them into sheets of postage stamps.
At the time, living in Amsterdam,
there was a stamp about van Gogh and his image was on the stamp,
this little portrait. I thought,
"Oh, portraits and the portraits of the troops."
When I first was researching this...
the only people that could appear on a stamp, who weren't royalty,
was if you were dead.
I thought, "OK, well, let's put two and two together."
-Can we have a look at one?
Lance Corporal Thomas Keys.
20 years old.
I wanted those people recognised in a way which wasn't monumental,
but was within our everyday.
That's why you chose stamps.
The idea of the face being on the letter.
Yes. For me, I wanted to sort of
get into the bloodstream of the country in a way which didn't come
-through the media.
-Didn't come through, er, you know...
I wanted to come through the everyday.
-Come through the letterbox.
That whole idea that the country
could be participating within the active recognition of these troops
who had basically given up their life for Queen and country.
But the stamps with the faces of
those who had given their lives in Iraq
were never sent.
-We wanted it to be actual stamps...
..but it's one of those things where the Royal Mail have to sort of...
have to make the decision of what they want to do.
This, for me, is not an artwork
until it's actually realised as the artwork that it was intended.
Because they are in drawers,
it's like a sarcophagus, they're in the dark.
And the viewer has to pull it open and let the light in.
Absolutely. And I think the whole idea of having that intimacy was
very important for me. This was the only way I could actually
perceive it in a way, for now,
that people could see what I was wanting to do.
So it's the unfinished artwork, basically.
I think we've both chosen to use the mass-produced and the mechanised
to deal with something quite, you know, raw.
Rows and rows of stamps, it's a mechanised process.
Going to the Poppy Factory
and seeing millions of poppies being punched out
is a similar kind of production line.
Whereas my commemoration was to do with the absence, you know,
the emptiness, the holes.
The people who've gone.
And his were the faces of the dead.
And so it's a brilliant way,
and a very quiet way,
of dealing with all that turmoil and chaos and anguish,
which wars are all about.
AIR RAID SIRENS BLARE
When war broke out again in 1939,
the Imperial War Museum was 22 years old.
It would play a major role in recording the stories of those who
fought and died in this new global conflict.
Anita Rani is going in search of an object that belonged to one of the
millions of soldiers from Britain's colonies who served
in the Second World War.
I'm here to find out about a silver Sikh bangle, called a kara,
that belonged to Major Parkash Singh,
who won the Victoria Cross during the Second World War.
Because my own grandfather was a Sikh who fought as part of the
British Indian Army, it resonates quite deeply.
During World War II, with two-and-a-half-million recruits,
the British Indian Army
was the largest all-volunteer force in the world.
Diane Lees is the Imperial War Museum's director-general.
Wow! Can I...?
-With the gloves.
-With the gloves, obviously.
Here it is.
Major Parkash Singh's bangle.
-His kara, yes.
For most people to look at, it might just seem like a bracelet,
but actually, that is so significant.
-And this would have been there throughout the war with him.
And you can see that it's quite battered,
it's lived a bit, this one, hasn't it?
-It's a beautiful object.
When war spread to the Far East, Parkash Singh was one of thousands
of Indian soldiers sent to Burma to fight the Japanese.
His heroic actions on the battlefield were to win him
the highest possible award for bravery.
So, these are his medals?
These are his medals.
-Can I touch them?
I'm so excited.
This is... Wow!
Wow, they're heavy. That's quite some collection there.
-But the one I'm particularly interested in
is this one here, right?
Is that the one? That's the VC, yes.
-That one there.
In January 1943,
Parkash Singh's convoy came under attack from the Japanese.
Many of his unit were trapped in their burning vehicles.
He went back to get his compatriots, so he dragged several people out,
and put them in his vehicle, and took them away from the fire.
But he went back repeatedly,
and I think that's the real courage in the story.
He didn't only do it once.
His officer was a chap called Lieutenant Burt Causey,
who had been injured in the legs along with his co-driver, and
Burt said, "No, leave me."
He said, "I've come all this way back, I'm taking you out.
"I'm going to get you out."
So he then, actually, under fire,
hooked up this carrier to his transport and dragged them out.
Wow, that is a real act of bravery.
What a...in the nicest way, total nutter!
I mean, amazing.
Just something in him said, "I need to get in there,
"put my own life at risk..."
