The Imperial War Museum open its world-famous archives to celebrate the letters, diaries and spoken words of those who witnessed the key events of the Second World War.
During the Second World War, across the frontline as well as on the Home Front, millions of people recorded their thoughts of their experiences - whether in letters, their personal diaries or those prosecuting the war giving speeches. Much as Letters of Note celebrated the great letters written through history, so Words of War allows the Imperial War Museum to showcase its incredible array of first-hand material to shine a light on how people journeyed through the 1939-45 conflict.
Ten chapters take the reader chronologically through the key moments of the war: from the retreat to Dunkirk to the battle of the Atlantic; the savage fighting in the jungles of the far East to the RAF Bomber Command's campaign in Europe; the discovery of the Nazi's concentration camp system to the war's ultimate conclusion at the Nuremburg trials. One hundred documents are researched and selected by the Imperial War Museum's expert archivists, with commentary from their head Antony Richards explaining the significance of each and placing it in context to the war's progression. Readers will be able to engage and empathise with the writers in a thought-provoking and immediate way.
Extraordinarily powerful and mesmerising - there is a haunting intimacy and immediacy about these recovered letters, documents and images that opens a window directly into the past, vividly summoning the darkest days but also the greatest courage and endurance and the fascinating quirks and passions of human nature in war.
It is a remarkable treasure trove, beautifully assembled, and a snapshot testimony to the incredible breadth and extent over which the war was fought and experienced first-hand.
Anthony Richards is the head of Documents and Sound at IWM. Since 1995, he has worked on the diaries, letters and memoirs in the museum's care and is responsible for its extensive collection of personal testimony in both written and audio form. He has contributed to many publishing projects and is author of The Somme: A Visual History.