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Museum Musings

There was a time when most British Army regimental museums occupied only one or two rooms. And half of the space was taken up the display cabinets was containing medals. There was also at least one cigarette case or bible that had taken a bullet. The regimental museums have come a long way since then. So, it's ironic that more and more of them are coming under threat as the Ministry of Defence cuts their funding. The bean-counting bureaucrats at the MoD have always found the regimental system a baffling irritant - more so these days when so few civil servants have any idea what life in the military about. The MoD has decreed that it will only give financial help to one museum per regiment in the British Army. Among the latest victims of the cuts is the Gordon Highlanders museum in Aberdeen; which is expected to survive for the time being at least without the government funding. The Gordons merged with the Queen's Own Highlanders in 1994 and the combined unit is the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, rather unimaginatively known as The Highlanders. The QoHldrs was itself a 1961 shotgun marriage between the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and the Seaforth Highlanders. The Highlanders museum is at Fort George, the one time depot of the Seaforths and for the moment the home station for the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (whose museum is in Perth). Now I seriously doubt if many of the new recruits to the RRoS walked out of their local regimental museum straight to the nearest army recruiting office. And I know that many Scottish school teachers would fight tooth and nail against a class trip to the local regimental museum. But these museums, if some thought is put into what is shown, play an important role in what used to be known as KAPE, Keep the Army in the Public Eye, which was intended to encourage local awareness and understanding of what the Army is all about. The Army, and for that matter the Ministry of Defence, goes to war every year. But that "war" is the fight is between government departments for taxpayer money. Few people are prepared to shell out for something they know very little about and what they do know they mainly learnt from Hollywood films. It might be one thing if the museums were being sacrificed so that present day soldiers are better equipped - but that's not going to happen.  



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