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Britain's Greatest Battles

Britain's Greatest Battles

Last updated: 24 June 2013

Amarpal Sidhu, Craig Appleton, Colonel Stuart Tootal, Iain Gale and Robert Lyman

20 April 2013, 10.30am - 5.30pm

Join us at the Museum to determine which battle most tested Britain's might, strategies and courage.

Your votes have selected Waterloo, Aliwal, D-Day/Normandy, Rorke's Drift and Imphal/Kohima as the five most significant battles. A range of distinguished speakers will cover what makes these five conflicts truly worthy of the title 'Britain's Greatest Battle'.


  • 10.25am - Welcome and introduction by Robert Evans
  • 10.30am - Waterloo - Iain Gale
  • 11.30am - Interval
  • 11.45am - Rorke’s Drift - Craig Appleton
  • 12.45pm - Lunch break
  • 1.45pm - D-Day/Normandy - Colonel Stuart Tootal
  • 2.45pm - Interval
  • 3.00pm - Aliwal - Amarpal Sidhu
  • 4.00pm - Interval
  • 4.15pm - Imphal/Kohima - Robert Lyman
  • 5.15pm - Conclusion and final remarks

Tickets can be purchased in the following ways:

  • Telephone: 020 7881 6600
  • Online: Use the booking form on this page or visit the Museum Shop
  • At the Museum


A concessionary rate is available to SOFNAM members, students, seniors and service personnel. Concession tickets can be booked over the telephone but must be collected with proof of ID.


Marion Griggs
4 February 2013, 10.54am

I consider that Rorke's Drift

I consider that Rorke's Drift was one of our great battles.

Martin Davies
6 February 2013, 9.11pm

Waterloo has to easily be the

Waterloo has to easily be the most important Battle for Great Britain (and other European Nations other than the French).

The Napoleonic Wars were actually the real 'First World War' as they involved many nations and the events and battles covered a great majority of Europe and involved other continents and seas. Waterloo was the final act and throw of the dice by Napoleon. His Grande Armee's defeat was total and final, after years of conflict from 1804-15 (not including the Revolutionary years where he also had a great hand). He was consigned to exile and the French Monarchy was restored (once again).

Waterloo meant that Europe regained peace until the Crimean War nearly 40 years later in the following reign of Queen Victoria.

Waterloo was a glorious success, when victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat in the final hours, when the arrival of the Prussians and the resolve of the British & Allied Army finally tipped the balance.

What other Battle has so many global place-names, including our own station in London. What other Battle still coins the phrase 'Has Met His Waterloo'.

9 February 2013, 6.59pm

Why does the contest only

Why does the contest only start from the English Civil War? Shouldn't battles such as Battle of Hastings 1066 and Battle of Agincourt be included? I think it a major misrepresentation if these two are not included. In addition to these two I would see Battle of Naseby, Battle of Waterloo, Battle of the Somme, Battle of El Alamein and D-Day as the key contenders in my opinion for the top 7 Greatest British Battles. If naval battles were included too then Tragalgar, Spanish Armada, Jutland would be key contenders.

Terence Davidson
10 February 2013, 11.01am

The Battle of Britain was the

The Battle of Britain was the greatest. It preserved western civilisation and saved America from the Nazis (not that the Yanks have ever realised it). Or did you mean land battles? That would be The Somme. What courage!

11 February 2013, 11.31am

Plassey, Blenheim, Jutland,

Plassey, Blenheim, Jutland, Battle of Britain & The Falklands

Daniel Benest
17 February 2013, 12.23pm

1644 Battle of Cheriton -

1644 Battle of Cheriton - Waller, my 10xgreat grandfather with his Southern Association troops defeated his friend's (Hopton) royalist cavalry for the first time. The objectives of the FIRST PART of the English Civil War were TOTALLY different to later on.

Also 23 Aug 1914, Battle of Mons when we gallantly held up the Huns sufficiently before withdrawing. Paris was saved etc ...

Philip Arrandale
21 February 2013, 4.02pm

Surely Hastings, Agincourt

Surely Hastings, Agincourt and Bosworth should be on this list, and what about York Town when Cornwallis surrendered the battle and the USA, imagine what the world would look like now if the good old USofA was still British.

To be the most important battle in British history the outcome of the conflict must have had a major effect on British life and culture. On this premise I would exclude any event that does not in some large way impact on life in Britain today. Hence conflicts such as the Falklands War, Korea, Quebec, Rorke's Drift and several others on the list would be discounted as far as I am concerned.

It is difficult if not impossible to choose one from the list. My personal top three would be Naseby, Waterloo and D Day and its immediate aftermath.

Naseby ended the Royalist's defence of the King's right to absolute power, Britain has been ruled by an elected Parliament ever since, even in the brief period when Oliver Cromwell called himself Lord Protector.

