Royal Armouries is set to join the nation in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War by showcasing the weapons and armour used in battle and telling the stories of those who fought for King and Country on the Western Front.

As one of Britain’s oldest public museums and home to the national collection of arms and armour, Royal Armouries will make a unique contribution to the Centenary, physically and digitally, in a series of exhibitions and events.

Curator Jonathan Ferguson said, “We aim to demonstrate how developments in technology and tactics changed both the experience of the men fighting the war, and the face of warfare itself. From cavalry and bayonet charges in 1914, to the elite machine gunners of 1918, we will explore how various weapons and pieces of armour were conceived, how they were used, and how effective they really were.“

“I think people will be surprised at how advanced some of the thinking was, and that, both before and during the war, there were constant attempts to innovate and to put the right equipment in the soldiers’ hands. However, no amount of ingenuity could prevent a horrific human cost and a legacy that still echoes today.”

Royal Armouries’ programme will be rolled out across the period 2014-18, culminating in commemoration of the Armistice. Key projects for 2014-15 include the following:

September, 2014 – New exhibition: Bullets, Blades and Battle Bowlers – the personal arms and armour of the First World War – sharing the stories of inventors, tacticians and soldiers of different nationalities. Through individual stories the exhibition will explore and explain how technological advancements helped catapult the world into the era of modern warfare. The exhibition is funded by DCMS/Wolfson Galleries Improvement Fund.

August 23, 24, 25, 2014 – The Final Charge by Atkinson Action Horses: set on the battlefields of the First World War, the story follows the brave soldiers on a journey through the fields of Europe. Encountering enemy fire and terrifying obstacles, they will stop at nothing to make sure their task is complete. This is an exciting, high-energy stunt horse show not to be missed. The show includes riders that appeared in Steven Spielberg’s 2011 film War Horse.
Tickets – Adults: £8, Concessions: £6, Family: £25 (2+2). Tickets available online.

August – November 2014: a programme of talks and seminars led by the museum’s expert curators will offer a unique insight into the history and research of the Arms and Armour of the First World War. Talks will cover; Franz Ferdinand and the Mystery of the Silk Vest; The Weapons of War; The Guns and Howitzers of the Artillery; and ‘The Origins of the Mad Minute’ – explaining British rifle-shooting prowess at the outbreak of war. The two full-day seminars will delve deeper into the world of deadly machines. For more information and to book tickets (£5 – £30), visit

November 2014 – February 2015 – Inspired by… They That Are Left. As part of the Remembrance programme for 2014, a photographic exhibition of war veterans by photographer Brian David Stevens will go on display. This poignant exhibition will show a series of black and white portraits taken at The Cenotaph on Armistice Days 2002-12. This exhibition will transfer to Fort Nelson in 2015.

Spring 2015 – Inspired by… 1914-18 Commemorative Quilts and Textiles. Work is currently underway to prepare around 30 exhibits reflecting a wide variety of First World War themes. Dates and detailed content of this exhibition will be confirmed soon.


Fort Nelson played its own role during the war effort, and thousands of men were billeted at the Portsdown Hill fort in Hampshire, awaiting transit to the Western Front.

2014 – Railway Howitzer: Britain’s last surviving railway gun is already in situ as part of the display of artillery of the First World War, in the Artillery Hall. Increasingly heavy howitzers were developed during the First World War as part of the trend to build bigger calibre guns capable of firing heavier, more destructive shells in the battle to break the stalemate on the Western Front. This would have been the largest of its type.

The First World War ended before any of the four 18-inch howitzers were ready. Some were used for testing purposes on artillery ranges and one had a new lease of life in the Second World War – serving on a railway line in Kent, in readiness to blast the beaches if a German invasion force landed. Each 18-inch shell weighed about a ton but the Howitzer was never fired in anger as the feared invasion never occurred.

‘Soixante Quinze’ on display: The French 75mm field gun, known as the ‘75’ – the first modern field gun and one of the most famous weapons of the 1914-18 conflict – has been acquired recently and is on display at Fort Nelson, where it can be compared with the field artillery of France’s ally, Britain and their enemy, Germany.

The ‘75’ holds an unrivalled position in the rapid technological development of artillery during the late 19th century and fired an unprecedented 15 to 20 rounds per minute – subjecting German troops to a ferocious barrage. The gun also played a central role in the infamous Dreyfus Affair, which divided France. The controversy centred on the question of guilt or innocence of French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, falsely convicted of treason in 1894 for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans – including details from the specification of this devastating new gun.

August 4, 2014 – April 1, 2015 – The Tower at War 1914-18: Foreman Buckingham goes to War: A showcase in the White Tower will be dedicated to telling the story of the Tower and its people during the First World War, with content updated annually and including extracts from the contemporary Tower Minute book detailing the daily activities on site. This year (2014) will focus on the tragic story of William Buckingham, Armouries’ foreman and keen volunteer artilleryman, who on the outbreak of the war, enlisted with the rank of Battery Sergeant Major in the Royal Field Artillery and journeyed north to Peterborough to train new recruits.

Explore the Weapons of the First World War Online – The launch will coincide with the centenary commemorations, with extra content added regularly. The first instalment will focus on the Personal Arms of the First World War.

Launch of Royal Armouries’ Collections Online: This autumn will also see the start of a new users’ digital interface to the Royal Armouries’ collections, which will allow users access to images, videos and information not previously available online. This is only the start of the project and it will continue to develop and grow, with exciting new content added over the coming years.

First World War Archives Project: Royal Armouries is working with a number of local museums, archives and other heritage organisations to stage an exciting project, exploring various aspects of the Great War. The project will investigate the history of the Royal Small Arms Factory with Enfield Museums Service, Local Studies and Archives, and the RSA Trust, and the development and manufacture of the British service rifle with the Historical Breechloading Small Arms Association. Royal Armouries is also working with local regimental museums in Yorkshire to discover more about the experiences of those who fought in local regiments and corps on the Western Front and in other theatres during the war.
The project runs from April 1, 2014 until March 31, 2016 and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

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Please direct all media enquiries to Julia Lumley, Communications Officer, at / 0113 220 1978, or call Joss Loader on 07838 379599.

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