I like visiting random museums in London, and last weekend I went to the National Army Museum. My visit that day was prompted by hearing that the museum is due to close on Wednesday 30 April for two years for refurbishment and redevelopment. Personally I think it’s a bit strange to close the museum in the year of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, when interest will surely increase, but I suppose they have a reason for it.
The museum is located near Sloane Square station in west London (well, not too near – I still chose to get a bus). It’s free to enter, and there’s a café and gift shop as well as a children’s area. From the outside it does look well-maintained and inviting – for a museum that’s due to close for refurbishment imminently, I thought it looked pretty good.
The content of any museum is what matters, of course, as well as how the information is presented. I was very impressed with this, more so than I had expected. The museum looks at the history of the British Army from its beginnings as Cromwell’s New Model Army during the English Civil War, through the Napoleonic Wars and Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, to the Crimean War and conflict in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Naturally it examines both World Wars as well as more recent conflicts including the Korean War.
I thought the museum was well laid out, interesting and was pitched at an appropriate level for both adults and children to get something out of it. I actually witnessed an adorable exchange as I entered the exhibition: there were two little boys with their dad (who must have been ex-army) and one of the boys, pointing at a case of seventeenth-century muskets, said, “Was yours like that Daddy?” So cute!
Whether you are for it or against it, war has been hugely important in history and this museum covers key conflicts involving the British Army superbly. It’s a fascinating place to visit and I am sure I will return once redevelopment is complete.
Address: Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4HT