Second World War: Modern Archives

Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton papers with a diagram showing planned Operations against Enemy Fleet April 9th 1942.
Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton papers: diagram showing planned Operations against Enemy Fleet April 9th 1942.

We hold a range of archive and manuscript resources relating to the Second World War

About the collection

The Modern archives section holds a significant quantity of records concerning the Second World War (1939-1945). Due to the scale of the conflict, material can be found on a variety of subjects, and is dispersed throughout the collections. Furthermore, records are not limited geographically; while there is an abundance of material related to Britain, the collection contains material on a wide range of countries.

Standout themes include life on the home front, the surrender of Belgium, military operations across the world, internment and concentration camps in several continents, and poetry and literature produced during the conflict.

Relevant large collections include the papers of politician Paul Vychan Emrys Evans, Admirals Sir Roger John Brownlow Keyes and Andrew Browne Cunningham, author Eleanor Farjeon, the Waldburg family, Lord and Lady Addison, and diplomat Reginald James Bowker.


  • Life in Britain in the diaries of Sydney Walton and Lady Wentworth
  • The papers of Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton, concerning the naval war in the Far East
  • Letters sent by conscientious objector Jack Boyd-Brent
  • Plans and experiences of the Lunghua Internment Camp, Shanghai
  • Life in Germany and Bavaria in the diaries of Frederika and Bessie Waldburg


What is available online?

The Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue contains catalogue entries for material related to the Second World War.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Registered readers can request specific items to the Manuscripts Reading Room from the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. However, be aware that much material is not held together and will require ordering of items separately.

A small number of items may require a letter of introduction. Use the online catalogue to find out whether access conditions apply. 

What is available in other organisations?

The Imperial War Museum and National Archives hold a significant amount of material relating to the Second World War.

Further information

For material specifically concerning Britain, see the Collection Guide Life on the Home Front.