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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Grand Old Duke of York and the Guards Museum #HipsterMuseum

If you’re a big fan of the Ministry you’ll already know of our #hipstermuseum series that sees us review and try to bring to attention the smaller lesser loved museums in London. Often their on your radar but perhaps not top of your list to visit they still deserve a bit of museum loving to ensure that they remain open especially in advance of the vicious cuts we’re likely to hear of soon.

As November 11th marks Armistice Day , a day of memorial for the fallen heroes of war across the commonwealth counties it seems somewhat apt to remember those who lost their lives fighting by highlighting one of London’s military museums.  

A certainly more obscure museum than ones we usually review  the Guards Museum is situated right in central London opposite St James Park, and as part of the Wellington Barracks that host her royal highness’s foot guards. Costing only £6.00 to visit the displays document the military history of five regiments of the Queen’s foot guards - grenadier, cold stream, scots, Irish and welsh and aims to be a secure repository for artefacts belonging to those troops and help young guardsmen to learn about the history of their regiment.

The showcases are full to the brim with a wide range of objects relating to the military personnel, beginning with the uniforms of the Queen’s guards and a handy video introduction from the curator highlighting the differences in the regiments and how this is reflected in their grand uniforms including those bearskin hats. Moving on to some creepy waxworks and early drawings of the guards the museum gives a full outline of their history, hosting medical, personal and prestigious objects. Perhaps most excitingly the medical kits and objects of infamy such as the Grand Old Duke of York’s (yep the one who went up the hill!) hat. Of course, the place is filled with the expected royalist and nationalistic ephemera including some of Queenies military clothes and the occasional noise of a fanfare but with the Chelsea Pensioners as museum wardens walking around with their cups of tea and offering stories it becomes less intimidating.

However, I personally find it uncomfortable and upsetting to view objects of war and so when some of the more contemporary cases paid homage to members of regiments who have lost their lives in battles within the last ten years in Iraq and the stories of those who survived I found myself feeling that it almost too recent and potentially insensitive. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that this is a museum for research, although their text panels may use outdated language and the objects may seem insensitive to myself its purpose is to teach those young soldiers taking this path and its accessibility to the public is a peak into that way of life and worth a visit, if not just to find out more about those fancy uniforms!

Visit the Guards Museum daily from 10am to 4pm. 

Or if like me, you think all wars should be ended check out Stop the War campaign 

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