Royal Museum of the Armed Forces & Military History, Brussels

31 Reviews

Parc du Cinquantenaire, 3, Brussels 1000 +32 2 737 78 11

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    Army museum - Salle historique 1831 - 1914.

    by breughel Updated Jul 27, 2012

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    The first large hall to enter is called the Salle Historique. The presentation of this gallery is typical of the years 1920 with a multitude of uniforms, flags and paintings. There are about 8.000 objects distributed in 45 crowded windows and all over the walls. They date from the begin of the Belgian independent state in 1830 till 1914.
    Inaugurated in 1923 the Museum wanted to show everything to the general public to stimulate patriotism as well as to show many objects to the researchers and the military.

    The soldiers of 19th c. were volunteers called "gardes civiques". There was infantry with "chasseurs", "chasseurs éclaireurs" and grenadiers, cavalry, not to forget the band (photo n°2). Interesting is that uniform of a "cantinière" and her small barrel of brandy (photo n°3).

    Unfortunately for the present visitor there are nearly no explanations or notices. The modernisation of this hall is under discussion but it results from an inquiry among visitors that most like this typical ancient aspect. It is a museum in the museum. Now a good cleaning and addition of trilingual notices is, I think, a need for this hall but not much more.
    A funny thing is that each time I enter this hall with all the Belgian flags I have the impression to see Brussels with all the flags like on the Liberation day (ref. my intro on Belgium and Brussels).

    Admission: Free.
    Opening hours:
    Open from Tuesday until Sunday from 9 to 12 h. and from 13 to 16.45 h.
    Closed: On Mondays, January 1, May 1, November 1, December 25, and election days.

    Army museum - Salle historique 1831-1914 Army museum - Garde civique band. Army museum - Cantini��re de la Garde civique.
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    Army Museum - Tanks.

    by breughel Updated Jul 22, 2011

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    On the inner courtyard stand about thirty tanks most representative of WWII and the cold war period. This is a small part of a collection of 250 tanks stored at the fort of Kapellen near Antwerp.

    WORLD WAR II is represented by the British heavy tank IV CHURCHILL, the USA by the M4A4 SHERMAN, Germany with the heavy TIGER IV and Russia by its mighty enemy the IS-3-STALIN and many others.

    For the post WW II period a number of armoured vehicles used by the Belgian army in the cold war period are displayed. They are rather familiar to me and many Belgians as they correspond to the years 1960 - 80 when we did our military service.
    I do especially remember my training on the American M75 Full Track Infantry fighting vehicle which was widely in service in the Belgian Army after 1957. They were followed by the (more comfortable if that term can apply to an AIFV) French AMX 13 model 56 VTT of which, starting in 1962, about 500 equipped mainly the armoured infantry battalions of the Carabiniers Cyclistes.

    Next to these infantry armoured carriers stand the tanks: The M 47 Patton and the light Walker Bulldog which equipped our tank battalions. Around 1970 the German tank Leopard 1/A5 replaced the Patton.

    It was a strange feeling to see an AMX 13 of my former battalion parked in this museum. Made me realize that military material is easily outdated and that I'm also becoming an old-timer!

    Army museum - AMX13 VTT at 4Cy, Duren 1965.
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    Army museum VI . Cyclists at war.

    by breughel Updated Jun 17, 2007

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    The visitors of the military museums are generally enticed by the armour suits of the knights, the uniforms of the cavalry of Napoleon or the heavy tanks of the modern wars.
    I discovered in this museum that a mean of transportation as peaceful as the bicycle knew its hour of glory in the Belgian army.

    Actually the bicycle units appeared in the U.K. which in 1915 possessed a Cyclist Corps of a dozen battalions. During WW I the French, German and the Italian Bersaglieri had cyclist companies.
    Bicycles presented advantages compared to horses: economic, no forage, silent. The units mounted on bicycles could move 50 miles a day with their package attached.

    Among all these military cyclists the Belgian Carabiniers Cyclistes were the most efficient in the war. The Battalion of Carabiniers Cyclistes was a part of the Cavalry Division which protected the retreat of the Belgian army during the German offensive of August, 1914. At Halen, near Diest, this battalion resisted triumphantly to eight attacks of Uhlans, German cavalry. The battle of Halen made 1100 deaths on the Belgian side and 3000 on the German side.
    As the Carabiniers Cyclistes wore a uniform of very dark green colour the Germans called them " schwarze Teufels " the " black Devils ". The name and the emblem of a black devil - diable noir stayed and became the official name of the Regiment.

