The uniforms, insignia, and medals worn by the soldiers not to mention the decorative art and photographs describing the soldiers have impressed visitors for generations. All three armed branches of Scottish warfare are covered, namely land, navy and air. The three branches each knew various periods of favour and rejection that depended on the vagaries of the times. The choice of material was based on any military unit raised in or outside of Scotland.
The museum resides in buildings dating back to the mid 18th century and the exhibit has been divided into 6 galleries. The principal one is called A Nation in Arms that broadly examines the influence of strategy and military service on Scottish history by covering economic, political and social aspects of war together. The other five touch on the material of war itself.
You can see the uniforms, insignia and equipment that soldiers used and carried as they marched off to different lands. The total reaches about 15000 items of which some examples are pieces of headdresses from the late 17th and early 18th centuries and flags from the Battle of Culloden (1746). The most complete collection is of the uniforms from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Secondly, the orders and medals that number about 3500 and vary from those for valour and merit to long service as well as some for proficiency in military competitions, including the best bagpipe player. The best ones are the bronze Victoria Crosses and a gold collar of the Order of the Thistle. Then, you can move on to the decorative arts that display paintings, prints and ceramics of commanders and battle scenes. There are over 3300 prints alone out of a total of over 5000 items. The mundane things are not forgotten as one can find glass and silver objects used for eating and souvenirs.
The next gallery is the documents and photographs one that includes private as well as official pieces recording personal moments and formal events. The most recommended are the private albums from the First and Second World Wars, but do not forget to pass by the pieces on the Crimean War. Naturally, one can find diaries bequeathed to the museum, such as those of Admiral Viscount Duncan who served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Lastly, there are the weapons, the instruments of war. The variety is amazing as bladed weapons, firearms and grenades are just part of the collection. It focuses mostly on small arms and edged weapons, but whenever a soldier goes off to war, he or she will inevitably pick something up either to remember or commemorate the war, and you can find those pieces here, such as Indian swords from Tipu Sultan's Palace of Seringapatam, who was the ruler of Mysore in present day India and opposed British rule until his death in 1799 at the hands of an army under the future Duke of Wellington.
War is one of the salient cultural creations of humanity and one can perceive its influence here on Scottish history and identity and how it helped construct a Scottish image and reputation internationally.
National War Museum of Scotland
Edinburgh & the Lothians
Telephone: +44 (0)131 225 7534
for more information on The National War Museum of Scotland