The Worcestershire Soldier Gallery

Perhaps nowadays most people won’t have heard of the Worcestershire Regiment, unless of course you are interested in military history or happen to come from Worcestershire. A forerunner to the British Army’s Mercian Regiment, it took part in the Boar War, 1st World War and 2nd World War, and like many county regiments its contribution and sacrifice during both world wars was not insignificant. The museum in Worcester remembers the regiment and its deeds, from official formation, to amalgamation into the Worcesters and Foresters and through to its current incarnation.

If you are in Worcester city centre or have just arrived by train, a short walk from Forgate Street train station, direction out of the city centre, will lead you to the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, located in the old town library. Incidentally, the museum shares its current home with a gallery on Worcester‘s own history, as well as space for visiting exhibitions.

Stroll up the steps and through the double doors you are greeted by a little giftshop, well stocked with the usual assortment, including arts & crafts and a handful of military themed items. Alternatively, a lift can be found at the right side entrance, down Taylor’s Lane for barrier free access.

The galleries themselves are located on the first floor, up the wide stone staircase or by lift. As your reach the top a large open area greets you, with a balcony overlooking the giftshop. To your left is a little café whilst to the right the galleries and toilets.

The Worcestershire Soldier museum is located at the back, so you have to pass through the city’s historical gallery, with representation of a period chemists, relating to the famous Worcestershire sauce, through the children’s activity area, to get to it. Saving the best to last as it were. Here the light darkens creating a distinct atmosphere.

The museum’s activity area
PHOTOGRAPH BY O. Dorrell

The exhibits are presented along a path, which winds through the history of the regiment and indeed time, from the 1600s until the present day. With a mix of historical information boards, oil paintings and glass cased items, exhibiting various forms of headdress, uniforms, trinkets, medals, edged weapons, and firearms. As well as cultural souvenirs from overseas postings. One of its many highlights is Hitler’s clock liberated from his bunker in Berlin. The museum really is a feast for your eyes, balanced with just the right amount of historical background, that doesn’t overload you, making for a most enjoyable visit.

Hitler’s clock liberated from his bunker
PHOTOGRAPH BY O. Dorrell

With so many wonderful antique and modern military exhibits it is indeed hard to find a favorite piece, but personally one that always catches my eye, and I like to think I have spiritually adopted, is the Second World War maroon airborne beret from the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars. It features an embroidered pear blossom badge. (The county is known for its fruit production, especially pears). The beret represents the county’s yeomanry regiment, which at that time was an airborne artillery unit, during the famous battles of D Day and beyond.

The Worcestershire Soldier Gallery entrance
PHOTOGRAPH BY O. Dorrell

The Worcestershire Solider Gallery is compact in size and easy to navigate around yet packed full with wonderful treasures. There are also static displays to inspire younger visitors, such as a period barrack room bunk, a full-sized cavalry horse, and in the centre of the 20th Century area, a home front and POW display. Emerging out you are lead through the visiting exhibition gallery and past the toilets back to the cafe area, coming full circle.

The Home Front exhibit
PHOTOGRAPH BY O. Dorrell

The galleries are clean, quiet and odourless, whilst the exhibits themselves are well lit and clearly captioned. There are no seating areas as such but the café does have ample room.

The museum and art gallery are open from Monday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4.30pm, closed on Sunday. The café closes 1/2 earlier. Entrance is free. I must also add that the staff are friendly and helpful.

Regardless of whether you have a particular interest in Worcester or its military associations, it is certainly interesting to see the different artefacts and the development of army uniforms over the past two centuries or so, from red coats to desert camo. I always try to schedule in a visit when I am in town, as it‘s definitely my preferred way to spend a few hours in Worcester, regardless of sunny weather or not.

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Olivier C Dorrell

Olivier C Dorrell is the author of British Officer’s Peak Caps of the Second World War (Schiffer Books, 2014) and is the Webmaster of the Worcestershire Militaria Museum, virtual museum. He is interested in art and history, military history in particular, and is a keen visitor and supporter of museums and the unique experiences they offer.