NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM

What does the National Army Museum do that the Imperial War Museum doesn’t?  Well one is about the history of war and the other is about the history of the British Army.

NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM

The National Army Museum has been in Chelsea since the 70’s but has been closed for the last three years whilst it underwent at multi million pound overhaul.  Now its new glass doors are open.  Top fact that I came away with?  The British Army began at the time of the Civil War when the chaos of many private armies no longer worked.

National Army Museum entrance

COULD YOU BE A SOLDIER?

There are five themed galleries in the revamped museum.  The first that you come to focuses on what it is like to be a soldier, from recruitment to demob.  As you enter the gallery you are asked ‘Could you be a solider?’ and you walk through the yes or no gate, when you leave you are asked if still think you have what it takes.   Given that one of the displays is of a solidiers toes that he lost to frostbite on an ascent of Everest, I’m not sure if I could!

GOING IN TO BATTLE

National Army Museum

In the Battle gallery the changing nature of war is chronicled from muskets, to rifles, to tanks and thence to todays high tech weapons.   This gallery holds the standout object of the whole museum for me, it is the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse Marengo and stands next to a cape that the Duke of Wellington had a Waterloo.  There are of course tanks and guns galore, including an interactive tank that you can climb inside, I am way too tall to serve in a tank!

WHAT HAS THE ARMY GIVEN US?

Chatting, Plonker, Thingumajig and wimp.  Are just four of the words that have come into our language via the Army.  Chatting was the term for quietly picking the lice of another soldier. Plonker, a shell landing in a trench. Thingumajig, baffling technical device and WIMP is an acronym; Whinging Incompetent Malingering Person.  This I learnt from the Society gallery along with how fashion and fiction have been influenced by the military.

WHAT IS THERE FOR SMALL CHILDREN TO DO?

National Army Museum

All round the museum there are all manner of hands on things to try.  Fancy standing in a sentry box dressed in a bearskin and scarlet tunic, there are uniforms in adult and child sizes for you to try on.  Or how about exploring the many designs of cap badges?  If you have children under 8, then there is a dedicated play area especially for them.  Best of all, the National Army Museum is free, except for special exhibitions.

SPECIAL FORCES: IN THE SHADOWS

Special Forces are the subject of the special exhibition at present.  What is a special force?  Do you mean the SAS?  Yes, I do mean the Special Air Service, but also the Special Boat Service, Special Forces Support Group, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and 18 Signals Regiment.  Occasionally the SAS are involved in a high profile rescue like the one at the Iranian Embassy in 1980 but in the main the men and women who serve in special forces work under the radar.  Indeed I was surprised to learn that protection from cyber attack is now one of the special forces main tasks.

Special Forces Cyber Attack

The exhibition takes us through the recruitment process, which takes a long time and only 10 per cent of those who apply will get to join.  Among the skills that recruits need is the ability to camoflage themselves.  Can you spot the snipers in these pictures?  Even with the answers it took me ages to spot anything that might be human!

Artefacts from past missions are on show including on of the Cockle Canoes that was used in Operation Frankton in France in 1942. Of the ten soldier who set out only two returned.  So spectacular was the mission that a film ‘The Cockle Shell Heroes’, starring Trevor Howard was made about it.  What comes across most strongly in the exhibition is that the special forces don’t need loud shouty, look at me “I’m a Hero’ type of people but rather grey, fading into the background people with extraordinary amounts of courage.

NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM NEED TO KNOW

  • Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HT
  • Open daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Free except for special exhibitions
  • SPECIAL FORCES: IN THE SHADOWS runs from 17 March 2018 – 18 November 2018
  • Adults £8, children £4, under 12’s free
  • The Army Museum is a brilliant place to take Teens studying GCSE History as it covers part of the curriculum
  • If you’d like more ideas about entertaining teens take a look at my Free Things to do with Teens in London post.

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42 Comments

  1. April 4, 2017 / 11:25 am

    This would never have been on my London list before – so thank you for sharing! A free museum with lots of interactive displays is always worth knowing about! #citytripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 4, 2017 / 11:28 am

      Well worth while visiting, especially as you can try on a guardsman’s uniform!

  2. April 4, 2017 / 12:05 pm

    I’m very excited to see it newly opened! #citytripping

    Hope you can join #fearlessfamtrav this month

  3. Wherejogoes
    April 4, 2017 / 5:22 pm

    I hadn’t realised it was open again! This is on our London list, DH in particular would love it. #CityTripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 4, 2017 / 8:28 pm

      Opened last week, just in time for the school holiday. The building is so much lighter and airier than it was before and the café looks pretty enticing too!

  4. April 4, 2017 / 11:07 pm

    I’d been to the Imperial War Museum but didn’t realise that there was an Army Museum as well! Or maybe it wasn’t open when I was in London. I loved the IWM, next time I’ll have to check out this one too! #citytripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 4, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      All depends when you came, it has been shut for the past three years. Well worth a visit when you return, a really interesting part of London

  5. April 6, 2017 / 9:27 am

    Sounds great! One to note for my museum travels. #citytripping

  6. April 6, 2017 / 10:08 am

    I’ve been meaning to go here for some years, but the refurbishment has reminded me. My daughter is also keen, so I think we’ll do it. Sounds well worth it from your write-up- thank you! #citytripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 6, 2017 / 10:16 am

      Lots of interesting stuff to see and afterwards it’s only a short skip to the Saatchi Gallery, if you feel so inclined!

