The War on Paper : 20 Documents that Defined the Second World War - the exhibition catalogue from Imperial War Museum available to buy at Museum Bookstore

The War on Paper : 20 Documents that Defined the Second World War

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A fascinating collection of documents from the Second World War drawn from the Imperial War Museum's collection.

From Adolf Hitler’s signed directive ordering the invasion of Poland in 1939, to Winston Churchill’s annotated 1942 ‘End of the Beginning’ speech, The War on Paper explores the Second World War through 20 iconic and rarely seen documents that changed the course of warfare.

Each chapter offers readers a glimpse into the fascinating documents held within IWM’s Second World War archives. The War on Paper features newly photographed documents and objects from Imperial War Museums’ extensive collection, as well as over 50 images, extracts from letters and diaries, maps, posters and excerpts from interviews and broadcasts.

The War on Paper features a hastily scribbled “diagrammatic layout of embarkation” – a never-before-published sketch by Captain Ken Theobald of the 5th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment – which was used by the British Expeditionary Force to escape the Dunkirk beaches in 1940. Alongside other documents, including the signed surrender of all German forces in northwestern Europe on 4 May 1945, this drawing is one of five pull-out replica documents in the book.

The War on Paper explores both personal and official documents, and reveals the wartime experiences of civilians, politicians, and both servicemen and women. Some documents illustrate key political turning points, such as Hitler’s Final Political Testament, a symbolic record of Nazi defeat. Others reflect the ‘Blitz spirit’ camaraderie that developed on the British Home Front, whilst many tell stories of bravery and sacrifice, including the forged identity documents used in the famous “Wooden Horse” escape from Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp. The book also features lesser-known episodes of the Second World War, such as the ingenious tracking, ambush and destruction of the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee in South America.


  • Author: Anthony Richards, IWM’s Head of Documents & Sound
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Date published: October 2018
  • Language: English
  • Delivery: Allow 1-2 weeks
  • ISBN: 978-1912423002

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