-"..and do whatever it takes to get them out."
-And to be sitting with the main man's kara.
-Amazing, yes, absolutely.
-I want to pick it up again.
-And try it on? No, I don't.
-I wouldn't advise you to.
I always have to try and push it.
(Walk out with it.)
These memorial gates on London's Hyde Park Corner
were erected to honour the men and women from the British colonies who
volunteered to fight in two world wars.
And under the dome of the small pavilion are written names of all
those who won the Victoria Cross.
Anita is here to meet Major Parkash Singh's granddaughter, Amrita.
Amrita, what an incredible grandfather you had.
-What was he like?
my grandfather was a man of real principle.
What was important to him was to have a strong character.
And have a backbone.
And if you knew you had to do the right thing, then do it,
regardless of what other people said.
Shall we go and see his name?
-Shall we do it? Come on. You can show me where it is.
32 Indian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II.
Relative to their numbers, this was more than in any other regiments.
So his name is actually right there.
-There he is.
-Parkash Singh L.Hav.
Wow. Is it incredible to see his name up there?
-What's the feeling?
-Well, it's there, it's written in stone.
It's there for a very, very long time.
For many people to see.
Your grandfather, and all the others whose names are up there,
represent the two-and-a-half-million Indian men
that fought in the Second World War,
that we... You know, for many years, were overlooked.
I was very lucky to have been asked to several events,
VC and GC reunions.
And I was able to meet several of them.
And they all have something very similar, they are all very reserved.
And they have a sort of twinkle in their eye.
And when you read about what they've done,
you know that these men are cut from a different cloth.
Meeting his granddaughter was fantastic,
especially looking at his name on the memorial over there.
I felt fuzzy, and very proud of her grandfather.
The memorial was only built in 2002.
And we know that around five million men from those countries fought in
the First and the Second World War.
And it's really important to be able to tell those stories.
And when I met Diane at the Imperial War Museum, she said,
"We call them our hidden stories."
Well, not so hidden any more.
As the fighting in World War II spread across the globe,
back home, Britain was engaged in a battle for the skies.
RAF Duxford in Cambridgeshire, and its brave fighter pilots,
played a key role in the country's air defences.
Duxford is now part of the Imperial War Museums and is still
a working airfield.
Comedian Al Murray has a passion for wartime aviation,
and is fascinated by Duxford's most glamorous object, the Spitfire.
I grew up in the '70s, when Action Man, Airfix,
the Battle Of Britain movie, all that stuff was very,
very much a big part of childhood masculine culture.
And I'm very much a product of the Airfix age.
I would come here to check the colour on the aeroplanes,
to make sure I was making my Airfix models...getting them right.
So this place, I mean, you know, that's a Mk XXIV.
It's just a brilliant place to be.
During the Battle of Britain, the nerve centre at RAF Duxford was
the operations room.
I'm really lucky that I've been allowed down here
to stand right next to this,
cos this is a real... a very, very big treat.
Represented on these blocks,
you've got the number of the enemy formations,
the estimated number of aircraft, and then the height it's flying at,
so 12,000 feet, 10,000 feet.
-Here comes the Luftwaffe. Hundreds of planes.
Bombers, fighters, dive bombers.
And then, on top,
these things on top are the squadrons that have been sent from
Duxford to attack these enemy formations.
The RAF came, facing odds of six, eight, ten to one,
shouting the old hunting cry, "Tally-ho!"
And it's...it's just remarkable
how important a room like this was.
Big squadron, lots of fighters,
fate of the country, you know, on a table like this.
Duxford's dramatic heyday may be a distant memory,
but, for Al, it's still a magical place.
John Romain is the pilot of the Imperial War Museum's
very own working Spitfire.
Tell me about this beautiful, beautiful Spitfire.
This one's got particular history to Duxford.
-Because it flew from Duxford in 1940,
and was used on the Dunkirk campaign.
-The day that it was lost, it shot down two Stukas,
and then was hit, belly landed on the beach,
and then it just sunk away and disappeared.
But the aeroplane then came back to the surface in the early 1980s.
There was a big shift of sand on the French coast,
and it popped back out.
Amazing. The Spitfire always had a reputation
for being a wonderful aeroplane to fly,
and if anyone's going to know that, it's you.
As a fighter, it's a lovely thing to fly.
And it looks after you.