    In 1940 they still had bicycles but also machine guns and towed antitank guns. They resisted to the German blitzkrieg at the battle of Knesselaere.
    After the war they were transformed into infantry armoured battalions within the armoured division together with the former cavalry converted to tanks.
    The Carabiniers Cyclistes are the only Belgian infantry to wear the black beret of the tank crews.

    The story of bicycles in the armies did not finish with the conversion to armoured infantry after WW II. In Zwitserland the world's last remaining cyclist regiment has been disbanded only in 2003 and after much protest.
    Swiss army bikes are already a collector's item.

    Military bike 1940 Carabiniers Cyclistes 1914 Black beret of Cyclist 1965 Cyclists of 4th Bn. on AMX 13 - 1965 Germany
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    Musée de l'Armée - Les Carabiniers Cyclistes.

    by breughel Updated Jun 17, 2007

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    Les visiteurs des musées militaires sont généralement attirés par les armures des chevaliers, les tenues des cavaliers de Napoléon ou encore les lourds chars de combat des guerres modernes.
    J'ai découvert dans ce musée qu'un moyen de transport aussi pacifique que la bicyclette a connu son heure de gloire dans l'armée belge.
    Les unités militaires cyclistes sont apparues en Grande-Bretagne qui en 1915 possédait un Army Cyclist Corps. Pendant la guerre 1914-18 les Allemands, les Français avaient des compagnies cyclistes de même qu'en Italie les Besaglieri.
    Les bicyclettes présentaient d'incontestables avantages par rapport au chevaux: économiques, pas de fourrage, silencieux. Les unités montées à bicyclette pouvaient faire près de 100 km en une journée avec leur paquetage attaché à leur bicyclette.

    Parmi toutes ces unités combattantes cyclistes ce sont les Carabiniers Cyclistes belges qui ont été les plus efficaces au combat. Le Bataillon de Carabiniers Cyclistes faisait partie de la Division de Cavalerie belge qui assurait la retraite de l'armée belge lors de l'offensive allemande de août 1914. A Halen, près de Diest, ce bataillon résista victorieusement à huit attaques des Uhlans, cavalerie allemande. La bataille de Halen fit 1100 morts du côté belge et 3000 du côté allemand.

    Comme ces Carabiniers Cyclistes portaient un uniforme de couleur vert foncé les Allemands les appelèrent "die schwarze Teufels" les "Diables noirs".
    Le nom est l'emblème du diable noir est resté est devenu le nom officiel des 4 bataillons de carabiniers cyclistes.
    En 1940 ils avaient encore des bicyclettes mais aussi des mitrailleuses et canons antichars tractés. Ils furent capables de résister au blitzkrieg allemand entre autres à la bataille de Knesselaere.
    Après la guerre ils se transformèrent en infanterie blindée au sein des divisions blindées en compagnie de l'ancienne cavalerie convertie aux chars.
    Les Carabiniers Cyclistes sont la seule infanterie belge à porter le béret noir des tankistes.

    Cyclistes au repos - Alost 1914 D��fil�� de Cyclistes devant le Roi L��opold III Embl��me et devise du 4e Cyclistes. Insigne de Lt. Cycliste.
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    Army Museum - Introduction.

    by breughel Updated Jan 4, 2014

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    The Military Museum is part of a monumental complex called "Le Cinquantenaire".
    This was a green area "Jubilee Park" where exhibition halls were built to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian Kingdom in 1880.
    For the 1910 World Exhibition a large number of military objects were collected here to give the visitor an idea of the history of Belgian armed forces in the 19th century. This was the start for the Musée de l'Armée / Museum van het Leger (Museum of the Army).
    After World War I the collection grew considerably as well as after WW II; the little Belgium being each time in the "eye of the cyclone". In August 1914 invaded by the Kaiser's Germany, in May 1940 invaded by Nazi Germany!

    In 1972 an Air and Space Department was inaugurated and in 1980 an Armoured Vehicles Department was formed. In 1986, an important ancient (medieval) Arms and Armour collection was transported from the Porte de Hal / Hallepoort to the Museum.

    Presently the Museum of the Army is still renovating and expanding. From my visits to military museums in Europe I can say that it is one of the most important museums for the period of the 19th and 20th centuries. I observed on my last visits that it attracts more and more foreigners. They are now nearly half of the more than 250.000 visitors per year.