  7. April 6, 2017 / 5:07 pm

    I’d never heard of the museum before until now. I shall definitely be adding this to my to-see list. A great idea to have a dedicated play area for little ones too. Thanks for linking up with #CityTripping

  8. April 9, 2017 / 12:24 pm

    I really liked the National Army Museum before it was revamped, and I am delighted to be reminded that it is open again!

  9. April 9, 2017 / 8:38 pm

    That’s very close to us so we shall pop in for a look and dress up. Thanks for the tip! #FarawayFiles

  10. Clare Thomson
    April 19, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    This sounds great, Catherine. It’s the sort of museum I’d imagine wouldn’t appeal to me at all but you’ve managed to make it sound so interesting that I fancy going now. Thanks for enlightening me on #FarawayFiles

  11. April 26, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    Love the vernacular lesson and like Clare said – it does look interesting, but not one I would have sought out. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiiles, Erin

  12. katherinefenech2017
    April 6, 2018 / 3:27 pm

    I’m shuddering at the thought of that picture of frostbitten toes on the way up Everest. What a lovely make over of the museum though, it sounds like it’s really very engaging now. I think my answer would still be no, I don’t think I could be a soldier 😉

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 6, 2018 / 3:54 pm

      No, I don’t think I could ld either!

  13. April 7, 2018 / 11:13 am

    Haven’t been here before but it’s now on our list for our next visit to London. #culturedkids

  14. April 7, 2018 / 12:06 pm

    My husband would love this museum. I think it’s important for kids to learn about the army and its purpose in defending the people. And no, I definitely don’t think I have what it takes to be a soldier. #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 7, 2018 / 6:05 pm

      I thought it would not be for me but it is fascinating

  15. Wherejogoes
    April 7, 2018 / 3:10 pm

    This has reminded me that we still haven’t been since it reopened. This would be perfect for the whole family as my husband loves military places and it’s child friendly – a winner all round! Thanks for hosting #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 7, 2018 / 7:58 pm

      It has an excellent cafe too!

  16. April 7, 2018 / 3:13 pm

    The Special Forces exhibition sounds the most interesting. Working in the shadows, the less physical side of the army, would be fascinating to hear more about.
    #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 7, 2018 / 8:00 pm

      It was really interesting, especially that they want quiet people

  17. April 8, 2018 / 1:11 pm

    How interesting. I never knew chatting had anything to do with lice! I definitely could NOT be a soldier, though….. #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 8, 2018 / 1:44 pm

      Puts a whole new slant on meeting up for a chat!

  18. Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    April 9, 2018 / 11:15 am

    This sounds as if it’s got the balance right between education and fun. I hadn’t heard of the museum before but I’m intrigued after reading this.
    #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 9, 2018 / 11:50 am

      Really interesting and right next door to the Chelsea Physic Garden for a day out with big contrasts!

  19. April 9, 2018 / 11:22 am

    Looks like another interesting museum in London. Thanks for sharing #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 9, 2018 / 11:51 am

      So many interesting London museums!

  20. April 15, 2018 / 9:09 am

    I’m Really intrigued to see how they did after the redevelopmemt! One for he list #culturedkiss

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 15, 2018 / 9:42 am

      It is very good, we visited with the teens and friends in tow this week and they all had a brilliant time

  21. April 16, 2018 / 5:44 pm

    How interesting! It looks like a really great day out. Looks like a great re-vamp!

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 17, 2018 / 6:45 pm

      The teens loved the virtual Waterloo battlefield especially

  22. April 16, 2018 / 5:46 pm

    We are always looking for new museums to visit. Thanks for the suggestion it looks fantastic. #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 17, 2018 / 6:46 pm

      Always happy to truffle out new museums for you!

  23. April 17, 2018 / 11:24 am

    It looks like money well spent! I think Mark would love this. Another one for our London list. #CulturedKids.

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 17, 2018 / 6:43 pm

      Fascinating place, I learnt so much

  24. April 18, 2018 / 8:20 am

    NAM became one of our favourite museums since renovated – we gave it a big mention in our London wrap up! Smaller kids including mine adore the soft play area – ticketed and restricted numbers so its reasonable most times even for parents to hang out; trying the royal guard outfits and of course testing the tank and playing soldiers. They’ve done a brilliant job renovating and the cafe is also good – home made cakes and even decent wine and savoury stuff for parents rescue 😉 #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 18, 2018 / 8:21 am

      The cafe is fantastic, I have been known to pop in just for the cafe!

  25. April 29, 2018 / 1:03 pm

    I’m a big fan of our armed services (especially with brother-in-law in the army) and thrilled the army has a cultural home in London. #culturedkids

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