You know, we all talk in pilot terms of the aeroplane "talks to you"
if it's going to do anything bad like stalling,
or anything like that,
and a Spitfire does.
It really does look after the pilot.
Each aeroplane has got its own character.
Which is lovely. And they all... they sort of smell different,
they do things slightly different.
But they're all gorgeous, of course.
OK. Can I find out what it smells like?
-Am I allowed in?
We'll get you in.
-So, hand on here.
-Right foot there, pull yourself up.
There we go. Then swing your right leg over and stand on the seat.
-I'm not as lithe as I was.
And hold on to the front screen.
This is for smaller men, isn't it?
Then just lower yourself down.
As I say, this is a Mk I, so it's the real basic Spitfire.
Yep. This is no frills, isn't it?
What do you navigate with in here?
Navigate with a compass, which is down there.
-And a stopwatch and a map.
That's how they used to navigate.
So they certainly didn't have things like GPS, or...
No, so very brave men flying these, really.
They were all young, you know. And I think sending a 19-year-old airborne
in one of these in 1940, in a lot of ways, they didn't see the danger.
-Or if they did, they accepted it.
This is... What an extraordinary treat this is.
What a thing. I'm not going to...
I haven't touched anything, by the way.
And I'm not going to.
-And the RAF kept on flying.
These two men with wings, alone in the sky,
behind their motors and machine guns,
were smashing the whole Nazi plan of world conquest.
The really strange thing about sitting in the cockpit
of a Mk I Spitfire is these...
Even the colour, the internal colour of the cockpit,
takes me back to being, you know, seven, eight years old.
That brown and green colour scheme on the wing is deeply imprinted in
my memory, but also you really get a sense of
the confines of this cockpit.
The very centre of the aeroplane is the trigger for the machine gun.
This is a beautiful aircraft, but it's a killing machine,
no two ways about it.
Although I am, you know, I'm amazingly fortunate to be able
to do this, to sit in here, it's such a privilege. Crazy.
While above ground Britain was undergoing the most deadly onslaught
in its history,
deep under the streets of London the commanding officers of the
Army, Navy and Air Force oversaw the war's progress from
the Cabinet War Rooms.
Like Duxford, this network of tunnels is now part of the
Imperial War Museum.
In her 40-year broadcasting career, Kate Adie has reported
from conflicts around the world.
She's come to find out about some of the people who worked down here,
behind the scenes of Churchill's campaign.
The map room shows the enormous scope of this war,
right round the globe.
This is the heart of the operation, in the Cabinet War Rooms.
This is actually where the war was run from.
And you see tiny, tiny holes, hundreds, several thousand,
where the pins have gone in, a ship, a convoy, some action in the war.
The orders decided on in this room would be sent to the typing pool
Churchill stated several times during the war that he wasn't really
interested in women taking any kind of role
in fighting forces or forward positions.
It was even difficult to get women on ships, when they had to travel.
Even accompanying him on his foreign visits.
And therefore, women were doing what, traditionally,
they did before the war, they were the typists.
Kate has come to meet Joy Hunter, who worked as a typist
in the War Rooms from 1943 to 1945.
Tell me what it was first like walking down the stairs,
coming in here.
I think it was rather frightening, actually.
Because we had to press a button to get in.
We were locked in.
So there were Marines on the door,
and we really didn't know what we were
-What was your first impression?
Underground. Electric light.
-Lots of cigarette smoke.
Of course! A lot of cigarette smoke, and I suppose there was an air-con,
but not a very good one, I think.
You're coming into a place where, central to your life,
is the wonderful typewriter.
Did you actually like typing?
I found it quite difficult at the time.
Of course, when we were learning, it was awful,
really, because we had to type with our gas masks on,
type to music, and I'm slightly musical so, you know,
a three-letter word with a space-bar was fine - dum, de, de, dum, de,
one, two, three, four.
When you got to five-letter words and then the space-bar,
then another five, it didn't fit in too well,
so I don't think I was a very brilliant typist.
I did get 100 words a minute, so I did get there in six months.
Were you aware of what you were typing?
Oh, yes, yes.
It was all planned. We were in the joint planning secretariat,
responsible to three senior officers from the three services.
You really felt you were in the centre.
I actually typed the battle orders for D-Day, with other people
of course checking and everything, thank goodness.