    Admission Free
    Open from Tuesday until Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
    Closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, November 1, December 25, and election days

    Warning: Room 1914 - 18 is closed this month of January. Will open again on 7/02/2014 for a special exhibition:
    EXPO 14 - 18
    C'est notre histoire!
    till 26/04/2015.

    Mus��e Royal de l. Arm��e - Salle historique. Mus��e RAHM - Belgian Revolution 1830 Mus��e Royal de l. Arm��e.
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    Army museum V - Aviation - Cold war period

    by breughel Updated May 27, 2007

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    This is the period of the jets. Belgium as member of the NATO started in 1950 with the Gloster Meteor followed by the Republic F-84G and F range (Thunderjet, -streak, -flash) in the fifties. The jet trainer Fouga Magister was put in service in 1960. The Belgian Air Force received the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter in 1963, The French Dassault Mirage 5BA in 1970 and finally the General Dynamics F-16A in 1981, still in service.
    Interesting fighter planes not in use at the Belgian A.F. are the Sabre and the Phantom II.
    Surprising here are the Soviet planes: a Yak-11 (propeller driven) from 1946, a MiG-15bis from the Czech Air Force, a MiG-21F of the Indonesian Air Force and a MiG-23BN which belonged to the Egyptian Air Force. These planes were obtained by trading and swapping with other museums.
    There is also a section on helicopters and you can enter and visit a Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar from 1955.
    Don't be surprised to find workshops at the far end of the hall. Volunteers perform restoration work inside the exhibition area, most often on Saturdays.

    Mus��e RAHM - F-16 Fighting Falcon Mus��e RAHM - MIG-23  1975 Mus��e RAHM - Yak 11    1946 Mus��e RAHM - McDonnel F-4  Phantom II 1965 Mus��e RAHM -  F-104 G Starfighter 1963
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    Belgium after Independence 1830 - 1914.

    by breughel Written Sep 14, 2012

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    The first large hall to enter is called the Salle Historique. The presentation of this gallery is typical of the years 1920 with a multitude of uniforms, flags and paintings. There are about 8.000 objects distributed in 45 crowded windows and all over the walls. They date from the begin of the Belgian independent state in 1830 till 1914.

    Inaugurated in 1923 the Museum wanted to show everything to the general public to stimulate patriotism as well as to show many objects to the researchers and the military.
    The soldiers of 19th c. were volunteers called "Gardes civiques". There was infantry with "chasseurs", "chasseurs éclaireurs", grenadiers, and cavalry.

    Unfortunately for the present visitor there are nearly no explanations or notices. The modernization of this hall is under discussion but it results from an inquiry among visitors that most like this typical ancient aspect. It is a museum in the museum. Now a good cleaning and addition of trilingual notices is, I think, a need for this hall but not much more.
    A funny thing is that each time I enter this hall with all the Belgian flags I have the impression to see Brussels with all the flags like on the Liberation day (ref. my intro on Belgium and Brussels).

    Admission: Free.
    Opening hours:
    Open from Tuesday until Sunday from 9 to 12 h. and from 13 to 16.45 h.
    Closed: On Mondays, January 1, May 1, November 1, December 25, and election days.

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    Army Museum III - Aviation - WW I

    by breughel Updated Jul 27, 2012

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    The Brussels museum is number one on planes of WW I.
    The oldest model is a Belgian triplan Bataille from 1911.
    A replica of a Voisin-Farman biplane is now (spring 2008) under construction. This plane, with baron Pierre de Caters as pilot, was the first to fly in the Belgian skies in 1908.
    Most planes from WW I are French starting with a Farman MF 11 (1914). This was a bomber carrying 18 small bombs of 7 kg thrown by hand.
    Better known are the fighter planes Nieuport called "Baby" because the total wing surface was only 13 sq.m. and the Spad of 18 sq.m. build for speed (max. 234 km/h) and diving ability. These planes were flown by the "aces" fighter pilots Guynemer, Fonck, and Nungesser.

    There is also a Caudron G3 and a very rare seaplane Schreck FBA type H of 1915.
    From British production one can see a Sopwith Camel and a rare exemplar of a Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter. It was the first allied fighter aircraft to be equipped with a synchronised machine gun, mounted above the engine and designed to fire between the propeller blades. Also on display are a Bristol Fighter F2B and a Royal Aircraft Factory RE8.
    On the German side the museum shows a Halberstadt C.V which is the only exemplar still in existence.

