VE Day: Remembering the men and women of the Second World War

While our museum sites are closed, we still have lots of images and stories from our collection to share with you including digitised objects from the Second World War as we commemorate 75 years since VE Day.

On 7th May 1945 Germany surrendered to the allies, bringing an end to the Second World War. In Britain, Churchill declared the following day would be a public holiday, Victory in Europe Day. Many celebrations broke out across the nation, including street parties as communities came together to mark the victorious occasion

However, for some, the war had not yet ended and VE day was bitter-sweet for those mourning lost loved ones while others were still in combat. As Churchill noted in his VE Day speech, the celebrations may be momentary as the impact of the war would continue for some time.

VE Day 75 is a fitting opportunity to remember and honour the various contributions made by so many men and women in the Second World War, as shown in these photographs from our Image Library.


Photograph showing componant parts of a Sten gun being assembled at a Royal Ordnance Factory, July 1942


A gunner on boarda motor torpedo boat


RAF bomber crew practise bailing out of an aircraft


A soldier operating a height or range finder. 1939 – 1945


US official photograph from the Second World War, entitled ‘Hysterical cheers greet U.S. troops en route to Palermo,’ picture issued July 1943.


Photograph showing component parts of a Sten gun being welded together at a Royal Ordnance Factory, July 1942


Take a look here at more objects and images from our Second World War collection.

Please get in touch with us directly at if you have any queries.


Best wishes,

The Licensing Team

200 years since the Cato Street Conspiracy

A print depicting the arrest of the Cato Street conspirators. Early 20th Century.


Introducing our latest digitised object to the Royal Armouries Image Library. February marks 200 years since the Cato Street Conspiracy. This print depicts the arrest of the conspirators who plotted to assassinate the Prime Minister on 23rd February 1820. Although not as infamous as the gunpowder plot, the intentions of these Cato Street conspirators were no less catastrophic.

With the dawn of industrialisation and the end of Napoleonic Wars, early 19th century Britain was witness to a changing society; rebellion, riots and reform occurring across the nation.

Following a failed rebellion of 1817 there was a second wave of protest for parliamentary reform, known today as the Peterloo Massacre. Held in Manchester in August 1819, news of Peterloo quickly spread, triggering further protest across Britain and the threat of rebellion was strongly felt around the nation.

In London, a scheme to murder the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet was devised. Led by Arthur Thistlewood; a group of 13 political radicals conspired in Cato Street, Marylebone where they hoped their plans would ignite a political revolution in Britain. It was here in Cato Street that their headquarters were raided, the group were arrested and thus becoming known as the Cato Street Conspirators. An array of weapons was found including daggers; guns; pistols; pike heads and even a recipe for explosive fireballs, condemning the group of their deadly plot.

8 of the conspirators were committed to the Tower of London, where we still house some of our historic collection in the White Tower. For Thistlewood, this was his second detention here, (having been accused of treason in 1816 of which he was acquitted) this time as a resident in the Bloody Tower.


Engraving showing the Bloody Tower and the gateway leading to the outer bailey, dated 1821


It is thought by some that this was a Government trap with the group purposefully infiltrated and tracked leading to their eventual deportation or execution. Perhaps an example to all those who considered taking on a rebellion of their own?


Looking Ahead in 2020


Photo shows: Two of the ATS “Ack-Ack” Girls stationed at a gun site near London seen here at their work of plane-spotting for which they use coloured spectacles to avoid injuring their eyesight


January is an exciting time for the Image Library as we look to the year ahead. We are continuing to add premium content to the Image Library, particularly looking at upcoming anniversaries this year that link to our unique collection, such as the 200th year since the birth of Florence Nightingale; 200th anniversary of the Cato Street Conspiracy which was an attempt to murder all British cabinet ministers and Prime Minister and 75 years since VE Day, marking the end of the Second World War. Check out our curated picture packages here commemorating these historical moments.

This year also marks the 500th year anniversary since the Field of Cloth of Gold; a political and sporting summit of unsurpassed pomp and splendour between King Henry VIII and Francis I that took place in 1520.


