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Dogfight [by the_gneech]

Eyes Front

I had Howard to stay this weekend, and we went to the National Army Museum in Chelsea. I wasn't even aware such a museum existed until Howard, the out-of-towner, alerted me to their current exhibition on the art of Commando Comics, and I wasn't expecting to be all that interested in the rest of its offerings, but it is a lovely, bright, modern museum full of Stuff.

The museum follows the story of the British Army from the 18th century to the present, through Waterloo, the Boer War, the two World Wars, Korea and National Service. Eyewitness accounts from diaries, letters and recordings, along with artefacts, models and video, bring departed servicemen and women to life.

There are lots of interactive bits, including a First World War game where you try to get through an advance playing as officer, private or medic (clue: don't have the shell-shocked guy court-martialled, even if you think he deserves it) and a chance to experience the smell of a field hospital in the Crimea before Florence Nightingale arrived to sort them out. In the 'Conflicts of Interest' zone you can look in on life in and after the modern Army, learn about conflicts from the last twenty years and vote on whether or not Britain should have got involved.

Fans of Warhorses of Letters might be interested to know that you can see the skeleton of Napoleon's horse Marengo, minus two hooves. There's also the stuffed remains of an enormous, worried-looking cat named Crimean Tom, who was brought home from the siege of Sevastopol, and the skull of regimental mascot Plassey the Tiger.

The Commando exhibition itself is delightful: affectionate and tongue-in-cheek. Look out for the cover illustrating German soldiers on jetpacks.


I was there ages ago - I missed a bus at Victoria Coach Station and had a four-hour wait for the next one, but realized that was enough time to walk to the NAM and have a bit of a look round (I have a stamp-collecting attitude to museums).

I remember Marengo, the impressively huge, toy soldier diorama of the Battle of Waterloo and an interactive thing - I was playing an officer in the Korean war and "lost". I was vaguely pissed off as none of the options presented were what I would have done (which would have, of course, saved the day).
Oh, the Waterloo model was amazing!

I missed the Korean game, but I was better at being a medic in the Great War than at the other options (successfully diagnosed Spanish Flu; the alternatives were bubonic plague and rabies).