    Mus��e RAHM - Sopwth 1 1/2 Strutter  1915 Mus��e RAHM - Halberstadt CV  1918 Mus��e RAHM - Bristol Fighter F2B    1917 Mus��e RAHM Hanriot-Dupont HD1 + Nieuport Mus��e RAHM - Royal Aircraft factory RE8
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    Army museum II - Aviation department.

    by breughel Updated Apr 10, 2008

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    One of the major departments of the army museum is the Aviation department hosted in a very large gallery (nearly 200 m long, 40 m high) dating from the national exhibition of 1880.
    The air museum started in 1972 with some thirty aircraft but, thanks to a large-scaled international exchange campaign and the reputation of having skilful restoration teams made from volunteers and members of the Belgian Air Force, it displays now 130 aeroplanes.
    What surprises is the diversity of the machines and countries. NATO countries of course but also Sweden and the former Soviet Union.
    Another surprise is that these planes are stored above each other with on top a large civilian jet "Caravelle" which was used by many companies in Europe in the sixties and seventies.
    The collection of planes from the First and Second World Wars or the interwar and post-war periods is exceptional. Some of them, including the Nieuport 23, the Schreck seaplane and two German observation planes from the First World War are very rare and exceptional.
    I will detail them by periods in my further tips.
    I heard that this part of the army museum is going to be renovated and will be closed. When is not yet clear. This spring (2008) another four historical planes are added to the collection.
    Admission Free.
    Open from Tuesday until Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
    Closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, November 1, December 25, and election days
    Photos are allowed.
    There is no heating in this gallery; in winter it is better to keep your coat on.

    Mus��e RAHM - Aviation -  view 1 Mus��e RAHM - Aviation - view 2 Mus��e RAHM - Aviation - view 3
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    Army museum IV - Aviation - WW II

    by breughel Updated May 27, 2007

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    The planes of WW II are essentially British with two Spitfire, easily recognised with their elliptical wings, one model MK IX of 1942, the most build type, and a MK XIV.
    The other famous plane of the Battle of Britain the Hawker Hurricane is shown with a type II C plane of 1941. Generally the Spitfire would intercept the German fighters leaving Hurricanes to concentrate on destroying the bombers.

    Most interesting is the De Havilland Mosquito MK30, a british twin-engine aircraft; it used a plywood structure and operated most often as a fighter-bomber. Mosquitos were especillay known in the occupied countries because they were used to perform bombing raids on Gestapo headquarters in Copenhague, Den Haag and the prison of Amiens.
    A similar attack was made in 1943 on the building of the Gestapo in the centre of Brussels by Jean de Sélys a Belgian pilot who had joined the RAF and was flying on a Hawker Typhoon.

    In this section on WW II there are two transport aircraft: a german Junkers Ju 52/3m and the well known Douglas DC-3. From Douglas there is also a bomber the Invader A26 (1944).
    There are no German fighters on show, only two observation aircraft.

    Mus��e RAHM - Spitfire MK IX Mus��e RAHM - Junkers JU52/3m Mus��e RAHM - De Havilland Mosquito Mus��e RAHM - Hawker Hurricane IIC
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    Musée de l'Armée - Aviation 1914-1918

    by breughel Updated May 27, 2007

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    La majorité des "coucous" exposés proviennent de constructeurs français. Mais le plus ancien modèle, largement restauré, est un triplan Bataille (constructeur belge) de 1911.
    Avec la guerre apparaît le Farman MF 11 (1914) qui était un bombardier transportant 18 bombinettes de 7 Kg lancées à la main.
    Plus connus et plus glorieux grâce aux "as" français comme Guynemer, Fonck, Nungesser sont les avions de chasse Nieuport appelé "Bébé" parce que la superficie totale des ailes n'était que de 13 m2 et le Spad de 18 m2 fait pour la vitesse (max. 234 km/h) et les évolutions brutales du combat. Autre avion français bien noté pendant cette guerre le Caudron G3.
    Un très rare hydravion français Schreck FBA type H de 1915 est également montré.
    Du côté production britannique on peut voir un Sopwith Camel et un rare exemplaire du Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter à tir synchronisé à travers l'hélice ainsi qu'un Bristol Fighter F2B et un RAF RE8.
    Du côté allemand le musée présente un très rare Halberstadt non restauré avec ses marques d'origine.