Le Champ de Drap d’Or [The Field of Cloth of Gold] showing the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I, King of France, in 1520. British, late 18th century

At the Royal Armouries museum, we are celebrating this historical spectacle through a new exhibition; publications; jousting and tournament events. It is only fitting that for one of the most extravagant events of the 16th century, Henry VIII commissioned equally elaborate armour to compete in, pictured below. Today it is cared for in the Royal Armouries collection among other rare objects from the Field of Cloth of Gold which will be on display in a fantastic new exhibition this year. See our handpicked collection dedicated to this special anniversary in our Image Library here.


Tonlet armour of King Henry VIII. English, Southwark, 1520. Made to replace the foot combat armour (II.6) for the Field of Cloth of Gold.


Have you got a special project coming up in 2020? We can offer discounts on bulk image orders so get in touch with our licensing team now to find out how you can benefit from this offer. If you cannot find an image you are looking for then please email us at we will be happy to assist you with your research. We can also organise scanning and new photography of material not previously digitised.

The most remarkable Christmas present in the Royal Armouries collection

Foot combat armour of Christian I Elector of Saxony, by Anton Peffenhauser. II.186


Gifts make up a large part of our collection here at the Royal Armouries museum, from direct gifts given to the museum to objects whose provenance were once diplomatic court gifts or even Christmas presents. This December we have been looking at one of the most ostentatious Christmas presents in our collection; this Foot Combat Armour gifted to Christian I, Elector of Saxony in 1591.

As a representation of great technical and artistic capabilities of the times, arms and armour have often been a diplomatic gift of choice across courts and cultures. In addition, the vital role of armour in court pageantry and spectacles especially in the 16th century made it the ideal gift for royalty. Sophia of Brandenburg commissioned Anton Peffenhauser to make not one but twelve identical sets of this armour as a Christmas present for her husband, Christian I. Widely known at the time as the ‘King of Armourers’, Peffenhauser’s elaborate work demonstrates the highest display of craftsmanship. Decorated in etching and gilding with bold floral scrolls, the armour was intended to be worn by Christian I and his courtiers. Sadly, Christian died before ever receiving this generous gift. However, we are lucky enough to now hold one of the remaining foot combat armours in our collection today, which you can see here in our Image Library

II.186 Foot Combat Armour made by Anton Peffenhauser of Augsburg (1525-1603), the foremost German armourer of his day, it is blued, etched and gilt.


Do you have a special project coming up in 2020? Talk to our dedicated team to discuss rates, research and bespoke requests at

Behind the scenes with the Royal Armouries Licensing Team

October has been a busy month at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds with the opening of our new ‘Make: Believe’ display; showcasing some amazing arms and armour from classic films, TV and theatre productions.  Featuring new acquisitions like this Star Wars E-11 blaster above, it explores the influence and role of arms and armour in popular culture. Highlighting the ‘behind the scenes’ craftsmanship that ensures authenticity; you can see how these stunt props emulate their real-life counterparts.

Imperial Stormtrooper Blaster


Sterling L2A2 Submachine Gun, PR1413. The real-life weapon that inspired the E-11 blaster


In the Licensing team we have been working hard photographing and digitising these objects and images which you can explore in our Film and Fantasy collection here. We strive to ensure our objects are captured and documented authentically, right from our dedicated photography sessions to digitising and editing the high-quality image you see on our Image Library website. Like any stunt or prop object, it takes a lot of time and skill to produce an accurate representation that is inspired by the original.


Before and after: photo taken during photography session and final edited image of the Lancelot armour.


Our photography sessions require help and expertise from across the museum. Firstly, the objects must be moved to the photography studio. Due to the size, weight and sometimes condition of the objects, our specially trained Technicians and Conservators assist to make sure everything arrives in one piece. During photography, our Curatorial team are on hand to point out the talking points on each item and to ensure no detail is missed. The final stage is down to the Licensing team to digitise; edit; catalogue and store all the files securely before being published on our websites. This process helps to ensure high quality images are created that can be accessed by the public for as long as possible before technology catches up and the objects need to be re-photographed.

All images of objects from our ‘Make: Believe’ display are now available to licence through our online Image Library. Every purchase you make helps fund the Royal Armouries and the work that we do.

100 years since the first Remembrance Day

11th November 2019 marks 100 years since the first Remembrance Day in Britain (also known as Armistice Day). Symbolising the end of the Wars, it was an opportunity to honour those who had given their lives defending the freedom of others. 100 years on, we have been looking back at some wonderful photographs from The First World War. These snapshots of history capture friends and allies coming together at home, in the factory or on the frontline; reminding us of their great sacrifice.

