Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Army Museum

Rifleman 95th
National Army Museum, London

My good friend Stuart Laycock wrote a book called All the Countries We've Invaded.  I reviewed it earlier...  According to Laycock Britain has, over the course of its history, invaded or fought in nearly 90% of all the countries in the world.  You can find Laycock's book  The British Empire, on which the sun never set, once spanned about one quarter of the earth and one quarter of the world population.

If you want to gain an insight into the British forces that have done most of the invading please consider a visit to the National Army Museum in the Chelsea section of London.  Here is the link for the National Army Museum...  Sadly, the NAM is now closed for redevelopment until 2016.  The museum is located near the Chelsea pensioners barracks which is the ancient home for retired British veterans.  These are the fellows in those magnificent scarlet coats that one can still see tottering around London.

Commander K. with Napoleon's horse's skeleton
National Army Museum, London
At NAM you can trace the history of British land warfare from colonial days to the the present day.  The Napoleonic era is well represented in this museum with displays of the battle of Waterloo, whose bicentennial will be celebrated next year (June 18, 2015).

Scotch Highlander
National Army Museum, London
Many generations of soldiers have taken the King's shilling and served their country around the world.  English soldiers in the British Army were augmented by Welshmen, Scots, Irishmen as well as colonial troops including the extraordinary Gurkhas.

British Army Mustering Sergeant
National Army Museum, London
The class system that dominates so much of British society also obtained in the Army.  The red coats worn by officers and sergeants were dyed with cochineal (made from beetles) while the coats of ordinary soldiers was dyed with madder, a vegetable dye, that tended to run in wet weather.

Many may recall the chorus from the television series Sharpe's Rifles written by John Tam (see video below)...

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain.
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away.

British Colonial Redcoat
National Army Museum, London
The Pax Britannica was preserved in the 19th century with a "thin red line" of Colonial troops such as these.  The phrase "thin red line" was originally coined by Times correspondent William Howard Russell who described a "thin red line, topped with a line of steel" at the battle of Balaklava in the Crimean war in 1854.

Commander K. and Protected Fighting Vehicle
National Army Museum, London
You can get a sense of life in the trenches in World War I and well as the Tommys' experience in WWII here.  Even recent British deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are featured here with many testimonies from serving soldiers.

I look forward to the re-opening of the NAM in 2016.

How many Americans have served their Uncle Sam "over the hills and far away"...?

I am excited to announce that this September a new history of America's Military Involvement with the world will be published.  I have collaborated on this book with the historian Stuart Laycock.  Our work is titled America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with nearly Every Country on Earth.  You can learn about our work

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

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