What Is the British National Army Museum?

Sandi Johnson

The National Army Museum, located in London, England, was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1960. Queen Elizabeth II signed the Royal Charter on April 8, establishing the Council of the National Army Museum to oversee the museum and its mission. The goal of the museum is to gather and preserve documents and artifacts relating to the British Army. Public awareness and appreciation of army history are the underlying purpose behind preserving historical information and examples.

The exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the British pound sterling is often called "cable."
The exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the British pound sterling is often called "cable."

Located in the central London district of Chelsea, the National Army Museum sits in close proximity to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a nursing home and in-patient hospital for Army veterans. Originally conceived by Field Marshal Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer and housed at the Royal Military Academy, the museum moved to Chelsea in 1971. To further add to the museum's connection to British history, the current site once featured the Walpole House, the residence of the very first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Construction of the museum site began in 1961, ending decades of vacancy after the Walpole House suffered severe damage during war years.

Histories maintained by the museum date to 1066 A.D. and encompass colonial and imperial army incarnations. Admission to the museum is free to the public to encourage education and historical awareness. Christmas and New Years are the only holidays when the museum is not open. Annual funding from the Ministry of Defense helps cover operating expenses for the museum under the National Heritage Act.

Unlike other national museums dedicated to the British Army, the National Army Museum takes a universal approach to Army history. Other museums highlight specific regiments, eras in Army history, or expand exhibits to include the effects of army life or various civilian involvements in times of war. Alternatively, the National Army Museum showcases armies that helped create the modern United Kingdom from 1066 A.D on through modern incarnations and army histories.

As with most museums, exhibits displayed and events organized by the National Army Museum change on a regular basis. All installations, however, relate to the extensive history of the British Army and its role in the evolution of the United Kingdom. Examples of past displays include records and artifacts regarding the Army's role in establishing trade between Great Britain and other countries, the role of the Army in historic wars, and the various incarnations of the British Army. Armies established by the East India Trading Company are one example of the historical bodies whose historical records and artifacts are preserved by the National Army Museum.

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