Following the decision to close the museum in Woolwich, we have been developing plans to create a new home for the Royal Artillery’s collection on Salisbury Plain. We are currently working with the Army to identify the best site on which to build the new museum.
The new museum will be designed to appeal to visitors of all ages, from families and school groups to Army personnel and veterans. It will present three interlinked stories: the evolution of artillery technology, the 300-year history of the Royal Artillery and the British Army’s relationship with Salisbury Plain.
It will provide large museum galleries to display the collection, with interactive exhibits and audio-visual displays to help visitors explore the Royal Artillery’s unique collection and discover the fascinating stories behind each object. There will also be space for education rooms, an archive research room, lecture theatre, meeting rooms, café and shop.
Outdoor exhibits will include the 200-ton Railway Howitzer, the largest surviving British artillery piece and an extensive recreated WW1 trench system with command bunkers and gun positions.
There will be a children’s play area and a conservation workshop where visitors can see staff and volunteers working on pieces from the collection, with historic military vehicles being brought back to life and driven in the nearby display arena.
Once the museum is up and running, we will be developing further projects to enhance this initial offer. These could include improvements to exhibitions and educational resources, new immersive exhibits and activities, increased gallery space and storage for the historical archive and reserve collection.
The content for the new museum has not yet been finalised, but it is likely to include the following galleries:
History Gallery – This will chart the development of artillery from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, with displays of historic guns, mortars and cannon from around the world. Highlights include a number of rare and highly decorated artillery pieces from India, China and Burma.
First World War - A dedicated gallery will demonstrate the huge importance of artillery during the First World War and the pivotal role it played in breaking the stalemate of trench warfare and bringing the war to a conclusion. Exhibits will include field guns from both sides of the conflict, such as the ground-breaking “French 75”, the German “Feldkanone” and the British 18-pounder. Other displays will focus on the personal stories of the men and women who served in the Royal Artillery during the War.
Medal Gallery - There will be a separate room to house the medal collection, which is one of the finest in the country. There are examples of every type of medal awarded to British Army personnel, including twenty Victoria Crosses, each of them telling a story of service, sacrifice and, in many cases, extreme bravery. There are also groups of medals and other personal items belonging to famous Gunners such as Lord Alanbrooke who was Winston Churchill’s “Master of Strategy” during World War Two. This will be a quieter and more reflective space since the medal collection is viewed as a memorial to the men and women who have served in the Regiment.
Artillery Hall - By contrast, a dramatic two-storey space with mezzanine viewing gallery will house the collection’s large artillery pieces, vehicles and aircraft dating from World War Two to the present day. These include an exceptional group of Cold War weaponry, unique experimental pieces such as the Green Mace anti-aircraft gun, and nuclear-capable artillery that was in service from the 1950s to the 1990s, including the famous Honest John missile. Visitors will find out how the Royal Artillery grew to around one million men and women during the Second World War, and about the Regiment's contribution to more recent campaigns, from Northern Ireland and the Falklands to Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Displays will highlight the equipment currently in service, such as the AS90 self-propelled gun and Rapier missile systems and will look at what future developments in artillery technology might bring.
Special Exhibition Gallery – This will host a programme of temporary exhibitions, including themed displays commemorating historic events, rarely-seen items from the historical archive and reserve collection and items on loan from other museums.
Salisbury Plain Gallery - This gallery will tell the story of the British Army on Salisbury Plain and how 130 years of military training has shaped local communities and helped preserve a unique landscape rich in wildlife and archaeology. We hope to include a viewing gallery with exceptional views out over the Plain, helping visitors to identify historical features and explaining what the Army does here today.