NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM ULTIMATE GUIDE
Open: Everyday: 10:00AM to 5:30PM
Time Needed: 3 hours,
It may not be as big or as well-known as the Imperial War Museum in Greenwich, but with six floors, countless of exhibits and artefacts, and even research facilities and a learning suite, the National Army Museum continues to wow any visitor who passes through its doors.
The National Army Museum focuses specifically on the history of the British Army and its role in shaping Great Britain as we know it today. And given that it’s still operational in 80 different countries, the actions of the British Army not only affect modern-day British society, but nations all over the world as well. That’s why a visit to the National Army Museum is a must for any visitor in London, regardless of whether you’re British-born or not.
The museum’s exhibits cover the role of the British Army in various wars since as far back as the English Civil War, and its many thought-provoking (and often controversial) displays educate visitors on how the British Army continues to affect British culture and traditions today.
The museum often hosts a variety of events, talks and temporary exhibitions, and has its own café, shop, and play area for children aged seven and under.
National Army Museum Highlights
There are massive sections dedicated to the British Army’s role in both World War I and World War II, as well as many displays on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, India and Africa, and even the Boer War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Battle of Waterloo.
Many photographs, artefacts and life-size dioramas and wax figures are scattered all throughout the museum, and its walls are lined with paintings depicting historic battle scenes, and portraits of important British Army officers.
Visitors are allowed to touch and feel some of the items in the exhibits which were once used by British Army soldiers, and get a closer look at some maps, weapons and uniforms as well. Visitors can also dress up and act as a wartime medical assistant in the Army Medical Services and IEDs section, and there’s tons of interactive, hands-on galleries so you can construct your own rocket and put together your own parachute.
Some of the many fascinating items you can expect to see during your visit to the National Army Museum include:
- A skeleton of Napoleon’s horse Marengo
- A section of the Berlin Wall
- An amputation saw which was used to amputate the Earl of Uxbridge’s leg at the Battle of Waterloo
- A blood-stained, battle-worn tunic worn by a World War I soldier
- A 25-pound Howitzer which was used in service just before World War II
- A medical kit used to help Holocaust survivors during the liberation of Belsen in 1945
- A warrant signed by King Charles I to authorize Lord Willoughby of Eresby in raising the King’s Lifeguard
- A British officer coatee which was worn during the Crimean War
- A lock of King Theodore of Abyssinia’s hair
- A Ronson sword which once belonged to Captain Charles Brownlow of the Lurgan Yeomanry Infantry
- A protective face mask worn by tank crew members during World War I
Children will especially enjoy the museum’s soft play zone, which features climbing frames and nets, slides, tunnels and building toys.
If you don’t have time to check out the museum, then you can search through some of their exhibits online on their official website.
If you have extra time, try and head to the Chelsea Pensioners next door, which also has a small museum and free admission.
If you are travelling by car, then try to visit the museum on a Sunday when parking in the surrounding streets is free.
Address: Royal Hospital Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4HT, United Kingdom (See map).
By Tube: If you are travelling by tube, the nearest station is Sloane Square (which is a 10-15 minute walk).
By Train: If you are travelling by train, the nearest station is Victoria (which is a 21 minute walk away).
By Bus: If you are travelling by bus, routes 11, 19, 22 and 211 go to King’s Road, and 137, 156 and 360 travel to Pimlico Road. Bus route 170 stops just outside the museum.
By Car: If you are travelling by car, there are car parks located on both Bourne Street (9 minutes walk) and Sydney Street (11 minutes walk).
Visiting National Army Museum
Recommended visiting time is around two to three hours; however you may find yourself spending even more time wandering around the museum as there is a ton of information to read and exhibits to look at it.
There are toilet facilities throughout the museum, as well as a small café and a shop.
The museum sometimes hosts daytime talks featuring authors, experts and academics and are free to attend. The museum also puts on a series of evening talks, so you can hear professionals discuss the various aspects and influences of the British Army. If you’re interested in attending an event at the museum check out the National Army Museum’s website, and be sure to visit it again as close to the date as possible, as the times are subject to change.
The museum has free admission, and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (but closes on December 24th, 25th, 26th and January 1st).
If you want to book an hour in the children’s soft play zone, each session costs £2.50, and must be booked online beforehand.