• 10.00am - 5.30pm
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London
  • 10.00am - 5.30pm
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London

Global Role gallery

Exploring the age of empire in Global Role gallery

Explore the global role of Britain’s armies from the age of empire to the international crises of the modern era.

About the gallery

Britain’s soldiers have deployed to territories on almost every continent.

The Global Role gallery looks at their contribution to the accumulation and defence of Britain's overseas possessions, before examining the withdrawal from empire that began in the wake of the Second World War (1939-45).

The focus then turns to the international crises of the modern era, from the Korean War (1950-53) to the recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Duration: Around 45 minutes
  • Access: Via the main lift
  • Location: Floor 2
Plan your visit
‘The bustle attendant on a camp in India was something strange to us all... the roaring of the camels, together with the elephants and buffaloes reminds one of the striking contrast there is between India and peaceful England.’

Private Robert Waterfield, 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment of Foot - 1845

Things to see in the gallery

Portrait of Major-General James Wolfe, 1760

Major-General James Wolfe, 1759

This is the earliest accurate portrait of Wolfe from the time of his greatest triumph at Quebec in 1759. His death there, at the moment of victory, made him the foremost patriotic martyr of his day.
Tipu Sultan’s war turban, c1799

Tipu Sultan’s turban

Tipu fought to prevent British dominance in southern India. This war turban was taken from his treasury at Seringapatam (now Srirangapatna) after his defeat in 1799. It is inscribed with text from the Qur'an and decorated with tigers.
Uniform of Captain John Malcolmson VC, c1857

Uniform of Captain John Malcolmson VC

Malcolmson wore this handsome uniform during the Persian War (1856-57). He was awarded the Victoria Cross after rescuing an unhorsed comrade during a cavalry charge against Persian infantry at the Battle of Koosh-ab (1857).
Brown leather wallet containing labelled medicine bottles, c1890s

Tropical medicine kit

Most deaths and hospitalisations during the colonial campaigns of the 18th and 19th centuries were caused by disease. This kit contains medicines for service in the tropics, including anti-malarial quinine, and ipecacuanha root for treating amoebic dysentery.
Silk robe worn by Colonel TE Lawrence, c1916

Lawrence of Arabia’s robes

TE Lawrence was a liaison officer with the rebel forces fighting the Turks in the Hejaz (now part of Saudi Arabia). Living and dressing like his Arab hosts, Lawrence convinced them to co-ordinate their attacks within wider British strategy.
Queen’s Own Nigeria Regiment uniform, c1955

Queen’s Own Nigeria Regiment uniform

This regiment was part of the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAAF), formed in 1900 to garrison Britain’s West African colonies. The RWAFF fought in both World Wars and also included regiments from Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

Gallery stories

Things to do in the gallery

Visitors matching up uniforms in the Global Role gallery

Match the uniforms

Army uniforms have changed over time to suit different climates and to meet different challenges. Spin the blocks to match up the uniforms.
Campaigns touchscreen in the Global Role gallery

Global campaigns

Delve deeper into some of Britain’s global conflicts through a selection of images, sound and film.
Map of worldwide deployments in the Global Role gallery

Worldwide map

Discover where Britain's troops have deployed around the world from the 1660s to the present day.

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"First time @NAM_London today. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought the presentation & interpretation made the subject accessible..."