I stumbled across this place during a google search for museums on World War 1. We had never heard of it before but we decided to give it a try and see what it was like so yesterday, as it was half term, off we went. I am so glad we did as this place is fantastic!!
As you walk in the door you are greeted by a large cannon in reception which fires every hour (not too loud), it’s a very impressive piece! The receptionist was lovely and gave us a map of the museum. The kids were given a clipboard with several different treasure hunts on to complete as they looked around the museum.
When we entered the main part of the museum the first thing we found was an assortment of dressing up clothes for the kids (and adults!) to try on. There were various different army outfits and hats to try out which was great fun.
There are life sized models of soldiers in modern day army gear with information about the equipment they use. Also on display was a modern day 12 hour ration pack and a boat with a informative film on a screen. Cody particularly enjoyed this and I liked the fact that it was something we hadn’t seen before. There were bullet proof vests and other gear for the children to try on which were replicas of those used in Afghanistan. We also found headset radios which you could try on and talk to each other through. I was amazed how clearly we could hear each other!
Next we moved on to the airplane. We sat inside with dressing up gear and headsets on just like soldiers would wear in real life. Over the headsets we were able to listen to a veteran soldier’s account of his time as a pilot flying in World War II. There was a screen on the wall which showed video footage to go along with it. It really gave us a feel for what it would be like to be a soldier going off to war. Due to wearing the headsets the children sat throughout the whole video and really listened to what the soldier said. I thought this was a great way for children to learn as it captured their interest so much better than just reading the information or watching a video.
Next we moved on to the communication area of the museum. Here we learned how to use morse code and flag signals to pass on messages. There was also more dressing up, this time normal clothing from the 1940s like the secret service would have worn. We had a go at operating a radio. Wearing the clothes and being able to get hands on with things in the museum really captured the children’s interest. It made it much more realistic for them (although the beeping from the morse code machine can start to drive you slightly insane!).
There are lots of other interesting artifacts around the museum including a flight ejector seat (with a very cool video of the tests that were carried out!), uniforms, medical equipment, a WWI plane propeller, storage trunks, replica bombs, etc. There is also an area dedicated to the prisoner of war camps with photos and diary extracts describing what they were like. You could also listen to survivors on the phone handsets describing what they went through. It was very interesting and well thought out.
One of the highlights of the museum for us was the replica trench. This was actually built by a group of local army cadets and they have done a great job. As well as the trench there are speakers with sound effects playing to make it more realistic. This was one of the children’s favourite parts of the museum. What I particularly liked is that they could actually lay on the beds and try on the hats, etc. It was very hands on rather than something you were only allowed to look at. Again I think this gives children a better understanding of history. They are much more likely to remember details about it as they have experienced it.
There are long corridors all the way round the main room that are filled with more artifacts including a huge medal collection. Next to them is a touch screen where you can look up more information about each medal and who it was awarded to. There are various uniforms and other items on display. For little ones there is a little play den under the stairs with toys and bean bags.
There is a lovely little shop by reception with lots of gifts from cheap pocket money things to replica artifacts and books, etc for the military enthusiast. The whole museum is wheelchair/pushchair friendly and has lovely clean toilets with changing facilities. It is located behind The Oxfordshire Museum (which is free to visit so worth doing both and making a day of it). There is a lovely garden with picnic tables and a small cafe is located in the entrance to the other museum for hot drinks and snacks.
I would say the Soldiers of Oxfordshire museum takes about 3 hours to have a really good look round, longer if you read everything properly. You can extend this to a longer day with lunch in the garden and then a visit to the Oxfordshire Museum next door. It’s great for school aged children who can link things in with their history topics at school, but is equally enjoyable for younger children and adults alike. We were so impressed with how hands on and child friendly it is and for the price I think its a bargain place to visit. We highly recommend it.
Address: Park Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1SN
Price Band: £
Disclaimer: Soldiers of Oxfordshire have had no input in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own.