Military history exhibitions and events: what to see in 2023


Entertaining the Troops

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MO
+1 816 888 8100

War, so the old saying goes, ‘consists of months of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror’. So how did the troops of the First World War, the conflict that most likely gave rise to that saying, occupy themselves during those long periods of torpor? This new gallery at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Missouri offers some answers. In the trenches, soldiers read books, sketched drawings, played card games and football; while away from the frontlines, they entertained themselves with theatre shows, travel, and even illicit entertainment. Plenty of beautiful and fragile artefacts are on display, including postcards, photographs, and watercolours.

Image: National WWI Museum and Memorial

Gladiators: a day at the Roman games

Until 14 January 2024
Colchester Castle, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1TJ
+44 (0)1206 282931

Earlier this year, the findings of new research were announced, confirming that gladiator fights, so common in the popular image of the Roman empire, had indeed taken place in Britain in the late 2nd century AD. The crucial evidence came from the Colchester Vase, unearthed in the city in 1853, which bore the names of two gladiators as part of its design. The vase will be on show, along with the Pompeii murmillo gladiator helmet (on loan from the British Museum) and many other fascinating objects, at this new exhibition exploring what Roman Games would have looked and felt like.

Image: Colchester Museums

The Last Voyage of the Gloucester: Norfolk’s royal shipwreck, 1682

Until 10 September 2023
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Castle Hill, Norwich, NR1 3JU
+44 (0)1603 493625

On 6 May 1682, HMS Gloucester, a warship carrying James Stuart, the Duke of York, ran aground in heavy seas off the coast of Great Yarmouth. It sank within an hour and lay on the seabed for 300 years. This major new exhibition explores Gloucester’s dramatic discovery by brothers Julian and Lincoln Barnwell (pictured) and displays for the first time some of the objects recovered from the wreck, including wine bottles, navigational instruments – and the bell that confirmed her identity. History would have been very different had Gloucester’s sinking claimed the life of her most important passenger: three years later, James Stuart became King James II of England and VII of Scotland. Advanced booking is recommended.

Image: UEA

Worth checking out


Japanese teenage life on the home front

Until 30 July 2023 National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, Texas


During World War II, Japanese teenagers, when they should have been in classrooms, were sent to shipyards and even battlefields as part of the empire’s war effort. This exhibition, which debuted in Japan, has collected artefacts from teenage civilian life as the Pacific War raged.

Alexander the Great and the East: discoveries and wonders

25 May-28 August 2023 National Archaeological Museum of Naples

Tickets from €15

Across two floors and featuring more than 150 works, ‘Discoveries and Wonders’ invites viewers to reconsider the complex legacy of Alexander the Great, king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, whose reign permanently changed Europe and Asia. Visitors should also check out the newly reopened and renovated western wing of the museum, unseen for 50 years.


Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival

26 June-2 July 2023 Salisbury, Wiltshire

Prices vary

The Chalke Valley History Festival returns this summer for a week of historical entertainment, family activities, and inspiring discussions. For the first time this year, the programme will be themed, enabling visitors to find talks and events that interest them more easily. Speakers will include Simon Sebag Montefiore, Antonia Fraser, and Dr Kate Vigurs.