I mean, otherwise, I might have sent them all to Spain instead of
wherever they should have gone to!
Was there much talk?
Or was it very disciplined?
We didn't talk. We weren't allowed to talk while we worked.
So there was no conversation.
The people I worked with, for instance, I did know their names,
but I didn't know where they came from or where they lived,
or whether they were married or what family they'd got.
It's very top secret all the time.
Were you glad you did it?
Do you look back on it
with a fond feeling?
I do, actually. Much more now than at the time.
And I realise now that I was very, very privileged.
You'd contributed to the war.
Oh, only as everybody else did!
A minute cog.
This was the hub of all the thinking
and the planning and the orders going out.
Joy was at the very centre of it, but there she was,
not telling anyone what she was doing.
Not family, not friends, not even talking to the other girls.
It's extraordinary, isn't it?
Just typing away, that clacking typewriter,
right at the heart of the war.
During World War II,
thousands of Allied servicemen were taken prisoner in the Far East.
The objects they brought back home from the prison camps in Burma are
a poignant and often surprising part
of the Imperial War Museum's collection.
Ex-servicemen JJ Chalmers has come to IWM North on Salford Quays.
I'm here to see a ukulele that was built by a prisoner of war
in the Far East during the Second World War.
I served in the Royal Marines for ten years,
and I served in Afghanistan.
Now, clearly, I wasn't a prisoner of war,
and even from my experience of conflict myself,
it's just on another level.
When Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942
it was the largest surrender
of British-led military personnel in history.
80,000 Allied servicemen were captured
and many were sent to work on the infamous Burma Railway.
Charlotte Czyzyk is a researcher here at IWM North.
How bad were the conditions there?
Thousands of people died, and many became seriously ill.
They were made to work for about 12 hours a day
on very little food, often just some rice.
Thomas Boardman was one of a handful of extraordinary men
whose creativity provided an escape from the horrors of captivity.
This is a ukulele that he made while he was a prisoner.
He got hold of scraps of wood, things like from Red Cross boxes,
things like that. He also got the telephone wire
that he's used for the strings.
You can imagine him sort of sitting round with his friends,
strumming away on this, and people joining in, that kind of thing.
So it really is a remarkable item.
-Wow. Can I?
-Would you like to have a hold?
So he didn't just play on his own,
-he put on concerts for people as well?
So there would have been other people with different talents,
and they would put on a show, all together.
JAUNTY UKULELE TUNE PLAYS
So this is a programme, it's a variety performance we have here.
So we have people like magicians, they had actors,
they had stand-up comics, singers, you name it.
Bill "the Hot Dog" Williams.
When you read the name, you don't picture a starving prisoner of war,
and I suppose that's kind of the point.
For an hour, he wasn't a prisoner,
he was Bill "Hot Dog" Williams.
Another soldier who found himself
in the camps on the Burma Railway was Fergus Anckorn.
Fergus had been a magician before the war,
but had been badly wounded in the fighting.
The surgeon said they were going to take my hand off.
And then the orderly looked at me and said,
"Aren't you the magician we saw in Liverpool?"
And I said yes.
And he said, "You can't cut his hand off, sir. He's a conjuror."
We used to get bashed about all over the place.
We were like animals.
-We just took it.
-It must be almost impossible to keep morale up.
When did you start using magic to sort of...
I was using magic as soon as I could.
We used to have a concert every Friday night.
We would put on a show.
Well, I never thought of the fact
that we were doing the greatest thing for morale,
because the fellows working,
they were waiting for Friday night when we'd be doing our bits.
The Japanese camp commandant saw me,
and happened to be a magic buff.
So I was sent to his hut to do some magic.
So he gave me a coin,
and I noticed on his table there was a tin of sardines.
I thought, "Right, I'm having those."
And so I vanished the coin,
opened the tin, and there was the coin,
as you would.
Now, he then pushed the tin to me.
They would touch nothing that we touched.
We were verminous and horrible.
So I got the fish!
Fergus never stopped doing magic,
and is now the longest-standing member of the Magic Circle.
So I must ask, can I see a trick, please?
Well, yes, I wouldn't let you go out without it!
-I've got one with six cards here.
Three of them are red and three of them are black.
Now, if you open both hands...
Last year, Fergus's remarkable story helped fellow magician and soldier
Richard Jones win Britain's Got Talent.
