This year marks the end of a 13 year period where British troops have been in a combat role in Afghanistan. Through the little known personal stories of those on the ground, IWM London’s new display War Story: Afghanistan 2014 provides a snapshot of this pivotal point in the history of Afghanistan. The voices and experiences of not only the British troops, but also members of the Afghan National Security Forces and UK government and NGO workers will give visitors an insight into the transition at this time in terms of security and development, highlighting how the future of Afghanistan is delicately poised.
The display is made up entirely of new objects, photographs, film and video interviews that have never been seen before, collected by IWM staff on a series of collecting expeditions to Afghanistan between 2012 and 2014. Given unprecedented access by the Ministry of Defence, this is the first time since the First World War that IWM teams have visited an active theatre of conflict.
Visitors will learn about the current role of British forces, from their mentoring and training of the Afghan National Security Forces to their work in reconstruction as well as their reflections on the cost and legacy of the war, which has seen the deaths of over 450 British service personnel. They will also discover the role the British military, UK government and NGOs have in the socio-economic and political development of Afghanistan. Touching on the work they do in areas such as infrastructure, education and the rule of law, the display will highlight how development work is set to continue beyond the withdrawal of British and international combat troops in 2014.
Working with the Ministry of Defence, IWM’s War Story project started in 2009, offering British personnel an opportunity to record their role and preserve their personal accounts and experiences from Afghanistan in IWM’s unrivalled national collections for future generations.
Since the project began, over 1,800 soldiers and family members have registered to share their stories and there are already over 70 interviews in IWM’s sound archive and over 1,000 objects, photos and films from the conflict have become part of IWM’s collections. Objects on display in IWM London’s new Atrium collected through War Story include a Desert Hawk drone displayed opposite a Taliban motorbike to show contrasting surveillance technologies, a suicide bomber’s vest and a Harrier GR9 suspended in the main Atrium space.
Diane Lees, Director-General of IWM says “IWM was established almost 100 years ago to collect and record stories of war, and this display shows more than ever how we are continuing to do this today. The dramatic images, first-hand accounts and unique objects collected these last few years will give visitors to IWM London a glimpse into the situation in Afghanistan, in this critical year in its history.”
Lord Astor of Hever, the Defence Minister responsible for commemorative and heritage matters says: “The MOD is proud to support the Imperial War Museum’s War Story project. The exhibitions allow the British military’s experiences in Afghanistan to be chronicled and shown to the public in a unique, insightful way. The focus on the human element – the stories of the men and women, both military and civilian, who have been involved in the campaign – provides a lens through which to view Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan that doesn’t exist anywhere else. These are stories that our children and grandchildren should hear, and the IWM’s exhibitions allow that to happen”.
War Story is supported by Boeing Defence UK Ltd, a subsidiary of The Boeing Company.