Imperial War Museum Build The Truce

IWM Collections

Image of Lloyd George's Versailles Doodle

These doodles were done by Lloyd George at a meeting of the Inter-Allied Council to discuss the terms of the Armistice to be imposed on Germany in November 1918. Difficult and complicated business, reflected in this sketch from blotting paper on the negotiation table. A small figure is trapped in an endless red cage of intersecting lines – does this  suggest the complicated carve-up of postwar Europe, and the helpless individuals within it? The lines are repeated over and over again, like an unresolved conflict that continues to replay itself  – as it would in 1939, in a chain of events  rooted in the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

IWM explores the cycle of conflict and war, and how it shapes our lives. This includes our efforts to address and respond to the causes and consequences of war, and to break conflict cycles. This is why the Museum’s collections contain evidence of peacekeepers, peace makers and peace builders from 1918 to the present day.

The Twentieth Century was in many ways shaped by war, but the values of peace were  championed in response –  by political and spiritual leaders but also by the public in protest movements.  The introduction of UK conscription in 1916 raised the profile of people and groups who opposed the conduct of the First World War. Although it was their legal right,  men were imprisoned for refusing military service, and sometimes abused or isolated in their communities.. IWM’s document and sound archives reveal the personal stories of conscientious objectors in both World Wars.

After the Second World War, the peace movement in Britain – including the Quakers and the Peace Pledge Union – focused on the threat of nuclear war. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has worked to gather support for nuclear disarmament since 1958. In 1982, the use of Cruise missiles in Europe caused a wave of protest across the continent. A women–only peace camp remained at RAF Greenham Common until 1991. IWM holds fascinating sound recordings of women who protested at the camp.

IWM’S collections contain an astonishing range of evidence about the peace movement from the early 20th century to the present day- white poppies from the inter-war years;  posters, leaflets and pamphlets from groups protesting against Polaris or the Vietnam War;  boltcutters used in CND protests;  film and sound recordings about protests against conflicts in the Falklands and the Gulf.

In the mid-20th century – partly in response to the horror of modern warfare – attempts to achieve peace and resolve conflict developed into international organisations. At the ned of the Second World War, the United Nations was founded in place of the failed League of Nations. Ever since, it has been heavily engaged in mediation, diplomacy, and monitoring ceasefires in conflict zones; it has also had varying levels of success, criticism and controversy. IWM’s UN peacekeeping collection includes film, uniforms, badges, and a rocket launcher.

IWM’s collections and displays try and show that working towards peace – through peacekeeping and peace-building, enforcement and invasion – is a complicated shared goal. IWM continues to interview eyewitnesses to conflict and to conflict resolution, partly through its Build The Truce project.

Over the next weeks we’ll add images of, and info about, IWM collections, to show how the Museum has collected evidence of war, peace and whatever lies between over the last 100 years. You can access them in more depth on our website  www.iwm.org.uk

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