• 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
Featured

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

Charge of the 3rd King's Own Light Dragoons at Chillianwala, 1849
Talk At Museum / Online

22 March 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

The Second Sikh War

Amarpal Singh Sidhu explores the complex and often-overlooked history of the Second Sikh War and the lasting effect it had on the region in which it was fought.

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'Black Redcoats' book cover
Book Launch At Museum

6 April 2024, 2.00pm

£8.00

Black Redcoats: The Corps of Colonial Marines

Matthew Taylor reveals the untold story of the Colonial Marines, formerly enslaved African Americans who fought for, and found freedom with, British forces in the War of 1812.

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Battle of Alexandria, 21 March 1801
Talk At Museum / Online

12 April 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

Tourism, Collecting and Foreign Encounters in Egypt

Dr Simon Quinn reveals how soldiers serving during the Egyptian Campaign of 1801 experienced their new surroundings and made use of their free time.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 11.00am

FREE

The 2nd Dorset Regiment at the Battle of Kohima

Christopher Jary discusses the role of the 2nd Dorset Regiment at the Battle of Kohima in 1944.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

The Transformation of the Indian Army

Dr Alan Jeffreys examines the transformation of the Indian Army over the course of the Second World War.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 12.00pm

FREE

The Jungle War

Hannah Watson speaks to Robert Lyman about her new book for young readers set in the jungles of Burma in 1942-43.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 2.00pm

£12.50

Operation Ha-Go: Britain’s First Victory in Asia

James Holland sheds light on the bloody Battle of the Admin Box, which was fought in Burma in February 1944.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 3.15pm

FREE

Medical Support at the Siege of Kohima

Colonel (Retd) Soundararajan Jagdish recounts the extraordinary performance of the medical personnel who served during the Battle of Kohima.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 4.00pm

£12.50

Kohima: Britain’s Greatest Battle

Dr Robert Lyman outlines his case for why Kohima should be considered Britain’s greatest battle.

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Talk At Museum

20 April 2024, 6.00pm

£12.50

My Grandfather’s War: Field Marshal Slim

Mark and Mary Ann Slim share memories of their famous grandfather, Field Marshal William Slim, with Dr Robert Lyman.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

21 April 2024, 11.15am

FREE

Armoured Warfare in the Burma Campaign

Robert Palmer examines the role of armoured cars and tanks during the Burma campaign.

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A graphical composite image representing the event
Talk At Museum

21 April 2024, 12.00pm

£12.50

The Epic Siege of Kohima

Journalist Fergal Keane recounts the harrowing events at Kohima in 1944 and considers the impact on the defeated soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army.

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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..."