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Swedish Military Museums

By smacdowall, Sep 12 2016 03:17PM

I knew that Stockholm had some rather good military museums but I had not realised just how good until recently.

The Vasa Museum probably takes pride of place. Seeing this immense 64gun 17th century warship up close is utterly awe inspiring. Built at the height of Swedish expansionist power in 1628, the Vasa was too top heavy and sank on her maiden voyage.

The Swedish Army Museum is probably one of the best army museums I have ever visited. I would put the Turkish one in Istanbul a close second. It covers the Swedish army in action from the 1500s to modern times.

I spent my entire time on the top floor which covered 1500-1900, leaving the more modern bits for a future visit. Much of the upper floor is dedicated to the 30 Years War, Great Northern War and the catastrophic winter campaign against Norway.

Many of the artefacts are supplemented by full scale dioramas which tend to focus on the hardships of campaigning rather than glorious feats of arms. These are done tastefully and realistically.

There is even a 1:1 scale diorama of a fully deployed Swedish army in the 30 years war done in what looks to be 20-25mm scale.

There is also a close-up of a foot unit done with larger miniatures as a spotlight above the the wider diorama.

If one was ever in doubt of the power of 17th-18th century Swedish cavalry charging à l’outrance with cold steel rather than relying on pistols, this trio of troopers literally drives the point home.

The displays are all very well explained in both Swedish and English with anecdotal and personal stories adding colour.

Unfortunatlely poorly lit glass cases house a rather magnificent collection of original Imperialist and Russian flags captured in various 17th -18th century battles.

At the entrance to the museum is a nuclear warhead recovered from an abandoned Soviet base in Estonia which had been targeted on Stockholm. It is a sobering reminder of how close we were to the brink of destruction in the days when I deployed tanks in the West German countryside in anticipation of the Soviet hordes coming over the border.

The Royal Armouries, below the Royal Palace also house some very interesting artefacts. Much of it is devoted to Gustav II Adolf (aka Gustavus Adolphus) and was started by him as a propaganda tool to remind the Swedes of the exploits of their warrior king.

It houses the clothing and buff coat he was wearing when he was wounded in the Polish campaign of 1627.

When the King was killed at Lützen in 1632 his body was found stripped apart from the three linen shirts he was wearing and his stockings.

These are all on display along with his sword which had not been looted, probably because it was relatively plain.

Gustav’s horse Streiff is also on display, much like Napoleon’s at Les Invalides. He is sporting the saddlery and pistols carried at Lützen.

There is also a good collection of arms, armour and Royal costume from the 1400s to early modern times.

There is an entry fee to the Vasa Museum but the other two have free entry.

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