Military and maritime medway
Discover the artefacts of war...
From formidable ships and tanks to poignant medals and memorabilia, the artefacts of war bring action on the frontline vividly to life.
Embark on a compelling adventure around The Historic Dockyard Chatham, a hub and important port for the Royal Navy for over 400 years. Discover how the dockyard bustled with the building of vessels and engineering repairs in WW2, and clamber aboard HMS Cavalier, the Royal Navy’s last operational Second World War destroyer. She served in the Arctic and Western Approaches before joining the British Pacific Fleet and is now preserved as a thought-provoking memorial to the 143 British destroyers and 11,000-plus men lost at sea during the war. Afterwards, if you don’t mind small spaces, find out what it was like to be a Cold War submariner, squeezing through HMS Ocelot’s cramped compartments.
Sharp-eyed visitors might also spot locations around the dockyard where the popular TV series Foyle’s War and the dramatic BBC recreation Dunkirk were shot. Then at 3 Slip – The Big Space explore the enthralling museum store of boats, tools and vehicles, including the Overlord small diesel locomotive that was among the first Allied locomotives to land in Europe after D-Day.
Change the mood for some quiet moments of reflection at St George’s Centre (formerly St George’s Church), Chatham Maritime. For many years St George’s served the needs of the Royal Navy Pembroke Barracks and you will find many memorials that bear witness to the brave men and ships that sailed from Chatham in two World Wars.
Uncover more military exploits at the Royal Engineers Museum, Library & Archives, Gillingham, where a collection of more than a million objects evoke the story of the Corps, which has been involved in every conflict of the British Army across every Continent. Feel the hairs on your neck prickle in the WW1 Gallery where there’s a reconstructed trench complete with sounds of explosions; follow the airborne, bridging and bomb disposal activities of the Corps in WW2. The museum’s magnificent array of 6,500-plus medals includes 25 Victoria Crosses, each a reflection of breathtakingly courageous individuals and deeds.
Holdings of nearly 40 vehicles range from Bridge Laying Tanks to Lord Kitchener’s Carriage (some are showcased at 3 Slip at Chatham), and a rare V2 Rocket from WW2 is now on display after 50 years in storage. The V2 was the first long-range ballistic missile to be actively used in combat.
By the way...
If you want to extend your explorations in the area, Fort Amherst, Chatham, provides fascinating insights into WW2 defences. Britain’s finest Georgian/Napoleonic fortress was first built to guard Chatham’s Royal Dockyard against land-based attack and during WW2 tunnels here were turned into the headquarters of the Anti-Invasion Planning Unit and Civil Defence. Relive the times in a reconstruction of the HQ as it was in 1939 and imagine how you might have coordinated civil defence for North Kent in the event of bombing! Riverside Upnor Castle, a rare example of an Elizabethan artillery fort, was also pressed into service as part of the Magazine Establishment and was damaged by two bombs that fell in the garden of Upnor House in 1941.