From our Archive we have digitised some great collections of photography from the First and Second World War which you can see a selection of here in our Picture Library.

Here are just a few of the men and women we remember:

Troops of the 57th Division of the 8th Battalion, the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, otherwise known as the Liverpool Irish, entering Lille.



Employees working at the Chilwell National Shell Filling Factory, Nottinghamshire. Chilwell was the site of one of the worst domestic accidents of the war when eight tons of explosive detonated accidentally killing 109 men and 25 women.



The first liberated British prisoners of war in Tournai, France.



WRAFs gathered outside the Royal Air Force headquarters at the former Hotel Cecil.



Two WAACs lay wreaths at the British cemetery, Abbeville, February 1918.


25th October marks 165 years since the Battle of Balaclava

25th October marks 165 years since the Battle of Balaclava, one of the most significant battles during the Crimean war. Witnessing both extreme acts of bravery and military blunders, it was also one of the first ever conflicts captured on film.

Print entitled “Charge of the Heavy Cavalry Brigade, October 25th, 1854” showing a scene from the battle of Balaclava.


As Russian forces launched an attack on Balaclava they were blocked by the 93rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot who adopted an unconventional position in two lines instead of the traditional square. These soldiers became known as the ‘Thin Red Line’ of infantry who succeeded in turning the enemy back and into the path of the Heavy Brigade, pictured above.

However, disaster struck when an order was issued to regain lost British guns. Confusion over which guns the order referred to meant the Light Brigade led their attack on the wrong ones; suffering heavy losses as they charged towards Russian cannon fire. An infamous mistake which became immortalised in Alfred Tennyson’s poem, ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.

Print entitled “Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade, 25th October 1854” showing a scene from the battle of Balaclava


Following reports of such military mishaps, photographer Roger Fenton, already an established photographer, was dispatched to Balaclava. He was instructed to document the soldiers, landscapes and the impact of life at war but filtering out the horrors in an attempt to quiet public discontent and comply with Victorian sensibilities. Fenton’s work aided the emergence of the soldier into the public eye while he became a celebrated photographer, achieving national recognition for his work. We have digitised one of Fenton’s original photographs from this pioneering album of the Crimean war which can also be seen on display in Leeds today.

Photograph of Captain Frederick Thomas Arthur Hervey Bathurst, Grenadier Guards, Crimea, 1855, photographed by Roger Fenton


See more great images and objects from the Crimean war here.

Do you have a special project coming up? Talk to our dedicated team to discuss rates, research and bespoke requests at

80 years since the declaration of the Second World War

As September 3rd marks 80 years since the declaration of the Second World War, we are looking at some of our special photographs and objects that we have digitised from our amazing collection.

King George VI firing a Bren Light Machine Gun at the Royal Small Arms Factory. British, Enfield , June 2nd, 1940


Photo shows: Two of the ATS “Ack-Ack” Girls stationed at a gun site near London seen here at their work of plane-spotting for which they use coloured spectacles to avoid injuring their eyesight

Pictured above are two members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) nicknamed Ack-Ack girls in relation to their work manning anti-aircraft guns. Here we can see them plane-spotting for which they use coloured spectacles to avoid injuring their eyesight. Women acquired new skills as they took on a variety of roles during the Second World War on both the Home Front and oversees, including being recruited as Special Operations Executives (SOEs).

The creation of SOEs by Winston Churchill catalysed the development of covert weapons during the Second World War. An SOE’s purpose was to disrupt the enemies’ war effort behind enemy lines thus their need for stealthy equipment was essential to succeed. Such as this belt gun pictured below, actually worn by agents parachuting into Europe and pen-like device that was designed as gas gun that could also fire bullets.

Centrefire self-loading military Colt Model 1903 belt pistol for Special Operations Executive (SOE) use, 1941, America (PR.3538)
The Faultless rimfire gas pen gun for SOE use, about 1940, America (PR.13201)

Search our curated collection here to discover more extraordinary people and objects of the Second World War. Or contact our dedicated team directly for more information about image licensing or research assistance. We are here to help you find the right images you need in order to bring your project to life.


With best wishes,

Royal Armouries Licensing Team