1. Jimi Classic Colour, 1967, numbered 9/50 print by Gered Mankowitz.

Jimi's in the National Army Museum

On 30 March, after a three-year radical redevelopment costing £23.75million, the National Army Museum in Chelsea will open to the public. The bright new building will house more than 2,500 objects in five permanent thematic galleries – Soldier, Army, Battle, Society and Insight – on four floors.

The first gallery, Soldier, which draws on individual stories from the museum's own archive, uses personal objects to explore the physical and emotional experience of soldiering throughout history. The British Army may be almost 400 years old, but the thoughts, feelings and human experience of soldiers remain remarkably similar. The gallery follows the life of a soldier, from joining up to training and daily life, exploring combat and non-combat roles and, finally, returning home.


2. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, after Robert Walker, circa 1650.


Objects on display include Crimean Tom, a cat found during the Crimean War and brought back to Britain as a pet; the Welsh flag that formed part of the memorial of a soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan in 2009 and later died in hospital; and James McGuire's Victoria Cross, awarded for gallantry during the Indian Mutiny but which he lost when he was convicted of stealing his uncle's cow.

The Army gallery charts the history of the British Army as an institution, exploring its origins in the chaos of the Civil Wars, its major role in the ensuing political development of the country and its impact on global history. It also looks at how the army has embraced technological and social change – both reflected in its modern recruitment posters.

The international story of the Army is told through paintings, including portraits of the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and Khudadad Khan VC (the first Indian Soldier to win the Victoria Cross), as well as the first official representation of black soldiers in the army on the Regimental Colour of the West Indian Regiment.


3. Computer- generated view of how the interior of the new National Army Museum will look.

The Battle gallery explores the experience of combat from the 1640s to the present day. Tactics have evolved in the light of technological development and have become a major determinant of victory in battle. Visitors can experience some of these developments through interactives, such as driving a tank or drumming out a battle command.

The largest number of new acquisitions are displayed in the Society gallery where objects and stories are brought together to examine the army as a cultural, as well as a military force. The gallery looks at its impact on our customs, values and choices, from the toys, such as Action Man, and to music and fashion shown by Gered Mankowitz's print of Jimi Hendrix. Looking at the army's influence on fashion (Burberry trench coat), fiction (War Horse) and journalism (Kate Adie's flak jacket, press pass, helmet and identity discs), and at its impact on medicine, technology and benevolence, the army is revealed as both close and distant, as both loved and loathed.

The Insight gallery examines the impact the British Army has had around the world. No other army has seen service in so many different countries or interacted with such a huge range of peoples and cultures.
(For further information visit: www.nam.ac.uk)
Lindsay Fulcher


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