I have always loved visiting military museums, and I would like to share some of the amazing collections that can be found within regimental museums all over the UK.
For my first Regimental Museum post, I will be sharing the fantastic cavalry collection held by HorsePower, The Museum of The King’s Royal Hussars in Winchester, Hampshire. (www.horsepowermuseum.co.uk). For the sake of transparency, I am connected to this museum but don’t let that stop you visiting!
On arrival at the site, you can’t help but be impressed by the beautiful surroundings of the old Peninsula Barracks site, where the museum is now housed. Peninsula Barracks was the old rifle regiments depot, and is now home to six regimental museums! Further details on Winchester’s Military Museums can be found on their website https://www.winchestersmilitaryquarter.org/
I will in due course be more than happy to take a look at the other museums on-site.
Moving back to HorsePower, the site does have free parking available, but be aware that it is first come first serve, and on busy days you may need to use a pay and display car park in Winchester town centre. You will also need to remember to register your car details at the front desk of the museum to avoid any issues. For those travelling by public transport, the museum is in short walking distance of the train station and transport links in the city centre.
The museum has a small entrance fee, but this is well worth it for the collection on display. Those who are serving members of the Armed Forces get free entrance with valid military ID and children under 16 also are free.
The museum starts with an audio visual area giving a brief introduction to the museum and the regiment. From here, the museum follows a chronological order from 1715 to the present day. Within this area is also a very nice pair of 18th century Light Dragoon Guidons [Guidons being the flags carried by cavalry regiments, in the same manner as the infantry carry colours]. I should probably mention at this stage that the museum do not currently cover the 14th/20th King’s Hussars side of the regiment. The museum pre-dates the 1992 amalgamation, with the 14th/20th King’s Hussars having a museum in Preston, Lancashire.
The first display case is in my opinion one of the most impressive, full of objects from the Peninsular War and Waterloo period. Of particular interest is a battered old mirror, on it’s own rather unimpressive, but carried by a Sergeant of the 10th Hussars during the Battle of Waterloo!
The 11th Hussars were part of the Light Cavalry Brigade in the Crimea, now immortalised for the Charge of The Light Brigade at Balaclava in 1854. The experience of one soldier during the charge can be listened to at the touch of a button, and it’s certainly worth doing so. In addition, objects from the charge can be found on display, including a trumpet, sword and hoof from Lord Cardigans horse.
Half way round the museum you enter two galleries, which take a break from the chronology and guide through other aspects of regimental life and traditions. A mock up stable area brings the traditional cavalry role to life, with an authentic horse aroma to match! Other areas include an impressive medal collection, royal connections, the regimental band and much more.
The museum re-enters chronological order with the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, and it’s here that my favourite object in the museum is. The incredible wardrobe in which Pte Patrick Fowler of the 11th Hussars hid in, behind enemy lines for 4 years! His full and miraculous story can be found online, but the actual wardrobe is well worth visiting the museum for, if nothing else.
During the inter-war period, horses gave way to armoured cars and tanks as mechanisation took place throughout the army. Turning a corner from the wardrobe, you are confronted by a Daimler Dingo armoured car, as used during the Second World War. A range of other objects from North Africa, Italy and North East Europe depict the regimental journey through the stories of those who were there.
The post war period covers the amalgamation into the Royal Hussars (1969), followed by the amalgamation into the King’s Royal Hussars in 1992. Regrettably, due to the size constraints of the museum, the Royal Hussars have a fairly small representation. Having said that, I am reliably informed that this will be rectified with the upcoming museum re-design. The museum ends with the modern day King’s Royal Hussars, with recent objects from Afghanistan and Operation CABRIT in Estonia.
I mentioned earlier that the 14/20th King’s Hussars have a separate museum in Preston, Lancashire. Regrettably, this was closed (along with the Museum of Lancashire in which it was housed) in 2016. The good news is that 14th/20th King’s Hussars collection has been transferred to HorsePower, The Museum of The King’s Royal Hussars. Plans are well underway to incorporate this within the existing museum, covering both sides of the regiment equally. I for one am very much looking forward to the new combined museum!
Overall, a highly recommended visit which is best conducted as a day trip, incorporating the other 5 regimental museums on-site.