Exhibition: Gunners Today, Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum, London, from June 17 2011
The first of three planned exhibitions telling the story of the Royal Artillery in conflicts from Northern Ireland to Bosnia, this display of medals and reconstructions focuses on the experiences of the men and women who served as Gunners with the Royal Regiment of Artillery in Iraq from 2003 and in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present day.
Giving the personal as much weight as the political, it features a uniform worn by a Lance Bombardier as he braved waves of enemy attacks in Afghanistan in 2009 two years ago, as well as commentary on the technology used by the Gunners and insights into the strategies used in the campaigns.
“The whole exhibition is formed around the modern Gunner’s perspective,” says Curator Mark Smith, who has worked with the troops to create the show. A reconstruction of their base at the heart of the exhibition is designed to give visitors a tactile appreciation for their surroundings and life in battle.
“It was constructed by Gunners with all the materials that they would have at their disposal out in Afghanistan," he adds. "The words of individual Gunners introduce every display and their perspective informs the look and feel of the exhibits. We will also show films of Gunners talking about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan so visitors can meet the individuals who have served in the field.”
Organisers say the section of the show on lethal Improvised Explosive Devices is “chilling”. A mock IED will be partly buried in sand, illustrating how difficult they are to find. Interactive elements include a simulation of an unmanned air vehicle, a remote-controlled spyplane used by the Artillery to chart enemy positions and target and firing devices.
In a less explosive, more poignant point of closure, an Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scroll – honorary mementoes given to the next of kin of forces personnel killed on duty – are also given rare public exposure. Rather than acting as a posthumous medal, the Cross is designed as an important symbol of recognition for the loss suffered by the families of the fallen.
- Open Wednesday-Sunday 10.30am-5pm. Admission £2.50-£4.60.