Tuesday 19 June 2012

The Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham

After lunch on Sunday (and our visit to Upnor Castle) my family and I went to the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, Kent. I've been here before but this time I was able to take my camera inside and shoot some pictures. Its an excellent museum with an interesting and varied collection of artefact's from the long and venerated history of the Corps.

A Titan AVLB Outside the Royal Engineers Museum

The visitor is taken through the development and evolution of the Corps from its very earliest days prior to its formation as permanent part of the army through the Peninsular Campaign and the Battle of Waterloo. The Museum holds the Map drawn up on the instructions of the Duke of Wellington weeks ahead of the Battle fought there. The Duke had already decided this was a good place to fight and the map includes marking made by Wellington himself as well as the bloodstains of his Quartermaster General, Sir William de Lancey who was fatally wounded in the battle.

The Waterloo Map

There are also some very interesting artefact's from the Crimean war on display. Several very rare weapons and guns are available to view but for me it was the less well known and frankly macabre objects that made this section so interesting. One that is sure to elicit a groan from all that see it is a board containing an anti-cavalry device called 'Crows Feet'. This no doubt owes its origin to the much more ancient Caltrop but in this case takes it to new heights of viciousness. This particular example was recovered from the battlefield of Balaclava.

Crows Feet
The range of exhibits here will keep most wargames happy but if you have any interest in British colonial wars then there is lots to see. The Zulu wars especially are well represented with several excellent displays. One of the best focuses on probably the Royal Engineers most famous sons, Lieutenant John Chard, who commanded the troops at Rorke's Drift. On display is Chard's revolver used in the battle and other artefact's from this engagement and the earlier massacre at Isandlwana.

Bust of Lieutenant John Chard

A large portion of the museum displays are understandably focused on the two World Wars. The Royal Engineers played a vital and growing role during these conflicts which would shape the future of Europe and the World and are still influencing events today. Several items stood out for me. The are several examples of WWI recruitment posters that seem our modern eyes as almost naive in their simple messages. But they were designed to stir the blood of young men and either encourage or shame them into signing up for the adventure of a lifetime.

WWI Recruitment Posters

Later in the exhibit you see what these young men were signing up for with an interesting display of early Gas Masks (both British and German).

Early British Gas Mask

Photo of the Mask in use somewhere in France or Belgium
The Museum also has an interesting selection of large exhibits including several vehicles both inside the displays and outside in the grounds. The indoor exhibits include tractors and APC's from WWI up to the modern day.

Gainsborough Tractor Mk 1 (1960)
My Fathers Day card from the kids...a Model Churchill Tank  next to the Real thing!
Churchill AVLB and two No3 Tank Bridges

All in all this was an excellent day out and a very interesting museum well worth a second visit at another date. Indeed the Royal Engineers Museum has more large exhibits within the Historic Dockyard at Chatham which I hope to visit later in the year.

As usual I shot many more pictures than those shown here. The rest of my pictures are on my Picasa Web Albums page which can be viewed by following this link.


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