    Mus��e RAHM - Spad XIII  1917 Mus��e RAHM - Triplan Bataille  1911 Mus��e RAHM - Caudron G3  1914 Mus��e RAHM - Sopwith Camel  1917
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    Army Museum - World War I

    by breughel Updated Feb 27, 2014

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    Room 1914 - 18 is now open again 26/02/2014 for a special exhibition:
    EXPO 14 - 18 C'est Notre Histoire! 14 - 18 It's Our History!
    till 26/04/2015.

    The Royal Army Museum in Brussels is considered as the most important in the world regarding the number, originality and diversity of objects from WWI. Although the space is important a selection had to be made.
    The new technologies appearing during the 1914-1918 World War have been put in evidence.
    A large part is therefore devoted to the artillery with a wide variety of guns of all types and calibre. Massive simultaneous artillery firing with several thousand cannons was usual. The other new technology was the machine gun. Various models are shown. The defensive power of the heavy machine gun put an end to 19th century infantry tactics at the cost of so many lives.
    In reaction to the machine guns tanks were developed. The museum shows a unique British tank Mark IV from 1917. This is a monster of 27 tons with two 57 mm canons and several machine guns. Max. speed was 6 Km/hr.

    The technology of the terrible toxic gasses, used for the first time in Belgium near Ypres, is detailed. Numerous protective caps and masks are shown in the windows.

    The aviation of WW I can be seen in the aviation part of the museum.

    The museum shows a large number of uniforms. Most belligerent countries are represented. Unique is the large collection of German helmets.

    Admission: Free
    Opening hours: Open from Tuesday until Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
    Closed: On Mondays, January 1, May 1, November 1, December 25, and election days.

    Army museum - Tank Mark IV,  UK 1917 Army museum - Heavy artillery WWI Army museum - Gas protection. Army museum - German helmets WWI
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    Army Museum - Treasures of Imperial Russia.

    by breughel Updated Jan 4, 2014

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    The Army Museum hosts an unexpected and unique collection of Russian silverware, trumpets and uniforms belonging to the tsars and the Cossack regiment of the emperors' guard.
    The Cossack officers saved these objects, displayed at their officers' mess in St-Petersburg, from the 1917 revolution. After a long journey they arrived in France but with the "Front Populaire" (with participation of the communists) in 1936 the emigrated Cossack officers took their treasures to the Royal Army Museum in Brussels.

    A special new hall, bathed in obscurity in order to emphasize the exposed pieces, was inaugurated in 2001 in the presence of the Ambassador of Russia.
    The most important silver piece is the silver punch bowl weighing over 50 kg.
    The 22 silver trumpets were given to the Cossack regiment after the 1812 - 1813 campaign against Napoleon. At the battle of Leipzig, The bravery of Russian Cossacks saved the King of Prussia, the Austrian Emperor and the Tsar Alexander I who were encircled on a hill by French cuirassiers.
    The uniforms are exceptional. Three belong to Emperors.

    It is not surprising that Russian tourists visit now the Army museum in Brussels with regard to that exceptional collection.

    Warning: This room is presently closed - January 2014

    Army museum - Imperial guard uniform. Army museum - Trumpet of the Cossacks regiment. Army museum - Punch bowl of the Cossacks officers.
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    Army museum - Technical gallery.

    by breughel Updated Apr 19, 2009

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    Parallel to the historic gallery one can visit the "Technical Gallery on 19th century armament". This is a part of the museum for light armament specialists.
    In 1889 the Mauser gun was introduced in the Belgian army and the famous Fabrique National d'Armes (FN) in Herstal near Liège was created. (FN Herstal is still a leader in light armament; Browning belongs to the same industrial group. FN has factories in the USA).

    This renovated gallery is subdivided in six chronological and typological areas:
    The flintlock.
    The percussion lock.
    The rifled barrel.
    Loading via the breech.
    The bolt-action breech and metal cartridge cases.
    The small-calibre repeating firearm.

    Army museum - Technical galery. Army museum - multibarrel gun.
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    Royal Museum of the Army

    by filipdebont Updated Mar 28, 2004

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    Another great museum in the Parque du Cinquantenaire (Jubel Park) is the Royal Museum of the Army and Military History.

    In this museum you can see a big collection on costumes and armoury.

    In this museum, there is also a big hall filled with big planes.

    More pictures in my travelogue

    planes, planes
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