National Army Museum

Museums, Military and maritime Chelsea Free
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National Army Museum
Nicky J Sims

Armies are expensive and so are museums devoted to them. Chelsea’s National Army Museum (next to the Royal Hospital) has just reopened after a three-year, £24 million redesign. A huge atrium has been carved out of the middle of the building, and the whole place is much lighter and less gloomy than before. It’s not just a structural redevelopment, though. The new museum reflects the fact that the history and perception of the British Army is always evolving, shifting and being re-understood. As a graph on display reveals, there are fewer people serving in the regular army today than at any time in the last 200 years, yet its media and public profile has maybe never been higher or more discussed. To reflect this, the museum has five new galleries representing different aspects of the boys in green (is that a thing? Maybe not): Soldier, Army, Battle, Society and Insight, plus a brand new Play Base for the under-eights to do a bit of junior square-bashing or whatever. There are now 2,500 objects on display, two-thirds for the first time. 

By: Chris Waywell


Venue name: National Army Museum
Address: Royal Hospital Rd
Transport: Tube: Sloane Square
Price: Free
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3.5 / 5

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It has taken three years for the Army Museum’s regeneration project and the results are, to my mind, mixed. The building and galleries themselves are open and easy to navigate; the realities of modern army life, and the public’s mixed approach to it throughout the 20th and 21st centuries are sensitively approached; the temporary exhibition spaces are large enough to intrigue as to the pieces to come. However it does feel a little stripped back – more Imperial War Museum reserve collection or storage space for the nearby Chelsea Hospital than a museum in its own right. Hopefully this will change in the months and years to come as the museum adapts to its wider spaces and fills its nooks.


This newly refurbished museum is great mainly because it works for all ages. There's informative displays for those hungry for information, interactive installations for those that don't want to just read and opportunities to play games, dress up as soldiers or take part in an army training drill exercise for the younger kids that need that little bit more to spark their interest. It's really modern in style and I really enjoyed the visit. More museums should follow their lead when it comes to trying out new things...for youngsters in particular.

I also really liked the design of the actual building. It wasn't busy when I visited even though it was a weekend. Feel slightly like this one is an ignored gem.