Over the course of the centuries, the country has often called on its men and women to go to war to defend its ideals. In the last century, we’ve seen a greater recognition for the toll it takes and an appreciation for those who answered the call through monuments and museums. London’s war and military museums dedicate themselves to honoring all who served and remembering the history of Britain’s military going back hundreds of years. If you have an interest in military history and want to learn more about how Britain has engaged in war, you should visit one of these five museums. If you think we left something off, you can let us know in the comments.
Imperial War Museum
The first and the best, the Imperial War Museum was the result of the government’s desire to honor the contributions made during World War I. As such, it focuses on modern conflicts from World War I to the present day. The museum has an extensive collection of items from World War II, and some of the permanent exhibits include the Holocaust Exhibition, Turning Points: 1934 – 1945 (focusing on key moments in the war through people’s lives), Witnesses to War (largely a display of the weapons of war), and the World War I Gallery. The museum is funded by government grants, charitable donations, and commercial activity, so there’s no cost to enter.
National Army Museum
The Imperial War Museum may be the biggest museum organization in the city dedicated to the military, but the National Army Museum is not to be missed. It is the main museum of the British Army and chronicles the service branch’s history over centuries. Furthermore, it’s free to enter and adjacent to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, so you can tour it along with the hospital and also have a Pensioner as your guide. The museum hosts a number of interesting exhibitions, from relations with Germany after World War II to contributions of soldiers from across the Commonwealth.
Royal Air Force Museum
A bit north of Hendon Central Station is the Royal Air Force Museum, which for no entry cost, features an incredible array of British and American fighter planes and bombers, a History of Aviation exhibit, and a fun flight simulator. What you’ll want to visit most here is The Battle of Britain Hall, which not only includes famous British and German aircraft from the conflict but also exhibits dedicated to artwork of the Battle, the restoration of a Dornier Do 17, and unseen footage from the 1968 film, The Battle of Britain.
Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill Warm Rooms is another part of the Imperial War Museums and shows off what the government’s headquarters looked like during World War II. With the very real belief that Germany would launch a bombing campaign against the British capital, the government converted the basement of the New Public Offices building into a protected bunker that housed the Central War Room, a vital base for the Cabinet, and also offices for the chiefs of staff of the armed forces. Churchill held 115 cabinet meetings in the Central War Room, which also included a dormitory for staff, private bedrooms for important government officials and military officers, and a switchboard for telephone operators. In the modern-day, the War Rooms have been preserved, and there is also a permanent exhibit on Prime Minister Churchill. The cost to enter with a donation is £25 and without is £27.50.
National Maritime Museum
While the Royal Navy’s Museum is all the way in Portsmouth, the RN does have a presence in London at the National Maritime Museum. Located in the Old Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum purports to be the largest of its kind in the world, covering the history of Britain at sea, including the history of naval warfare. Some of its exhibits include personal effects of Admiral Nelson and J.W.M. Turner’s painting of “The Battle of Trafalgar.” The museum was established in 1934 and is part of the larger Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site.