I'm very proud,
and honoured to present to you, tonight, the man himself,
at 97 years of age, Mr Fergus Anckorn!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Seeing the ukulele and meeting Fergus reminds you
of a thing which I've experienced, and it's that,
when you're a soldier, it does define who you are in many ways,
but you're just a human being at the end of the day,
And these things remind us that, particularly in those conflicts,
we asked ordinary people to do extraordinary things on our behalf.
And I think it's a testament to that, more than anything else.
Back down in London,
another of the Imperial War Museum's sites also happens to be
the largest object in its collection.
Bear Grylls is coming aboard HMS Belfast to find out more
about her dramatic role in the Second World War.
I served as an honorary lieutenant commander with the Royal Navy,
and actually to be on board HMS Belfast and learn
and get into the heritage and history
of this incredible ship is a real privilege.
I think what I'm most excited about is actually meeting somebody who
served on board HMS Belfast at the height of her service.
An incredible gentleman called Ted.
I can't wait.
HMS Belfast was launched in 1938.
During World War II, she spent two years protecting the Arctic convoys
which delivered essential supplies to Britain's Russian allies.
Ted Cordery was one of the brave crew who served on Belfast
as she patrolled the perilous northern waters.
So, Ted, it must have been brutally cold up in the Arctic?
It was. This was one of the problems,
because the ice formed quickly,
and you can have 200 ton of ice on board a ship that size,
and if it's left there,
-it will topple her.
-So, actually, it can turn a ship over?
It could do, if it was left.
-So do you have to break the ice?
I was always chipping ice.
Always chipping ice.
-What rank were you?
-I was leading torpedo operator.
-That was my official rank. I could take a torpedo apart,
put it back together, because I spent so much time living with it,
-I've been up in a little boat up in those Arctic seas,
and it is wild up there.
-This must have been crazy, when there's a big swell...
-..and a storm going on. Were you seasick?
I got headaches, but I was never seasick.
I used to walk over some of our POs, who were lying on the floor, sick.
Couldn't get up because of the sea.
And I'd say, "Oh, you're not so bright now, are you?"
Not so bright now!
Seasickness doesn't care which rank you are.
It doesn't. Indeed.
At 94 years old, Ted is still able to negotiate
Belfast's precarious stairways.
He's taking Bear up to the ship's bridge
to look at a very special document
from her most famous mission, D-Day.
In the early hours of 6th June 1944,
Belfast moved into position
at the head of the British and Canadian fleet.
The ship's log from that momentous day
is now kept in the National Archives,
but today it's come back home.
So this is pretty special.
-It is indeed.
-This never leaves the National Archives,
so we've got to be super careful with this.
But we're going to open it on D-Day, so here we go.
"Sixth day of June, 1944."
If we come down...
"Opened fire with full broadside to port."
-You remember that moment?
-Yes. Yes, I do.
As Belfast's vast guns bombarded the coastline of occupied France,
thousands of other smaller ships
were alongside her carrying the ground troops.
They were so small, being buffeted, loaded with equipment,
possibly being seasick,
and I thought to myself, "My God! God bless you all," you know?
Because I was in a relatively good position,
with regards to them,
and I felt... I just felt sorry for them, that's all,
knowing full well that lots of them wouldn't come back anyway,
-and they didn't.
It was the largest seaborne invasion in history,
and as the fighting intensified on the French beaches,
Belfast began to take on the wounded.
And then you remember afterwards
the casualties being brought on to the sick bay of the ship?
Oh, God! I'll tell you something,
they will keep with me the rest of my days.
A man would be injured, and then they'd come out to the ship,
and I would pick them up from there and load them onto the ship.
And the damages I saw made me cry.
Faces blown away.
Arms off, legs off.
-I can see it now. Terrible, terrible injuries.
They really were.
But there you are.
What was it all for?
-What was it all for?
There you are.
When you seen death close up like that,
and some of the horrors of the reality of war, you know,
of helping these injured, dying soldiers and sailors
back onto Belfast,
you know, these are real lives with real families,
and real sacrifice.
And sometimes, it's not until you bring people back
to this sort of place, where Ted saw it,
that you remember what so many people gave for us.
By the time I went to the Falklands in 1982, photographers and TV crews
were part of the war landscape.
Even the aftermath of the bombing of my ship, the Sir Galahad,
was captured in detail by the cameras.
