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.
CROFT CASTLE AND PARKLAND
Croft Castle is an intimate home set deep in the heart of Herefordshire and has been home to the Croft family for nearly 1,000 years. Visitors can explore the castle, gardens, stables, and 1500 acres of historic parkland including ancient trees, an Iron Age hill fort and the ‘picturesque’ Fishpool valley. From 23 August 2014 we’ll be developing the moving stories of the Croft family during the First World War and life at the home front during 1914. We’re also sharing the story of Croft’s local community during this time and finding out how it coped with its loved ones who were away at war.
Entry is free to National Trust members and under fives. Normal admission fees apply.
ADDRESS: Croft Castle and Parkland, Yarpole, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 9PW
TEL: 01568 780246
Open daily until 2 November from 11am-5pm, last entry is 4.30pm. Open every weekend from 8 November-21 December 11am to 4pm, last entry 3.30pm
THE GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM
Our collection ranges from regimental silver and medals to uniforms, military equipment, and photographs. A wealth of personal objects tell their own stories about the men who have been proud to call themselves Green Howards since 1688.
The museum, in the centre of the historic Georgian market town of Richmond, is undergoing a £1.7 million redevelopment, made possible through Heritage Lottery funding, to completely transform the galleries and exhibition spaces. Reopening in autumn 2014.
To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, our special exhibition Ypres: The First Battle 1914, will explore the role played by the Green Howards during the battle, and track the experiences of soldiers and their families through diaries, paintings, and personal effects.
ADDRESS: Trinity Church Square, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4QN
TEL: 01748 826561
Visit us Monday to Saturday 10am-4.30pm. We will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Between 1 April and 31 October we will also be open on Sundays 12.30pm-4.30pm
Home Front Havering: Local Life in the First World War explores life in the area that is now the London Borough of Havering during this extraordinary and devastating period of modern history, a century after war broke out.
This exhibition is a joint project between Havering Museum and Havering Libraries Local Studies and Family History Centre, and both sites will deliver a range of events over the next four years. Bringing together information, images, objects, and written accounts relating to local life at the time, the exhibition examines how ordinary people coped with the new and challenging experiences that total war brought them, and the heavy presence of the military throughout the locality.
ADDRESS: The Brewery Gate, 19-21 High Street, Romford, RM1 1JU
TEL: 01708 766571
Wednesday to Saturday 11am-5pm. Last admission to galleries at 4pm, and shop at 4.30pm.
THE ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM
The Royal Air Force Museum’s London site is located in Colindale, north-west London. Admission to the museum is free of charge. As part of its calendar of events commemorating the outbreak of the First World War, the museum is currently displaying an exhibition of First World War art: Biggles and Chums.
Consisting of drawings and paintings, each artwork has never been seen by the public. Each has been specifically chosen for the powerful story that it has to tell – made all the more poignant as each artwork has been created by an artist who either served or lived through the First World War, including Biggles’ creator himself, Captain WE Johns.
Located in the museum’s Art Gallery, Biggles and Chums is on display until 4 January 2015.
ADDRESS: Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL
TEL: 020 8205 2266
Open daily from 10am-6pm
LEEDS MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
From 2014-2018, Leeds Museums and Galleries are delivering a special programme of exhibitions, events, and outreach activities. These will reflect the history of Leeds during wartime through the lens of nine historic sites, collections, and the legacy of the war in the city today. Find out more about how the war affected people’s lives locally in Leeds and around the world. Discover how heritage buildings were used during the war, uncover the stories behind personal objects, get involved in local community projects, and see wartime artefacts from the collections, including our unique archive relating to the Leeds Rifles.
ADDRESS: Nine venues across Leeds, Yorkshire hosting a number of events throughout the commemoration.
Please check our website for venue opening times.
SHROPSHIRE REGIMENTAL MUSEUM
The museum displays a fine collection of military and personal items, and presents a comprehensive view of military and associated artefacts relating to the Shropshire Regiments from 1755 to c.1970.
