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.
Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux
A unique new exhibition commemorating the centenary of the British involvement in the decisive First Battle of the Marne is set to open at the Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux in June, running until the end of the year.
The Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux opened on 11 November 2011. Devoted solely to the First World War, the collection is housed in over 3,000m2 of purpose-built permanent exhibition space. The museum’s collection is remarkably diverse, comprising 20,000 objects and 30,000 documents, with such extraordinarily rare items as complete uniforms from most countries involved, alongside weapons and artillery, heavy equipment and objects from everyday life on the Front and Home Front, as well as rich documentary and graphic arts collections.
The temporary exhibition ‘Join Now! British Empire joins war’ opens on 28 June 2014 and runs until 30 December 2014. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events, conferences, educational and family workshops, concerts, dramatised guided tours, and a film debate.
WHERE: Rue Lazare Ponticelli, 77100, Meaux, France.
OPENING TIMES: May-September 9.30am-6.30pm October-April 10am-5.30pm
Bournemouth Aviation Museum
Bournemouth Aviation Museum has over 30 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.’
• Come and see our pistonpowered and jet aircraft and an RAF Rescue helicopter, displayed in a spacious and natural setting.
• Climb into cockpits, twiddle the knobs, and imagine you are the pilot.
• Enjoy the panoramic view of the busy airport from the top of our double-decker bus.
• Take off in a light aircraft from Bournemouth Airport in our sit-in flight simulator, and fly around the area enjoying its realistic scenery.
Free Parking Available
WHERE: Merritown Lane, Christchurch BH23 6BA
OPENING TIMES: Winter 10am-4pm and Summer 10am-5pm
CONTACT: 01202 473141
Battlefield of Waterloo 1815-2015
The historic site of the battle of Waterloo is 20km south of Brussels. Numerous monuments dedicated to the memory of those who died or were wounded in battle are still standing in the countryside, the most famous being the Lion Mound itself, but also the Hougoumont farm. Whether you are alone, or part of a group, if you have booked in advance for a tour, the Guides 1815 will show you around the battlefield and provide you in
an agreeable way with all the information to make your visit a success.
We look forward to seeing you!
a) Hameau du Lion (Lion Mound, Panorama, Visitor’s centre) Route du Lion 252, B-1420 Braine-l’Alleud.
b) Wellington Museum (Headquarter of Wellington), in the centre the town of Waterloo, 5km north of the Lion Mound.
c) DQGN (Napoleon’s Headquarters), on the N5, at 5 km south of the Lion Mound.
OPENING TIMES: 9.30am -6.30pm (10am-5pm in winter) daily
CONTACT: +32 (0)473 180791
Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo Museum
The museum is located in the fortifications that were built in 1874 to reinforce France’s coastal defences. 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 an 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-long 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 daily.
CONTACT: +33 (0)3 28262731
Museum of Lancashire
The National Army Museum and King’s Royal Hussars sponsored exhibition ‘Outbreak ! 1914’ tells the story of the beginning of the First World War from the perspective of the British Army. It also highlights recruitment and training, the 20th Hussars and the campaign of 1914 in France and Flanders. Suitable for family audiences as well as the specialist, it is the ideal subject for the centenary, and a great complement to the Museum of Lancashire’s existing First World War display which includes a trench reconstruction with sound and light effects. Other First World War exhibits on show include the Victoria Cross of William Young who was carried around Preston flag market in triumph before his tragic death of wounds, no less than four German machine-guns, and a case of ‘trench art’ made by Tommies both in the trenches and on the Home Front.
WHERE: Stanley Street, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 4YP
OPENING TIMES: Tuesday- Saturday 10.30am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm
Reading Museum has something for everyone. We are only a few minutes from the main train station. You are free to explore our beautiful galleries on three floors. Our galleries are packed with amazing objects including our unique copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, archaeological finds from Roman Silchester and medieval Reading Abbey, and the famous Huntley and Palmers biscuit tins.
Our current exhibition in the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery is ‘Reading at War’ marking the centenary of the outbreak of theFirst World War. The exhibition draws extensively from the museum’s collections to explore how war has affected Reading and the surrounding area, from the prehistoric period to the present day.
Highlights include ‘Bobbie of the Berkshires’ from the Second Afghan War, and two Victoria Crosses including the one awarded in 1915 to Reading Trooper Fred Potts. ‘Reading at War’ runs until 14 September 2014.
WHERE: Reading Museum, Town Hall, Blagrave Street, Reading, RG1 1QH
OPENING TIMES: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-4pm Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday 11am-4pm Closed Mondays.
To see this feature as it appeared in issue 44 of Military History Monthly, click here.