Introduction

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say “This was their finest hour”

Winston Churchill

1940 was Britain’s first full year of war. It was not only the year that the country’s very existence was threatened, it was also - as Churchill said - its ‘finest hour’. Defeat and occupation by Nazi Germany were very real possibilities, but it was the momentous events of this year that helped to shape the course, and eventual outcome, of the Second World War.

In 1940, Britain needed leadership, determination, courage, effort, sacrifice - and luck - to survive.

Explore these pages and discover how the Museum’s unique collections tell the story of 1940 and find out how each of the Museum’s branches is marking the pivotal events of this remarkable year.