Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
its 'power of the real thing' has the ability to
excite the viewer. The uniforms usually dis-
played on models illustrate how the soldier or
offi cer would have appeared as they took part
in major events in regimental history and are
predominantly green in colour, refl ecting the
Gurkhas long association with the 60th Rifl es
and its successors. The presence of Scottish
tartans including MacDuff Tartan worn by
the pipers of the Gurkha Transport Regiment,
the MacLeod tartan worn by the pipers of the
Queen's Gurkha Engineers and the Grant Tar-
tan worn by pipers of the Queen's Gurkha Sig-
nals refl ects the association of various Highland
regiments with the men of Nepal. Tartan also
appears in the women's dress that forms part of
the cultural display at the start of the museum
but it is not clear whether this is a traditional
Nepalese weave or if it is a consequence of
these military links; what it does do, however, is
refl ect the duality of the images displayed.
Unsurprisingly for a military museum, med-
als are also exhibited but these are frequently
placed alongside works of art and items of cul-
tural signifi cance. The background to each dis-
play case is an enlarged section from a painting or
photograph, or image of the event portrayed. The
artwork provides not only a pleasing aesthetic
background to the artefacts but may also serve to
remind those with a deeper background knowl-
edge of military history that before the develop-
ment of photography the armed services placed
emphasis on training British offi cers to produce
visual images of the terrain and battlefi elds. A
brass role of honour may at fi rst appear to be a
work of art but on deeper inspection clearly hon-
ours those who were killed in battle. The recov-
ery of the plate refl ects the modern change in the
British army tradition and values, for the role of
honour refers to combatants who were buried
where they fell, in comparison to current confl icts
when fallen soldiers are brought home.
A large wall map centres on the North West
Frontier of India and to the student of military
history the visual message may be obvious, as it
is the location of many historic events. For those
visitors less familiar, more than a glimpse at the
display would reveal familiar locations such as
Helmand, Kabul and Kandarhar, names of des-
tinations frequently in the news today. Another
life-size but static fi gure portrays an Afghan
fi ghter pointing a Jezzel. All that needs to change
is the weapon and a tableau presenting a scene
from yesterday's history becomes a representa-
tion of today.
The museum's mission also puts the focus
on the British offi cer and his relationship with
the Gurkha soldier. Photographs of Queen's
Gurkha Offi cers refl ect a peculiarity of the late
Indian Army of the Empire period. For example,
in a photograph labelled 'Kajar 1906 4th Gur-
kha Rifl es a group of British Offi cers and their
ladies at camp', the visitor gets a glimpse of
informal military life with the offi cers in civilian
clothes taking what appears to be afternoon tea
with the 'memsahib'. The women would not be
out of place in Brighton let alone India. Every-
thing is ordered, with senior offi cers (recogniz-
able even in everyday clothes) to the forefront
of the picture with junior offi cers to the side. A
closer gaze reveals the pet dogs, possibly more
associated with younger single offi cers, and a
blur that on closer inspection is clearly an Indian
servant moving through the background. The
life and indeed death of the British offi cer is
largely confi ned to the museum stairwell and is
refl ected in a limited number of period photo-
graphs. In most similar museums, it seems that
the history on display is often that of the offi cer
who is in the main responsible for recording it
but not here. It is the offi cer that comes second.
The individual Gurkha is represented by photo-
graphs with citations of those awarded the Vic-
toria Cross. These pictures bring an additional
poignancy that the medal alone fails to do.
As the visitor progresses through the upper
fl oors of the museum, more familiar scenes,
which have been played out on our television
screens, appear. In events from the Falklands to
the streets of Northern Ireland and the spectre
of terrorism, the Gurkha soldier is seen repre-
senting the British army. By now, the displays are
easily recognizable but minor items stand out if
the visitor's attention is drawn beyond fi eld uni-
forms often worn today as fashion items. The
Falklands display for example contains ration
packs containing common items such as branded
cigarettes, although one ration pack contains
more luxurious items. If the visitor chooses to
read the text provided, they will discover that the
Argentinean Offi cers have better ration packs
than their men, unlike in the British army.
Moving to the exit, evidence of the peace-
time role of the Gurkha soldier is presented,
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