Saturday, 17 December 2011

Day trip to Chelsea

With time to kill and an eye for free stuff - I took myself down to Chelsea to see the Warhorse exhibition at the National Army Museum. We went with the kids to see the play at the National Theatre and I thought it was great - but the exhibition was a disappointment.

I say free but I  picked up TWO parking tickets with a face value of £260 - apparently in Chelsea you need a permit to park a motorcycle in a motorcycle bay. The two tickets I hope are an error as they were issued within two minutes of each other- but who knows. So possibly my verdict of the exhibition is retrospectively prejudiced, but then again I was already pissed off after riding around the ridiculously  smug moneyed  backstreets of Chelsea. If we could spare Warrs Harley Davidson off the Kings Road, there would be a strong case for nuking the whole fucking borough and all the hoorays who live there.

But I digress: The exhibition managed to be  both a not-quite-the-history of the British cavalry - and an attempt to convey the horrors of the Great War by anthropomorphising a horse and its sufferings. I wasn't too comfortable about this -  I can well imagine that many of the officer class 1914-18  being more upset at the loss of their favourite hunter than a few working class oiks...

Actually the exhibition came across primarily as a lure to bring kids into the National Army Museum - much like the exhibition of the history of Commando war comics going on at the same time on the upper floor.  

The museum itself is a strange one: full of the traditional glass cases of uniforms, weapons, dioramas and the history of military campaigns - which I have to confess I'm a sucker for - but also an underlying  message of 'join the army-it's great'. A message told with a poorly concealed subliminal attempt to be inclusive and politically correct.

So we have mannequins portraying a soldier at Waterloo from the West Indies (factual but hardly representative) and a lot of coverage of empire troops in the Second World War. But no explanation of why the British army was fighting a succession of campaigns in Africa, India, Burma etc - although these are grouped in a gallery titled with unconscious irony 'Changing The  World'. We are also treated to another gallery singing the praises of post-war national service which seems to have been a bit like a lads' holiday with camping and paint-balling thrown in. And  another gallery about life in the modern British Army - apparently it's all about 'the army family'.

There's a gift shop on the way out with a mixture of fairly esoteric military history books and a range of kid's versions of modern camo-clothing and equipment. The eleven year old me would have signed up on the spot and I didn't even visit the 'kids zone in the basement' ....

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