With hundreds of military museums in the UK alone, how do you know which one will best suit your interests? Here is a promotion of some of the best museums and exhibitions to visit this year.
RAF AIR DEFENCE RADAR MUSEUM
In the Summer of 1940, unknown to almost everyone, radar was playing a vital role in the success of the RAF’s ‘Battle of Britain’ pilots against the Luftwaffe. Established in 1941, the once ‘Top Secret’ base at Neatishead has remained pivotal in Air Defence from WWII, right through to the Cold War, and it still remains an RAF station even today. The museum charts the amazing history of radar from its inception right through to the Cold War. Experience the Operations Rooms, touch the equipment, and feel the fear.
ADDRESS: RAF Air Defence Radar Museum, RRH Neatishead, Nr Horning, Norfolk, NR12 8YB
TEL: 01692 631 485
OPENING TIMES: Tuesdays and Thursdays, the second Saturday of the month, bank holiday Mondays, and Easter Saturday to end November: 10am-5pm
The Wellington Museum is situated in the former stagecoach station in which the Duke of Wellington stayed on the nights of 17 and 18 June 1815. You can still visit the Duke’s bedroom, the office where he wrote his victory report, and his aide-de-camp’s bedroom.
Various other rooms have been dedicated to different armies, including authentic documents, etchings, weapons, and souvenirs of the various nations that took part in the combat. There is also an impressive collection of rare weapons, such as La Suffisante, a cannon manufactured in Douai, France in 1813 and abandoned on the battlefield. Each round weighed 6lbs.
Your individual ticket for entry into the museum entitles you to an audioguide available in various languages. Duration of the visit is 50 minutes.
ADDRESS: Chaussée de Bruxelles 147, 1410 Waterloo, Belgium
TEL: +32 (0) 2 357 28 60
OPENING TIMES: April to September: 9.30am-6pm; October to March: 10am-5pm
SOLDIERS OF OXFORDSHIRE (SOFO)
Oxfordshire’s new museum is the only one that deals with the county’s rich military heritage through modern displays and hands-on activities.
As the home to the two county regiments’ archives – the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry – the museum explores how conflict has affected Oxfordshire men and women at home and abroad.
Much of the material on display from the archive is being shown for the first time, such as the images and diaries of the men who liberated Bergen-Belsen and the experiences of the 21st-century soldier in Afghanistan. ‘Blood and War’ depicts life on the front line, and shows how the advancements of medicine and technology were hastened by
the realities of conflict in both world wars.
A changing exhibition programme with accompanying events and talks ensures the museum offers visiting exhibitions, guest curators, and historians an opportunity to be part of its work and engage with the widest possible audience.
ADDRESS: Park Street, Woodstock, OX20 1SN
TEL: 01993 810 210
OPENING TIMES: Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: 2pm-5pm
Explore English Heritage’s Tilbury Fort on the Thames estuary, protector of London’s seaward approach from the 16th century through to the Second World War.
Originally built by Henry VIII, and the spot where Queen Elizabeth I famously rallied her army to face the threat of the Spanish Armada, the present fort is one of the best examples of its type in England.
Delve into the magazine houses used to store vast quantities of gunpowder, and enter the underground passages to feel what it was like for the soldiers who lived here. Discover the fort’s colourful past in our exhibition.
ADDRESS: Tilbury Fort, No 2 Office Block, The Fort, Tilbury, Essex, RM18 7NR
TEL: 01375 858 489
OPENING TIMES: See website for details.
DAVIDSTOW AIRFIELD AND CORNWALL AT WAR MUSEUM
This extensive museum stretches across 18 buildings in 2 acres. It covers the history of all three services from 1914 to the present. Visit the officers’ site on the WWII airfield, and see aircraft, vehicles, weapons, personal items, and more. Individual buildings have displays and information on every RAF station that existed in Cornwall, together with coverage of the Royal Navy, and the Army.
ADDRESS: Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall at War Museum, Davidstow, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9YF
TEL: 07799 194 918
OPENING TIMES: School and bank holidays; every day in July, August, and September; Wednesday to Saturday in April, May, June, and October: 10am-5pm
THE REGIMENTAL MUSEUM OF THE ROYAL WELSH
The Museum tells the fascinating story of The Royal Welsh, one of the British army’s most famous regiments. The Regiment’s long history, dating back to the 1680s, is told through many kinds of objects including uniforms, medals, weapons, and models. The Regiment has seen action in many prominent events, including the British campaign in South Africa (visit us and discover what really happened in the 1879 Zulu War!), and both world wars. In total, 43 of the Regiment’s soldiers have received the Victoria Cross, and we commemorate their sacrifice and heroism as well as that of all the men and women associated with our Regiment who have contributed so much to our country.
ADDRESS: The Barracks, The Watton, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7EB.
TEL: 01874 613 310
OPENING TIMES: See website for details
To see this article as it appeared in issue 67 of Military History Monthly, click here.