Highlights include US Colours captured near Washington in 1814, a lock of Napoleon’s hair, a Victoria Cross awarded to a Shropshire Yeoman in Palestine, the baton of Grand Admiral Dönitz, and spectacular displays of regimental silverware, orders and medals, uniforms, weapons, Colours, ceramics, and many personal items and associated ephemera representing regimental service around the world over two hundred and fifty years.
ADDRESS: Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle, Castle Street, Shrewsbury, SY1 2AT
TEL: 01743 358516
Spring opening hours (17 Feb-23 May): Monday-Saturday 10:30am-4pm, closed Thursdays and Sundays
Summer opening hours (24 May-14 Sept): Monday-Saturday 10:30am-5pm, Sunday 10:30am-4pm, closed Thursday
Autumn opening hours (15 Sept-20 Dec): Monday-Saturday 10:30am-4pm, closed Thursdays and Sundays
Winter closure (22 Dec-15 February).
BATTLE OF DUNKIRK AND OPERATION DYNAMO MUSEUM
The museum is located in the fortifications that were built in 1874 to reinforce France’s costal defence. Bastion 32 served as the headquarters for the French and Allied forces during the Battle of Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo. The Memorial 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, pictures, and both Allied and German military material. 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 film using dramatic period footage lasting 15 minutes. This film gives visitors an exciting overall view of the events which took place between May and June 1940.
ADDRESS: Courtines du Bastion 32, Rue des Chantiers de France, 59140 Dunkerque
TEL: +33 (0)3 28262731
Every day from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 5pm. From 1 April-30 September 2014
MUSEUM OF LINCOLNSHIRE LIFE
The museum marks the centenary of WWI with a series of excellent events, exhibitions, and lectures, including Tommies to Trenches, where the museum remembers WWI with a major exhibition, a private collector’s display, and living history characters. A major exhibition, 1914, A Call to Arms for Lincolnshire, highlights the impact on Lincolnshire of the declaration of war in 1914, and begins a series of five which will chronicle, each autumn, the story of World War One from a Lincolnshire perspective.
You can also now bring the museum to life using the latest cutting-edge iPod technology and augmented reality. With three tours for different age groups, the new multi-media i-Guides offer a fresh and fun way to explore the displays.
ADDRESS: Burton Road, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN1 3LY
TEL: 01522 782040
See website for details for individual events and exhibitions.
LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM
Situated in the heart of Covent Garden and filled with stunning exhibits, London Transport Museum brings the story of London’s transport into the 21st century. Lively exhibitions explore the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, culture and society from 1800 onwards.
Temporary exhibition Goodbye Piccadilly: From Home Front to Western Front reveals the untold story of London’s Home Front during the First World War, how drivers took their buses to the Front to support the war effort, how women advanced into the transport workforce for the first time, and how Londoners came under deadly attack from the air as total war came to the capital.
ADDRESS: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 7BB.
TEL: 0207 379 6344
NEWARK PARK, NATIONAL TRUST
A National Trust property consisting of a 700-acre estate, with at its heart a Tudor hunting lodge whichhas been extended over more than four centuries.Both from the house and from the garden, and estate walks, you will be able to admire the wonderful unspoilt views over the estate, the Cotswolds and as far as the Mendip Hills.
A building with many historic layers, wonderful stories and with a quirky collection of its own, we host exhibitions in our Exhibition Room as well as some around the whole house and gardens. Our exhibition programme is very varied, from hosting the Stroud International Textiles exhibition, to local wildlife and jewellery artists, as well as our own Newark WWI exhibition this summer.
ADDRESS: Newark Park, Ozleworth, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7PZ
TEL: 01453 842644
The house is open 11am-5pm (last admission 4.30pm). We are open Wednesday-Sunday from 2 March until 2 November. We also open for our Christmas weekend on 6 and 7 December (11am-4pm)
To see this feature as it appeared in issue 48 of Military History Monthly, click here.