This photo was taken at the Imperial War Museum in London
There are plenty of War Museums in the UK and most are centred on one arm of the military - the army, airforce or navy. One of the museums covers strategy and that is Winston Churchill’s War Rooms which can be found in London near Whitehall.
Portsmouth has two naval museums - the Royal Marines Museum and the Royal Naval Museum. The first museum is housed in former offices of the Royal Marines Artillery. Here one can learn about the difference the Marines made in the outcome of battles such as D-Day in the Second world War and in the Falklands war. A highlight in this museum is the display of over 8000 medals, many of which are rare. The second museum covers the history of the navy form King Alfred’s battle in 882 AD. Exhibitions show how Britannia ruled the waves in the 19th century. Demonstrated also is the role the present day navy plays in defending the shores against piracy and trafficking. There is also a gallery dedicated to Lord Nelson.
At the RAF Museum At Cosford, Shropshire, one learns about the history of the RAF and that it is the oldest independent air force in the world. It was founded by Lord Trenchard in 1918. In this museum one finds rare and important military aircraft along with a unique collection of war planes from the UK and rare examples from allies and enemies. There is also a missile collection as well as flight simulators including a dog fight between a Spitfire and a M-109.
At the Imperial War Museum in London there is a focus on aviation and suspended from the ceiling are planes from the Second World War from the British, the allies and the German sides. There is also the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester whose architectural design is based on the globe shattered by conflict. It uses sound, film and photography to explore how conflict has affected all of our lives. The highlight is ‘The Big Picture’ which is a 360 degree light and sound show.
An interesting blend of navy and airforce is found at The Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset. Here one learns about naval aviation from the first manned kites, to helium filled airships, the carrier borne aircraft of WW2 to modern helicopters and Sea Harriers. Exhibitions include a theatre experience that takes one into action and displays of aircraft including the first British built Concorde.
Now to the Army. The National Army Museum in London covers the soldier from the battle of 1066 through all wars to Fighting for Peace. There are interactive exhibits such as trying on an English Civil War helmet, to feeling how heavy a canon ball is or trying on chain mail armour. There are videos and archive footage to bring the experience of being a soldier to life.
In Wales, the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum at Caernarfon is dedicated solely to that regiment. It features their history stretching from the campaign of William the 3rd through the wars with France including the Napoleonic times, up through the World wars and peace keeping in modern times. There is an interesting twist of learning what life was like for the families of the men in the regiment.
The Tank Museum in Dorset honours the fact that the first tank was invented by the British during the First World War and that it changed warfare forever. The museum has the largest collection of armoured vehicles in the world. One hundred years of history is explored in this museum from what led to the invention of the tank to the importance of the tank in breaking the stalemate in the First World War and being able to move ahead and win that war.
At the National war Museum in Edinburgh there is a combination of themes from an exhibit of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, to the prisons of war, the Highland warrior as an icon of Scottish identity and a general honouring of Scottish soldiers killed in the defence of Scotland and later of the British Empire.
Last but not least is Winston Churchill’s War Rooms in Central London. For World War 2 history enthusiasts this museum is a must. One can see where the staff slept, where Winston’s bedroom was, the phone that he called Roosevelt from, the map room where the strategies were discussed, and the general work place of all those involved in winning the war from this room.
Many of these museums need more than one visit but are all so worthwhile. Here are many ideas for a rainy day!