Gurkha Museum

Though I did not know the museum at all before last year (tucked away as it is on a larger site containing 5 other military museums, an incentive to visit in itself) it was not due to a lack of any displays or collections to offer the public.

As the name suggests, the Gurkha Museum showcases the history of now over 200 years of Gurkha troops from the small Asian nation of Nepal serving the British crown in a military capacity. From humble origins in a wooden barrack building at a different site in 1974, the museum now occupies an imposing brick edifice close to the heart of Winchester, housing two floors of displays arranged chronologically, covering the origins of the Gurkhas in Nepal, to the beginnings of their friendship with Britain in 1815, and the various conflicts they have been involved with as part of Crown and later national armies over the subsequent two centuries. The first floor covers the origins of the Anglo-Nepalese relationship and the role of Gurkhas in conflicts such as the Anglo-Sikh and Afghan wars in the late 19 th century, as well as expeditions further afield to places like Tibet and China.

The second floor displays focus on the expanding roles of Gurkhas in the two world wars (the First World War Display being especially relevant in 2018, the centenary year of the end of World War One), and on their continuing role in the post-WWII world, in places like Malaya, Brunei and the Falklands. Each display involves a variety of items from the museum collections, including substantial use of the museum’s medal collection, and many also contain diorama-type displays showing scenarios of the combat and activity which Gurkhas would have been involved in at the time. Many displays also make use of photographic material from the museum archive, which can often speak to past events in a much more timeless manner than museum labels and text panels.

The museum does charge (standard rate £5) but there are plenty of reduced rates available to different groups, amongst them Armed Forces members, and the display galleries, reception and shop are staffed by ex-Gurkha soldiers, who are happy to answer questions and are a wealth of knowledge about the museum and Nepal. In short, come and visit!

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Douglas Henderson