Waterloo effectively ended Napoleon's desire to rule Europe so we still speak English and not French.

The D Day landings opened the door to Europe and began the charge across Europe which ended the threat of world domination from Adolf Hitler's, Nazi, Third Reicht so we still speak English and not German.

If forced, as I am to vote, to choose one from the list............ I would say that the battle that had the most impact on Britain today is....... Naseby.

Jim Murphy
23 February 2013, 9.55am

The Battle of Britain. The

The Battle of Britain.

The fact Hitler lost meant he could never successfully invade Britain. So America would have remained in isolationist stance and we would all be speaking German.

Or do we exclude air battles?

Lionel(Dickie) Bird
23 February 2013, 11.21am

Battle of Atlantic transcends

Battle of Atlantic transcends all - Churchill not me! Had it been lost - it nearly was! - Europe, indeed the world, would have been a very entity. Trafalgar ended an invasion threat, but could Napoleon have done this anyway?

But it seems you are only looking for an Army battle? Otherwise Battle of Britain would rate highly.

Army only, though this had ceased to happen by !939 -
probably El Alamein (first defensive battle) - had Rommel broken through, the Middlle East, even India, would have lain open. Waterloo and Normandy were obviously important but in both cases the enemy had, effectively lost the war; and for all Marlborough brilliance, history was probably not decisely altered.

Ian Ward-Cox
23 February 2013, 7.59pm

Most of us seem to have

Most of us seem to have forgotten the war against all odds, outnumbered by 6000 to scarcely twenty yet having produced a dozen or more VC's viz. the battle of Rorkes Drift in South Africa.

Jim Keys
27 February 2013, 3.55pm

Battle of the Atlantic,

Battle of the Atlantic, Battle of Britain, both important, but soldiers themselves rated Kohima and Imphal as the greatest victory.

Tony Proudlock
2 March 2013, 8.41am

The Battle of the Atlantic

The Battle of the Atlantic was definitely the most vital of all, when Britain's very survival hung by a thread. My late Dad was part of it and was a pilot on an escort carrier. I grew up with his stories of the horrors of the conflict.

Of the battles listed I would have to say Waterloo which finally put an end to the ambitions of Napoleon.

8 March 2013, 6.16pm

"Which tested Britain's

"Which tested Britain's might, strategies and courage".

The Falklands comes to mind. It was a huge distance to send a task force.

malachy cooke
20 March 2013, 2.46pm

Waterloo. I have read the

I have read the cooments and need to explain that the reference point is the past 400 years since Charles 2nd and the restoration of the Monarchy and the founding period of what we would now understand as the British Armed Forces i.e. standing army and navy. Previous encounters with the enemy were essentially raised armies. So we are looking at that period until now. These are my views in keeping with my good friend Vince Harding who voted in favour of Waterloo.

28 March 2013, 1.35pm

Good selections but two

Good selections but two notable omissions from the list for me which were not even short-listed:

The Battle of Omdurman - 1898

The Battle of Mirbat - 1972

28 March 2013, 6.43pm

Too bad Blenheim and any of

Too bad Blenheim and any of the other fine battles by Marlborough or Corporal John are not included. Blenheim certainly deserves to be ranked among Britain's greatest battles not only for the military consequences but also for the socio-political as well.

Gillian Nel
7 April 2013, 12.39pm

The battle of El Alamein was

The battle of El Alamein was touch and go and had Britain and her Allies not won it, things would have turned out very differently.

7 April 2013, 5.19pm

The greatest victory ever won

The greatest victory ever won by British armies was surely the campaign known as "The Hundred Days" (there were actually ninety six) that commenced with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August and ended with the Armistice on 11 November 1918. This was the biggest of all British triumphs, in terms of scale of fighting and the power and ferocity of the enemy engaged. Nothing on land in WWII approaches it, as far as Britian is concerned. It has - it seems - been overlooked, which is a disgraceful disservice to the mighty effort of the British army in its supreme hour.

Jason Askew
18 April 2013, 7.06pm

Yorktown was definitely a

Yorktown was definitely a Great, or very significant British Battle, as the British Surrender at the siege of Yorktown led to the Birth and recognition of the United States. Without the existence, and intervention, of the USA in WW2, the outcome of Britain's war against totalitarian fascism in Europe may have been less successful.

George Kernahan
20 April 2013, 9.26pm

In the war against Japan, the

In the war against Japan, the Imphal/Kohima campaign was a sideshow and contributed little to the eventual outcome. Japan was defeated primarily by US Naval aviation and submarines operating in the central/western Pacific Ocean areas. What happened elsewhere was of minor importance.

Colin Baxter
31 July 2013, 10.30pm

With everything that was at

With everything that was at stake, El Alamein must surely rank as one of Britain's and the Empire's finest hours.

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