Witnesses to War presents nine important objects from our collection spanning over a century, highlighting IWM's role to tell the stories of conflict. This dramatic display features a Harrier jet and Spitfire plane, suspended above a V-2 rocket. Also on display is a T-34 tank and a 13-Pounder Gun from the First World War which became a memorial for the men who fought with it. Joining them is a Reuters Land Rover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza.
This car was destroyed by a suicide car bombing against the Mutanabbi Street book market in Baghdad, at a time of growing sectarian violence, almost four years after the US-led invasion of Iraq. It was later exported from Iraq and exhibited in the Netherlands, before being acquired by British Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller. Deller toured the car across the United States, in company with a former American soldier and an Iraqi expatriate, as a means of starting conversations about Iraq.
It was donated to IWM and has been exhibited in the IWM London Atrium since 2010.
The fighter plane on display flew 57 combat missions during the Battle of Britain in 1940. It was flown by 13 different pilots, only 6 of whom survived the Second World War.
Developed in the 1960s, the Harrier was the first operational fixed wing aircraft to be capable of VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing), and was nicknamed the “jump jet.”
The T-34, produced in 1940, was arguably the best tank of the war. It played a key role in helping turn the tide on the Eastern Front in favour of Soviet Russia. From the very start, the T-34 achieved that crucial balance between armour, firepower and mobility that eluded British tank designers for so long. The T-34 was a major leap in tank design and came as a complete shock to the Germans when it was first encountered in July 1941. It spurred the Germans to revitalise their own barely adequate tank force and embark on a technological arms race in which Britain quickly fell behind. It had sloping armour - which effectively doubled its strength - and a powerful 76.2mm gun. Its reliable diesel engine gave it a good range and turn of speed, and its wide tracks could cope with mud or snow.
This vehicle was operating in the Gaza Strip near the Karni Crossing when on 26 August 2006 it was hit by a rocket (or a substantial fragment thereof) fired by an Israeli helicopter. Both occupants were injured. The rocket (or fragment thereof) entered through the roof of the vehicle, above and slightly to the left of the front passenger seat, passing through the floor into the gearbox. Reuters made an official complaint to the Israeli authorities, asking why it was fired upon when it was so clearly marked as a Press vehicle. One occupant, Sabbah Hmaida (journalist in the passenger seat), sustained bag injuries to her legs, while the other, Fadel Shana (cameraman), suffered minor injuries. Photographs showing the injured men entering hospital were taken by an AFP (French Press Agency) photographer. Two years later Fadel Shana was killed when the marked Press vehicle he was travelling in (again in Gaza) was destroyed by an Israeli tank shell. Shana's Palestinian Authority press id card was found in the glovebox of the car when being conserved (held with acquisition paperwork).