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

Global Role

Exploring the age of empire in Global Role gallery
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Global Role gallery

This gallery looks at the deployment of Britain’s armies around the world, from the age of empire to the modern day. Many of the objects on display were collected by soldiers and reflect their interactions with different cultures and customs.

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Explore Global Role stories

The British landing at Fort Oswego, Lake Ontario, on 6 May 1814

The War of 1812

From 1812 to 1815, Britain was at war with the United States. Militarily, the conflict ended in stalemate, but it had a lasting impact on the communities of North America.

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The Storming and Capture of the North Fort, Peiho, on 21 August, 1860

Second China War

Between 1856 and 1860, British-Indian forces joined the French in a military expedition against Imperial China. Their victory further opened up China to Western traders and greatly weakened the Qing dynasty's imperial regime.

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Detail from 'Troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force in the Arakan, Burma, 1944'

Troops of the Royal West African Frontier Force in the Arakan, Burma, 1944

This painting by Captain Hugh Micklem depicts West African soldiers on campaign in Burma (now Myanmar) during the Second World War.

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Detail from the painting 'Inside Mastiff 33A'

Inside Mastiff 33A (‘Withdrawing, We Don’t Retreat’), February 2010

This painting by Jules George captures the claustrophobic conditions inside a British patrol vehicle during the war in Afghanistan.

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The Battle of Alexandria, 1801

Egyptian campaign

From 1798 to 1801, an Anglo-Ottoman alliance competed with the French for control of Egypt. Their victory resulted in French troops withdrawing from the region and also helped safeguard Britain's possessions in India.

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Detail from painting of the Battle of Isandlwana

The Battle of Isandlwana, 22 January 1879

One of our most popular paintings is a depiction of the Battle of Isandlwana by Charles Fripp. Here, we take a closer look at the artwork to discover more about this infamous British defeat.

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Officers and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Devonshire Regiment, Wuutho, Burma, 1891

Third Burma War

Following a series of fractious disputes, the British invaded Upper Burma in late 1885 and overthrew its king. While the country was quickly annexed to British India, a guerrilla war ensued that rumbled on for the best part of a decade.

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The 18th and 80th Regiments storming the Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, 1852

Second Burma War

This brief conflict in 1852-53 was largely provoked by the East India Company, which was hungry for new territory and resources like teak and rubber. It ended in a British victory and saw Lower Burma become a province of British India.

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The British landing at Rangoon, 11 May 1824

First Burma War

Frontier clashes between British India and the Burmese Empire escalated into a full-blown war that lasted from 1824 to 1826. This conflict resulted in parts of Burma coming under the control of the East India Company.

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British troops in the Transvaal, 1881

Transvaal War

In 1880-81, the British fought a brief war against the Transvaal Boers in South Africa. The Boers had rebelled against British control and went on to inflict several stinging defeats during their successful fight for independence.

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Jacket worn by Captain John Malcolmson VC, c1860

Wool, wax and whalebone: Preparing a uniform for display

Our conservation team describes some of the essential work required to get one of the highlights of the Global Role gallery ready for display.

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16th Regiment of Bengal Lancers at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, 1900

The Boxer Rebellion

In 1900, British and Indian troops joined an international expedition sent to relieve the diplomatic quarter of Beijing, which was under siege by the 'Boxers' and their Imperial Chinese allies.

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Explore Global Role events

Handwritten extract from Ted Senior's diary, c1943
Talk At Museum / Online

10 May 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

In Their Own Words: A Diary of the Death Railway

Join research curator Justin Saddington as he examines the diary of Ted Senior, a soldier and prisoner of war who survived the building of the Thai-Burma ‘railway of death'.

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The King's African Rifles, East Africa, 1916
Talk At Museum / Online

31 May 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

The East Africa Campaign, 1914-18

Dr Anne Samson provides a fascinating overview of the East Africa Campaign and its impact on the First World War.

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Explore Global Role learning resources

Army and Empire: Gallery Trail
Trail

KS4-KS5 (Ages 14 to 16+)

Army and Empire: Gallery Trail

Follow this gallery trail to find out more about the Army’s role in the British Empire.

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