Military History collection

For centuries the armed forces have played a major part in the life of our city and its people.

Portsmouth Dockyard has long been the home of the Royal Navy, and as a result this was said to be the most heavily defended location in the country. At one point Portsmouth was ringed by fortifications to defend against enemy attack. Sometimes, as in the Blitz, the city came under direct attack. Portsmouth people have served all over the world as members of the British armed forces, both in peace and war.

Our military history collections reflect this wide history. Some examples include a large collection of mainly 19th century cannons; material relating to the city’s fortifications and army garrison; uniforms; equipment and photographs about local volunteer units from the Hampshire Carabinier Yeomanry to the Home Guard; and memories of life in wartime Portsmouth.

Donating to the military history collection

We are keen to acquire items for this collection relating to the military history of Portsmouth. If you have an item that you think may be of interest to add to the collection, please get in touch. It will help us if you can tell us as much as you can about the item, including how you acquired it, any story behind it, and what condition it is in. Please include photographs if you can.

We collect:

  • Items relating to the armed forces in Portsmouth and those who operated from Portsmouth, throughout history
  • Items relating to Portsmouth people serving in the armed forces throughout the world, whether during conflict or in peacetime
  • Items relating to Portsmouth in time of war, such as the bombing attacks on the city during the Blitz

We do not collect:

  • Items where we already have several identical examples
  • Items with no Portsmouth connection (unless there is a connection with D-Day and the 1944 Normandy campaign; see below)
  • Very large items as these can be difficult to store and display, although we would wish to assess each case on its own merits

Sometimes, certain items might be better placed with another military history museum. We are happy to advise about this.

The D-Day Story collection also relates to military history but is described separately here.

Further information on how to offer us an item can be found on the donations procedure page.