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.
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 does marks the beginning of the centenary, 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 waged, in Nord Seine-et-Marne, the Musée de la Grande Guerre du Pays de Meaux is directly concerned by this event. The museum has decided to make its own contribution by looking back at the active role that the British forces played in this battle.
The museum’s collections, currently in storage, will be used. The Imperial War Museum, National Army Museum, both in London, as well as the In Flandersfields 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 of the exhibition will be published and a specific mediation – particularly for groups of schoolchildren – will be organised.
WHERE: Rue Lazare Ponticelli, 77100 Meaux, France
OPENING TIMES: May-Sept 9.30am-6.30pm Mon, Wed-Sun. Oct-Apr 10am-5.30pm Mon, Wed-Sun.
THE UK’S LARGEST PRIVATELY OWNED MILITARY MUSEUM
The Muckleburgh Military Collection is located in Weybourne, North Norfolk and is set in 300 acres overlooking the beautiful North Norfolk coast. Since the museum opened in 1988, the collection has grown, now comprising 25 working tanks and tracked vehicles with thousands of items on display. It is the official home of the historical records for the Norfolk and Suffolk Yeomanry and has a life-size display of Copenhagen, the Duke of Wellington’s horse. It can take around four hours to view all the displays in the museum, passing through the tank halls, artillery hall, diorama displays, vehicle rides, the shop, andthe cafe with children’s play area. A tank-driving experience is also available to book in advance for £100. We also have our own landing field. Please view www.muckleburgh.co.uk for full details of what is available, opening times, and entrance charges.
WHERE: The Muckleburgh Military Collection, Weybourne, Norfolk, NR25 7EH
OPENING TIMES: 28 March – 3 November 2013 10.00 am – 5.00 pm with last Admissions at 4.00 pm
CONTACT: 01263 588210
One of the south coast’s most historic landmarks, discover over 200 years of history at this Napoleonic fortress. Built to defend the south coast from Napoleon’s forces, it still stands as a unique monument to that time and now houses the largest military collection of its kind in the south of England.
The Redoubt’s latest exhibition, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Button Maker, features military uniforms from 19th Century onwards, and focuses on the people that carefully crafted these magnificent examples of tailoring.
The fortress has an exciting programme of events for 2013, including military history lectures, film screenings, swing dances, and noonday cannon firing during the summer holidays. The Outpost café serves a delicious selection of pastries, cakes, and excellent coffee.
Entry to the parade ground and battlements is free, with admission charged only inside the fortress and military exhibition. You also get a free return visit with each ticket!
WHERE: Redoubt Fortress & Military Museum, Royal Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN22 7AQ
OPENING TIMES: Open 7 days a week 9am – 5pm
CONTACT: 01323 410300
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 and pictures, as well as both Allied and German military materiel. 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
CONTACT: +33 (0)3 28262731
This exhibition explores the role of warfare in children’s play from 1800 to the present day. Showcasing over 100 objects from the museum’s collection, it examines the effect of conflict on toys and games through four sections. Playing at War raises the topic of children re-enacting war through a display of historic dressing-up clothes, toy weapons, and strategy games. On the Battlefield provides a chronological overview of combat, exploring how toys have imitated the evolution of weaponry. Reality to Fantasy looks at the change that came in the aftermath of the World Wars. The final section, Secret Weapons, reveals the use of toys in warfare – to train and influence, to comfort and heal, and to aid escape.
WHERE: V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
OPENING TIMES: 10am-5.45pm
CONTACT: 020 8983 5200
BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC EXHIBITION OPENS AT THE FLEET AIR ARM MUSEUM
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest campaign of World War II. It began on the first day of the war and continued until the German surrender in 1945. The battle to control the shipping lanes across the Atlantic involved thousands of ships and cost the lives of more than 30,000 Merchant Navy seamen.
1943 is seen as the point at which the balance of success in this battle shifted in favour of the Allied Forces and 2013 is therefore, the year chosen to commemorate the 70th anniversary of this pivotal battle.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum’s new exhibition dramatically displays a Fairey Swordfish, Fairey Fulmar and the newly restored Grumman Martlet. In addition to the aircraft on display there is a representation of a German U-boat conning tower along with a rare example of a German Gyrocopter. Gyrocopters were stored onboard the U-boats within torpedo tubes. They could be deployed rapidly when the submarine surfaced and towed behind the submarine lifting its pilot to height of some 100 metres, extending visibility to around 25miles.
The exhibition was opened at on July 11 by former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band who is Chairman of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Admiral Terry Loughran, Chairman of the Fleet Air Arm Museum and Capt Eric Brown CBE who as a Martlet pilot, took part in the Battle of the Atlantic.
WHERE: RNAS Yeovilton Somerset, BA22 8HT
OPENING TIMES: 10am – 5:30pm
CONTACT: 01935 840 565
To view this feature as it appeared in issue 36 of Military History Monthly, click here.