There are hundreds of military museums and heritage sites throughout Europe specialising in different eras, armies, and wars. With some opening new exhibitions and others having recently revamped their existing ones, there are plenty of places to visit to further your interest in military history. We have selected six of the best museums and heritage sites to visit this year.
Opened in November 2011, the Museum of the Great War at Meaux is an architecturally outstanding museum that houses one of the most comprehensive and varied collections of military uniforms, individual weapons, pieces of artillery, and everyday objects from WWI. There are over 50,000 artefacts, based on the private collection of WWI expert Jean-Pierre Verney. It is close both to Paris and to the fields of the First and Second Battles of the Marne, where the British fought alongside the French. From the reasons behind the war and the lives of the ordinary people who lived through it to the arrival of American forces in 1917, the museum tells the complete story of the First World War.
The exhibits reflect the idea that the 20th century began with WWI. This novel approach makes the museum’s collection a witness to the period’s global social, technological, military, and geopolitical upheavals in a way that helps us to understand our contemporary history.
OPENING TIMES May-Sept 9.30am-6.30pm Mon, Wed-Sun. Oct-Apr 10am-5.30pm Mon, Wed-Sun.
WHERE? Rue Lazare Ponticelli, 77100 Meaux, France
The In Flanders Fields Museum gives an account of the First World War on the West Flemish front. It covers the invasion of Belgium, the war of movement that unfolded in the opening months, and the subsequent four years of trench warfare.
Visitors can now follow a personalised route through the collections that is much richer than in the first version of the museum. You can expect to become acquainted with the war experiences of soldiers on both sides of the war, and from many different countries. After their visit to the museum, visitors are also encouraged to explore the WWI sites, cemeteries, and monuments spread over the landscape today.
That present-day landscape is another hallmark of the museum, which uses more than 21,000 aerial photos from the war to show the traces of conflict that are still present in the landscape. Panoramas and hundreds of ground photos help establish a link between the present-day and events that occurred almost a century ago.
Objects usually considered ‘worthy of a museum’ are not the only ones exhibited: soil-finds holding valuable information about the WWI landscapes are also shown, often in conjunction with other artefacts.
OPENING TIMES 1 Apr-15 Nov 10am-6pm daily. 16 Nov-31 Mar 10am-5pm Tue-Sun.
WHERE? Grote Markt 34, B-8900 Ieper, Belgium
The Museum of Army Flying is home to a unique collection of aviation history of national and international importance. Explore over 35 incredible historic aircraft from WWI to the present day.
Inside the museum, a world of hidden treasures is waiting to be explored. You can delve into the rich history, heroic feats, and personal stories of extraordinary aviators, or get to grips with the hi-tech world of attack helicopters.
Providing the perfect place for the community to meet, discuss, learn, and enjoy, we welcome a wide range of groups and organisations every year. The unique setting of the museum lends itself to all manner of events, corporate, trade, public, or private, either indoors or outside on our grass area.
The museum offers everyone an experience that is educational as well as enjoyable. We provide knowledge about and understanding of events, people, and changes in the past. For schools, Cubs, Scouts, and cadets the museum provides bespoke and unique learning programmes outside the classroom (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information).
We also host an exciting range of events throughout the year, from family fun days to specialist lecture series.
OPENING TIMES 10am-4.30pm daily.
WHERE? Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 8DY
The Royal Marines Museum is situated in the former Officers’ Mess of Eastney Barracks on the seafront at Southsea, Portsmouth. The museum celebrates – with a series of interactive displays – the history of the Royal Marines from their origins in 1664 as Sea Soldiers, through to their roles at Trafalgar and in China, the Falklands, and the Gulf.
The museum’s extensive collection displays items gathered from around the world and features a collection of over 8,000 medals, including ten Victoria Crosses. A visit to the Royal Marines Museum allows you to discover the stories behind the élite fighting force, from entering as a raw recruit until the day they Pass-Out as a Royal Marine and are awarded their green beret. The museum features an extensive events calendar and regular special exhibitions for all visitors to enjoy. A memorial ground sits inside the beautiful grounds, where there is also a gift shop and an award-winning café, the Quartermaster’s Kitchen.
The museum is an ideal venue for individual and group visits, offering free coach-parking, group-catering, full disabled access, hearing loops, and highly trained staff to assist visitors. As a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction, steeped in history and heroism, the Royal Marines Museum is not to be missed.
OPENING TIMES 10am-5pm daily.
WHERE? Eastney Esplanade, Southsea, Hampshire PO4 9PX
This famous North Yorkshire infantry regiment’s museum has over 45,000 objects, displayed over three floors and charting the many campaigns that the Regiment has been involved in from their foundation in 1688 to the present.
The museum is renowned for its uniform collection, which includes examples from the 1780s, a private’s uniform from the Crimea, and a chronological display enabling changes in uniform to be studied. There’s also a fantastic medal room, with over 5,000 medals on display, including 18 Victoria Crosses and three George Crosses.
Anyone with a passion for military history will find a warm welcome, and have an enjoyable and absorbing visit.
OPENING TIMES 7 Feb-1 Apr 10am-4.30pm. Mon-Sat. 1 Apr-31 Aug 10am-4.30pm Mon-Sun.
WHERE? Trinity Church Square, Richmond, Yorkshire DL10 4QN
The multi-award-winning Heritage Centre, on Ambion Hill, tells the story of the dramatic events of 22 August 1485, when King Richard III lost his life and the Tudor Dynasty was born. The interactive exhibition puts the battle in its context within the Wars of the Roses, while expert guides lead both short and long walks taking in the local views of the battlefield and explaining the background to the battle. Objects found during the Battlefield Survey are on permanent display in a nearby gallery. Regular re-enactment camps, falconry displays and workshops, education sessions for all ages, and a great tea room all add to the experience.
Highlight of the Bosworth year is the Anniversary Weekend (17-18 August): the armies of Richard and Henry fight it out, knights joust, and the king’s guns are fired. The extensive period camps, full of soldiers and their families, are a photographer’s dream.
OPENING TIMES Apr-Oct 10am-5pm daily. Nov-Mar 10am-4pm daily. Reopens on 1 Feb 2013, 10am-4.00pm.
WHERE? Sutton Cheney, Nuneaton, Leicestershire CV13 0AD
To see the feature as it appeared in the magazine, click here.