But today, I'm here to find out
about a very different way of recording conflicts,
one that sits at the heart of the Imperial War Museum's collection.
I've come to the museum to look at war art.
I know very little about it.
I've seen plenty of it, because of my history.
But I don't truly understand symbolism
and what some of the artists are trying to say.
There are some that glorify war and, from my experience,
there's nothing glorious in it.
But there is so much symbolism in it,
and there's an awful lot to understand,
and I'd love to find out more about that.
'Tim Marlow is artistic director of the Royal Academy of Arts,
'and a trustee of the Imperial War Museum.
'He's taking me behind the scenes to the museum's art store
'to look at works by some of our greatest official war artists.
'Firstly, he shows me these intimate drawings by John Singer Sargent
'that formed the basis for one of the most famous paintings
'of the First World War.'
These are the studies
he made of the figures, so there's the arm
holding on to the shoulder.
This is one of the figures, not a dead figure or a dying figure,
but they're blinded, so they're lying down, waiting to be treated.
Look at this.
This sequence there.
I love this touching relationship,
each man helping another, holding on to another.
I don't know how strong or powerful that is to you, but it is to me.
No, it's huge. I mean, there was a point in time, after being injured,
that I was blind,
and I had to be led to my hospital bed because the stretcher I was on
couldn't quite get through the doorways,
and they tipped me off onto the floor,
and I said, "Enough's enough,"
or words to that effect.
We won't go in to the exact vernacular!
And then they led me to my room.
In this way, this is very, very powerful, and it's so sad.
But in its sadness, there is a great deal of compassion and emotion.
The human spirit.
This is a beautiful work by Stanley Spencer,
also from the First World War,
of the travoys.
These are these mobile stretchers being towed by horses,
taking them to a field hospital, the wounded.
There's a kind of religious sense. When you look down on the figures...
There's something like a crucifixion to me, when I look at those figures,
and then, this figure here, who's walking away,
having been...if not fully healed, he's on the road to recovery.
Maybe there's the hope of redemption in this picture.
What you can't remove is the brutality,
because people are lying on stretchers, incapacitated,
but the one thing is the hand, here, on the fellow's face, over his eyes.
And he's covering it,
and it's almost like, we don't want you to look.
We don't want you to see.
Or we don't want somebody else to see what you're seeing.
Or what you're feeling. There's something...
-It's gentle and tender as well, though.
It's dignified, I think.
'But there's another set of works Tim wants me to see,
'that are closer to my own experience.
'Back up in the public galleries
'are a set of drawings of the Falklands Conflict by Linda Kitson.
'One of the images shows my own ship, the Sir Galahad,
'on which 48 men were killed.'
-This is us.
-That is you.
-This is us.
-You know that...
Do you know exactly when this drawing was made?
I have no idea.
This was a week after the bombing,
when the ship was still on fire,
and that boat is still burning.
The bomb came through the other side.
And this is the engine room that started the fire.
And then the bomb detonated inside the fire
that had started in the oil.
And that's why this side is probably the side that burned the quickest,
because that's where the fire started.
I was about here. I was the closest to the bomb to survive.
And then I managed to make it out along this side of the ship,
and it was up here, where they winched us off.
And that was it.
I didn't even look back at her.
-You've never seen this.
How...how is it? Does it feel quite remote or removed for you?
This bit I find quite disturbing.
Because it's like...this is the ribs of something living,
and they've peeled away the skin of it.
Don't be polite. Don't hold back.
Looking around the Imperial War Museum's collections,
does art ultimately fall short of the capacity, for you,
to invoke the horrors of conflict and war?
I like art.
I believe that it captures things perfectly in many ways,
although it can never actually replicate what you see.
But there's a rolling story in every picture.
The conflict took ownership of my life for so long,
and seeing the Galahad so open and wounded, like she was,
as she is in the picture, all of her flesh torn away,
and all you see are the ribs and the bones
and the interior carcass of her, it was hugely emotive to me.
That's a bit of it I'd never seen.
I only saw when she was in the throes of that death.
And we were a part of that.
When you look at it,
I could start to get some smells coming back to me,
and noises, and those are things that you can't teach people about.
They only learn from experience.
Over the past century, the Imperial War Museum has been testament
to the courage of men and women caught up in conflict.
