With hundreds of military museums in the UK alone, how do you know which one will best suit your interests? Here, MHM has picked some of the best museums and exhibitions to visit this year, from hidden gems to long-established sites.
Bournemouth Aviation Museum
Bournemouth Aviation Museum has over 20 hands-on exhibits relating to the world of aviation.
‘Our aim is to provide an interesting and informative visit for people of all ages and to share the enjoyment of the exciting world of aviation with young people.’
• Explore the piston-powered and jet aircraft and the RAF Rescue helicopter displayed in a spacious and natural setting.
• Climb into cockpits, examine the dials, and imagine you are the pilot.
• Enjoy the panoramic view of the busy airport from the top of the double-decker bus.
• Take off in a light aircraft from Bournemouth Airport in our sit-in flight simulator and fly around the area using realistic scenery.
FREE CAR PARKING AVAILABLE
WHERE: Merritown Lane, Christchurch BH23 6BA
OPENING TIMES: 10am-4pm (winter), 10am-5pm (summer)
CONTACT: 01202 473141
Fleet Air Arm Museum
The Fleet Air Arm Museum will thrill the whole family. Get up close and personal with Europe’s largest collection of naval aircraft. Step on board the first British Concorde and visit the cockpit.
Explore the Aircraft Carrier Experience, a breath-taking sonic and visual assault on the senses. Fly by helicopter to the replica flight deck of the Ark Royal where two enormous projection screens show aircraft taking off and landing around you.
Witness an air-sea rescue when a Buccaneer is lost over the side of the Ark Royal into the sea.
There is a children’s playground, a restaurant, shop, free parking, and excellent disabled access.
More than a museum, the Fleet Air Arm Museum is an exciting experience. Situated alongside RNAS Yeovilton, you may even see aircraft going through their training procedures.
Visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum. The thrill is being there.
WHERE: Fleet Air Arm Museum, RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset, BA22 8HT
OPENING TIMES: Open 10am-5pm (4.30pm in winter) daily (5 in winter)
CONTACT: 01935 840565
The Fusilier Museum London
The Fusilier Museum tells the story of a British infantry regiment, raised at the Tower of London in 1685. The museum follows the regiment from its formation to the present day. The story is told through the fascinating personal experiences of individual officers and soldiers and draws on the museum’s rich archive of war diaries, personal artefacts, and diverse collection.
The collection includes a number of uniforms, flags, silver, insignia, and souvenirs which have helped to distinguish the regiment and shape its identity through history.
Also on display is a large collection of medals, including 12 of the 20 Royal Fusilier Victoria Crosses.
The museum is currently working with the National Army Museum in London on an exhibition to mark the outbreak of the First World War.
Visitors will be able to view this exhibition, hosted by the Fusilier Museum, from August 2014.
WHERE: Fusilier Museum, RRF, HM Tower of London, EC3N 4AB
OPENING TIMES: 1 March-31 October (summer) Tues-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun-Mon 10am-5.30pm, last admission 5pm; 1 November-28 February (winter)Tues-Sat 9am-4.30pm, Sun-Mon 10am-4.30pm, last admission 4pm.
CONTACT: 020 3166 6912
Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo Museum
The museum is located in the fortifications that were built in 1874 to reinforce France’s coastal defence. Bastion 32 served as the headquarters for the French and Allied forces during the Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo. The Mémorial du Souvenir tells the incredible story of the battle and the evacuation of more than 338,000 Allied soldiers from the pocket of Dunkirk.
The museum boasts a rich exhibition of maps and pictures, as well as both Allied and German military matériel. Scale models of the sites and of the operation, uniforms, and weapons complete the impressive collection.
Visiting the museum will also offer you the opportunity to see a 15-minute film using dramatic period footage. This film gives visitors an exciting overall view of the events which took place between May and June 1940.
WHERE: Courtines du Bastion 32, Rue des Chantiers de France, 59140 Dunkerque, A16 exit 60.
OPENING TIMES: 1 April-30 September, 10am-12pm, 2pm-5pm
CONTACT: +33 (0)3 188.8.131.52
Royal Marines Museum
Explore the fascinating history of the Royal Marines. Take a walk through history from 1664 and learn about the lives of the extraordinary people who have become Royal Marines. Follow a recruit through training
and on to deployment around the world, then creep through the jungle, marvel at the medal collection, and take a trip down memory lane in our WWII Home Front kitchen.
Finish your visit by enjoying the seafront location at the award-winning café, the Quartermaster’s Kitchen, and museum shop. The museum features an extensive events calendar and regular special exhibitions, see website for more details.
WHERE: Southsea, Portsmouth, PO4 9PY
OPENING TIMES: 10am-5pm daily Closed on Mon and Tues from 1 November-31 March.
CONTACT: 023 9281 9385
Museum of the Great War
Officially opened on 11 November 2011, the Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux is the only facility to be devoted exclusively to WWI in the Paris region.
While 2014 marks the beginning of the centenary of the war itself, it also marks 100 years since the First Battle of the Marne – a decisive turning point in this war.
Built on the very site where this battle was fought, in Nord Seine-et-Marne, the Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux is concerned primarily with this event. As part of its range of exhibitions,the museum looks back at the active role that British forces played in this battle.
The Imperial War Museum, National Army Museum, both in London, as well as the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, will be exhibition partners, loaning artefacts and documents.
The Etablissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), already one of the museum’s partners, will provide the audiovisual archives on display in the exhibition.
A bilingual catalogue will be published and a specific tour guide – particularly for groups of schoolchildren – will be organised.
WHERE: Rue Lazare Ponticelli, 77100 Meaux, France
OPENING TIMES: May-September 9.30am-6.30pm Mon, Wed-Sun October-April 10am-5.30pm Mon, Wed-Sun.
To see this feature as it appeared in issue 41 of Military History Monthly, click here.