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 summer, from hidden gems to long-established sites.
The Cheshire Military Museum
This museum hosts an attractive and interesting exhibition depicting the history of four famous Army Regiments connected with the County of Cheshire from 1685 to the present day. Highlighting events involving the soldiers of Cheshire, this interactive and visual display brings their stories to life. Educational and informative, it is well worth a visit for adults and children alike.
The Museum has just opened a new temporary exhibition called Our Sporting Life which will run until the Christmas holiday. It is inspired by the 2012 London Olympic Games and features episodes and sporting achievements of members of The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment and The Cheshire Yeomanry over the last 160 years.
WHERE: The Castle, Chester, CH1 2DN
OPENING TIMES: 10am – 4pm
Explosion! the Museum of Naval Firepower
The Museum of Naval Firepower is a hands on, interactive museum set in the historic setting of a former gunpowder and munitions depot at Priddy’s Hard, on the Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour. Priddy’s Hard was once a busy Naval Armament supply depot that provided the Royal Navy with all its ammunition for over two hundred years.
Telling the story of naval warfare from the days of gunpowder to modern missiles, the two-hour tour of the museum includes a stunning multimedia film set in the original 18th century gunpowder vault.
There is a fascinating social history too, including the story of how 2,500 women worked on the site during its peak in WWII. It describes the role that Priddy’s Hard played in naval operations worldwide for over 200 years, as well as its importance to the local Gosport community, which not only armed the navy but also fed and watered it.
The museum has a gift shop and waterside coffee shop area that are also open to non-visitors, so feel free to stop by and enjoy the surrounding of the Camber Dock overlooking the stunning views of the harbour.
WHERE: Priddys Hard, Gosport, PO12 4LE
OPENING TIMES: 10am – 5pm
New Falklands Conflict exhibition at the Submarine Museum
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport in Hampshire has a new photographic exhibition: Falklands 30 – War Patrols.
The exhibition at the Submarine Museum highlights personal memories of a variety of submariners who served in the submarine fleet that supported the Royal Navy Task Force in 1982. Key recollections have been contributed by WO Colin Way former PO Writer on HMS Conqueror, the submarine that sank the Belgrano; Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott, then CO of HMS Splendid; and Lt. Cdr Frank Muscroft former Engineer Officer onboard HMS Onyx, the submarine that had the task of finally sinking RFA Sir Galahad.
Entry to the museum includes a guided tour of HMS Alliance, the only surviving WWII era submarine. The Falklands 30 exhibition will run until October 2012 and is free with a valid museum ticket.
WHERE: Haslar Jetty Road, Gosport, Hampshire, PO12 2AS
OPENING TIMES: 10am-5.30pm
Tangmere Military Aviation Museum
Located on the edge of the former RAF airfield, the Tangmere Miltary Aviation Museum is famous for its involvement in the Battle of Britain. The RAF has left but the museum, founded in 1982, is this year celebrating its 30th birthday.
Here visitors of all ages will find much to fascinate and enjoy. Iconic aircraft of WWII and the Cold War Era, exhibits including a salvaged Hurricane from the Battle of Britain, displays outlining the work of the SOE, Bomber Command and pioneering flight in WWI, and flight simulators for aspiring pilots. The Hawker Hunter in which Neville Duke set a new world airspeed record in 1953 is on display, alongside the Gloster Meteor flown to set the record in 1946.
The museum holds a number of special events during the year. The main event this year commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict is on Sunday 22 July, when many additional attractions will be laid on,
including veterans of the conflict who will be present to sign memorabilia and chat to visitors, and a flypast by a Spitfire of the BBMF (weather/serviceability permitting).
Refreshments are available in the NAAFI café, and there is a picnic area, memorial garden and museum shop. Disabled facilities available.
WHERE: Tangmere, West Sussex, PO20 2ES
OPENING TIMES: 10am-5.30pm
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre
Richard III gave battle in vain, and over 500 years on you can explore how the mighty Tudor dynasty was born out of the Battle of Bosworth, at an award-winning Heritage Centre.
Set in the rolling countryside of Leicestershire, close to the site of the bloody conclusion to the War of the Roses, Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre offers fascinating insights into 15th century life and warfare, which the whole family can enjoy.
With hands-on weaponry and armour exhibits, falconry demonstrations, displays of artefacts, guided walks of the battlefield site, and regular living history events – including the annual spectacular re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth in August – the Heritage Centre has plenty to offer.
It also features a new gallery detailing how recent archaeological evidence has pinpointed the location of the battle, and the medieval Tithe Barn, a licensed restaurant.
WHERE: Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV13 0AD
OPENING TIMES: 10am-5pm
National Army Museum
The National Army Museum is one of the best-known military museums in the country, and for good reason. With a vast range of displays and regular exhibitions, this fascinating museum – located in the heart of London’s Chelsea – aims to be the leading authority on the history of the British Army and a first class museum that moves, inspires, challenges, educates, and entertains.
A recently-opened Jubilee exhibition explores the historic link between the Monarchy and the Armed Services and how these traditions continue today. The museum’s War Horse exhibition and special gallery continues to capture the public’s imagination, and the permanent galleries tell the ordinary and extraordinary stories of the men and women who have served in Britain’s armies across the globe, and how they have helped shape the world today.
Every Thursday, the museum hosts its lunchtime lectures. These are open to the public and free to attend, covering a wide spectrum of military history topics. You are also given the opportunity to hear celebrated historians lecturing on their specialist subjects at the museum’s Celebrity Lectures.
This is the perfect museum for the military history enthusiast, and with its Kids Zone and various interactive learning activities, you can be sure that the kids will enjoy the trip too.
WHERE: Chelsea, London, SW3 4HT
OPENING TIMES: 10am-5.30pm
Click here to view the guide as it appeared in issue 23 of Military History Monthly