For the last of our ten objects,
Dame Kelly Holmes has come to the museum's Lord Ashcroft Gallery,
home to the world's largest collection of Victoria Crosses,
to meet one of her, and our, greatest war heroes.
Johnson Beharry is one of only six living recipients of the VC,
and Kelly will be taking a look
at a very special object from his service in Iraq.
I joined up a month before my 18th birthday.
I'd wanted to go into the British Army since I was 14.
I can't believe that I'm actually getting an opportunity to speak
to Johnson Beharry,
because I remember when he got awarded the Victoria Cross,
and having been military myself, you think, "Wow,
"that is the biggest honour ever.
"This guy must be amazing."
In 2004, Johnson Beharry was serving in Southern Iraq.
On 1st May,
he was driving an armoured personnel carrier
when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
He was alone in the front of the vehicle,
and had lost all communications with the men in the back.
I could see now the engine is on fire,
and there was loads of smoke.
-I couldn't see anything, so I opened the hatch,
in the middle of whatever was happening,
and then I realised I was in the middle of an ambush.
With the road blocked in front of him,
Johnson's first impulse was to try and escape from the burning vehicle.
There are seven soldiers in the vehicle.
I'm thinking, "I'm about to get out, I'm going to leave them to die."
And I said to myself, "No, I'm not going to do that.
"I'm going to stay with them."
Johnson managed to force his way through the roadblock and then,
still under attack,
he saved the lives of the men trapped in the back.
The vehicle was still on fire,
and the guys were in the vehicle.
So what I did, I went through the vehicle, the burning vehicle,
and got all seven guys into safety, one after the other.
What I would love to pick up on is your helmet.
It's in kind of good shape.
-It still is, yeah.
-I see all this writing on it, I'm quite fascinated.
-So these are all the guys...
-That I saved.
-That you saved.
So my name is not on it, and the reason is, my name is inside,
it's my helmet. With my number.
One month later, Johnson was again at the centre of an ambush,
and again demonstrated remarkable bravery.
This time, I had a bullet in my shoulder, a bullet to my head,
and a grenade detonated six inches from my face
and blew this off.
I managed to reverse the vehicle out of the contact, I don't know,
I haven't got a clue how I done it, saving 12 lives.
But that one was a serious one.
That's where I had a serious brain injury
-and I stayed in a coma for five weeks...
..with less than 1% chance of survival.
So that is the bad one.
The first one was pretty easy.
Of course it was(!)
In March 2005, Johnson was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Tell me, when you were awarded this, how did that make you feel?
I remember going into this room to get a briefing,
on how to address Her Majesty, because I never speak to her before.
I'd only seen her on TV.
And I didn't know what to say or do, because that's my boss.
Finally, the VC, what does it mean to you?
Most of all, I wear it with pride,
knowing the guys are all safe,
and are representing the rest of the British Army.
I'm going to leave it there.
That was amazing.
Johnson was the first living serviceman to win the Victoria Cross
in nearly 40 years.
He had saved the lives of 30 men.
I had an amazing time meeting Johnson.
His story is just incredible.
The focus and the resolve that he has
to save the rest of his comrades,
and that's all that mattered to him.
Having come here and seen all the Victoria Crosses,
it just makes you feel very proud of all those people.
This is a unique set of individuals who have done extraordinary things.
For 100 years, this museum has played a vital role
in preserving our national memories of conflict.
For me, it's this sharing and learning of these memories
that is so very important to ensure
that the impact of war on people's lives is never forgotten.
2017 marks the centenary year of the establishment of Imperial War Museums. It was founded while the First World War was still raging - and over the past century, IWM has expanded hugely, with five sites including the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast. It shares stories of those who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth.
This programme, presented by Falklands veteran and charity campaigner Simon Weston CBE, looks at ten key objects from the IWM's collection. Each of the objects has a special advocate to explore what it reveals about the story of conflict - Bear Grylls ventures onto HMS Belfast, Al Murray looks at a Spitfire at Duxford, and the artists Cornelia Parker and Steve McQueen discuss how they have responded to war and loss in their work. Kate Adie tells the remarkable tale of the typewriter in the Churchill War Rooms, Dame Kelly Holmes meets the extraordinary Johnson Beharry VC to hear about his experiences in the Iraq War, and Anita Rani explores the incredible heroism of one soldier in the British-Indian Army.