Musée Royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire / Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en de Krijgsgeschiedenis
- Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History
For the 1910 World Fair a young officer by the name of Louis Leconte brought together some nine hundred objects illustrating Belgium’s military past.
The exhibition was a great success and the authorities decided to maintain the collection and made arrangements to house it in the former Military Academy buildings at La Cambre Abbey under Leconte’s supervision. The Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History was born.
After the First World War the ensemble grew through gifts and donations by foreign governments. Leconte could also take his pick from equipment left behind by the Germans. The collections were bursting at the seams and a move to larger premises became imperative. In 1923, the Museum took possession of the north wing of the Jubilee palaces. Louis Leconte, who had left active military service, was appointed curator in chief. During the Second World War, the Germans occupied the Museum and the institution only reopened after the conflict. The Museum then diversified and created new departments: military history, archives and library, print room and map room. In that way, the institution’s scientific character was emphasised and concepts such as conservation, restoration and presentation become key factors.
Through the Royal Decree of June 11,1976, it became a category two federal scientific institution with three departments: Technology, Scientific Documentation and Research. Its general mission was to research, obtain, preserve, and place documents, studies, publications or objects concerning military history at the disposal of the public.
New sections are established: in 1972 the Air and Space section saw the light of day and the armoured vehicle section was opened in 1980. Six years later, the Museum welcomed the magnificent arms and armour collection, which had formerly been on display at the Hal Gate Museum. In 1996, the Navy also found safe harbour at the Museum. All forces are thus represented in the KLM-MRA’s collections. In 2004, the European Forum of Contemporary Conflicts was inaugurated in the Bordiau Hall presenting an overview of twentieth century conflicts after 1918.
The Museum not only manages the site in the Jubilee Park, but also several external museums (Trench of Death, Mount Kemmel, Bastogne Barraks, Gunfire Brasschaat) and remote storage facilities.
Archival and Other Holdings
The Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History houses the historical archives of the Ministry of Defence up till the outbreak of the Second World War (archives after this date are to be found at the Belgian Armed Forces documentation centre in Evere).
The Royal Military Museum also holds private archives relating to Belgian military history. The KLM-MRA's archives are accessible through both published and unpublished inventories that can be consulted in the reading room. Some of these inventories are digitalised.
The Moscow archives
These archives, which were brought back from Moscow in 2002, constitute a rich source of information about Belgian military history (especially for the First World War and the interwar era). They are accessible through a database available in the reading room.
Personal military files
Many visitors are interested in family history and come to look for an ancestor in the Belgian armed forces. The Museum keeps the personal files of all officers born before 1900, as well as the files of non-commissioned officers and privates born between 1845 and 1888. The database of these files is online. and can be accessed here:
Consultation of files for officers born less than 120 years ago is subject to authorisation from the Belgian Armed Forces' documentation centre.
September to June: Tuesday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The documents will be delivered on the following hours: 9 a.m , 9:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3 p.m , and 3:45 p.m.
July and August: Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The documents will be delivered on the following hours: 9:15 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 3:15 p.m.
The Documentation Centre is closed during the weekend and on Monday, as well as on public holidays, between Christmas and New year and for two weeks in September (yearly stocktaking).
Conditions of Access
The print collection and map collection can only be consulted on appointment. Please state the object of your research when you make an appointment.
Visitors must be in possession of a reader card to access the Documentation Centre. The price of this card varies on the length of time required and if the visitor intends to digital photos of documents. For information on reader card fees and Documentation Centre's regulations in general, see:
Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History website consulted on 25/07/2019
Pierre-Alain Tallier (dir.), Gertjan Desmet & Pascale Falek-Alhadeff, Sources pour l'histoire des populations juives et du judaïsme en Belgique/Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de Joden en het Jodendom in België, 19de-21ste eeuw, Brussel, ARA-AGR/Avant-Propos, 2016, 1,328 p.