Spies, Lies and Deception – A Free Exhibition about Real-Life Secret Agents

Meet real-life James Bonds and discover the tricks, tools, and cover tactics they used in conflicts from the WWI to present day. New exhibition opened at Imperial War Museum this September. ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ takes visitors on an exciting journey through the world of espionage and deception.



🤵🏻‍♂️🔍 Imperial War Museum opened a new free exhibition about real-life secret agents in history | ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ showcases over 150 gadgets and tools real-life James Bonds once used 😎 #imperialwarmuseumlondon #spiesliesdeception #reallifejamesbond #secretagents

♬ Powerful songs like action movie music – Tansa


Spies, Lies and Deception – The Real-Life James Bonds


Photos of Secret Agents at ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ Exhibition

Photo: Urban Adventurer



If you’re a fan of James Bond, you will love this. Don your best disguise and embark on a journey to the world of spies from the world wars to present day!


Imperial War Museum (IWM) newly opened exhibition, ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ invites you to put yourself into the shoe of real-life secret agents and discover how they shaped history by tricking the enemy.


Learn more about the gadgets and tools they used and how these gadgets have changed and become more sophisticated through the past 100 years.


Just like in James Bond movies, countries had (and still have in present days) secret research laboratories with inventors to create clever equipment, devices, and tools for secret agents to use.


Over 150 of those original objects are on display at this remarkable exhibition, all with an amazing story behind them.


Box of Matches Spies Used to Write Secret Messages

Photo: Urban Adventurer


One of which is this box of matches once belonged to double agent Eddie Chapman. Equipped with these special matches, Chapman was sent to spy on Britain during the WWII. It looks like an ordinary box of matches, however, there is one match in the box that is adapted to write secret messages.


A Hollow Battery Being Exhibitied at ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ Exhibition by Imperial War Museum London

Photo: Urban Adventurer


Reels of miniature films were hidden in hollow batteries like this. These batteries were made for Secret Intelligence Service agents in the 1960s.


Pencil with a Hidden Blade Being Exhibited at ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ Exhibition by Imperial War Museum London

Photo: Urban Adventurer


Secret agents would have easily found themselves in dangerous situations, so they needed hidden weapons to either protect themselves or to fulfil a command. This pencil, for example, hides a removable hidden blade.


Lipstick Female Spies Used - ‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ Exhibition by Imperial War Museum London

Photo: Urban Adventurer


This ordinary looking lipstick was issued to a female KGB agent in the 1970s. The lipstick contains a hidden sub-miniature camera. By twisting the lipstick, the agent was able to snap a photograph through a tiny hole in the base.


Invisible Ink and Envelop Tested for Invisible Ink

Photo: Urban Adventurer


Of course, secret agents had used inviable ink to send secret messages back home, however, this changed in the WWI because letters were carefully examined and tested for traces of invisible ink by Postal Censorship.


Spy x Family in Real Life


Photo: Urban Adventurer


The exhibition showcases newly digitised films, photography, and documents as well as interviews.


Visitors will also learn more about what it meant to be a secret agent and real-life stories on how their activities changed world conflicts as well as the life of their own families. You will see how difficult it was for secret agents to hide the truth from their family and live a life tangled up in lies and secrets. Many of the agents had ordinary jobs and seemingly lived and ordinary life to cover what they were really doing.


Real Stories


The first female wireless operator - Noor Inayat Khan

Photo: Urban Adventurer


Spies, Lies and Deception features over 25 fascinating and shocking stories that shaped our history over the past 100 years.


One of them is the infamous story of ‘Operation Mincemeat’ in the WWII. ‘Operation Mincemeat’ was an incredible and daring plot by Ewen Montagu that successfully misled the German High Command about the location of the next major Allied assault by planting a dead body and fake military documents off the Spanish coast.


Another one is about the first female wireless operator, Noor Inayat Khan, who, during the WWII, after successfully transmitted messages from Germany to London, was captured and executed at a concentration camp in Germany.


‘Spies, Lies and Deception’ Exhibition by Imperial War Musuem London

Photo: Urban Adventurer


The exhibition is completely free (no booking required) from 29 September 2023 – 14 April 2024 and is accompanied with talks and activities, giving visitors the opportunity to further engage.


It’s a truly remarkable and fascinating exhibition for visitors to witness real human stories from the mysterious secret world of espionage, deceit and lies, that have shaped our history.




Ready for your next adventure? Following a massive renovation process, former Museum of Childhood re-opened as Young V&A Museum, offering creative activities and inspiration to the little ones from age 0-14.