Welcome to the National Museum of the Royal Navy blog. A great way to keep up to date with the latest news and developments from around the museum.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Dog Blog-Part 3!


It's Tiggy again-after my exciting but tiring day on board HMS Victory I am now recovered and ready to carry on my work as a museum mascot!

I have been sniffing out some brilliant photos of other special sea dogs! I didn't know that museums had so many excellent photographs-I could have been there all day.

Here are some of my favourite ones...

This dog sailed on board HMS Berwick, an armoured cruiser that was launched in 1902 and was used during World War One.

He certainly looks very smart in his cap!
This is Peggy.She was a bulldog that lived on board HMS Iron Duke around 1922. It looks like she has won some medals. I wonder what I would need to do to win a medal too?!

Here is Floss looking very comfy in a hammock on board HMS Shannon. It looks almost as nice as my basket at home!

He looks very proud to be a sea dog on board HMS Success doesn't he? 

I hope you have enjoyed looking at the pictures. Let us know if you have any stories about dogs (or any other pets) on board navy ships.

Oh... I nearly forgot. Here's my Tiggy's teaser for today. 

Who were the ‘sea dogs’?

·         The ‘Sea Dogs’ were pirates and adventurers from the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh are the most famous Sea Dogs!   

       They liked searching for gold but this sea dog prefers ham!

Good bye, 

see you soon,



Friday, 24 August 2012

Dog Blog-part 2!

Phew! What a day I had on HMS Victory yesterday!

It's me again- Tiggy the salty sea dog!

So many people came to meet me- the new museum mascot- and find out all about pets on board ships at the Animal Magic activity! Did you know one ship even had a pet goat! I bet it wasn't as good at fetch as me!!

I reckon I must have met more than 150 people you know! It was certainly a busy day but worth it for the chewy treats I got for being such an excellent sailor!  All the visitors thought I looked very smart in my uniform- just as smart as Nelson's I reckon!

I will keep you all posted about what I'm doing next but here's a new Tiggy's Teaser for you! I learnt all about this on board HMS Victory!

Bye for now, Tiggy

Tiggy's Teaser

What is a dog watch?

Time on a ship is split into a number of ‘watches’ when the sailors do their work. There are two ‘dog watches’ called the First and the Last. The First starts at 4pm and the Last starts at 6pm. A ‘dog watch’ is only two hours long-all the rest are four hours!

Some people say it gets its name from Sirius the Dog Star-the first star you see during the watch but others reckon it’s from the word ‘dodge’ because it was a shorter watch than the others.

What do you think?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Dog Blog - Meet our new Museum Mascot

Ahoy there-welcome to the Dog Blog!

I’m Tiggy the new museum mascot. I am a Jack Russell from Titchfield but now I am a salty sea dog too!
My favourite things are chasing rats, going for walks, wearing new clothes and bouncing but I don’t like getting wet in the rain!

I am very excited about my new job especially about helping everyone to learn more about dogs and other animals in the Navy on HMS Victory next week. I will be helping to run the Animal Magic family activity on Thursday 23rd August. The activity is on from 11am-1pm, then I will have time for some tasty dog biscuits before coming back from 2pm-4pm!  You can also have a go at making a fun animal mask to take home.*

I even have a brand new uniform so that I will fit right in on board and look just as smart as my new friend Roger does in his!

I will be letting you know all about my exciting adventures at the museum and giving you some fascinating animal facts along the way.

Make sure you join me again next week to find out all about my day on board HMS Victory!

Bye Now,


Have a go at my tricky Tiggy’s Teaser and find out more about animals and the Navy!

Tiggy’s Teasers

        What do you think Nelson’s own dog was called?
A)     Nileus
B)      Trafalgar
C)      Santa Cruz


 Nelson’s dog was called Nileus and was named after his owner’s great victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

Here is a picture of his collar- it is part of the collection at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

I wonder if my owners would get me a silver collar too….

*You need a Portsmouth Historic Dockyard ticket to take part in this activity. Please visit www.historicdockyard.co.uk to find out more

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Artist in Residence Helen Snell's 'Punitive Neck Piece'

Punitive Neckpiece 
Helen Snell 2012

Laser cut cardboard & spray paint, 98cm x 110cm

At first glance, Punitive Neckpiece appears to be decorative costume, reminiscent perhaps of Maori neckpieces with their concentric circles of coloured beads. It can be exhibited as a stand alone piece or as wearable sculpture.

The spurs radiating from the centre suggest ivory tusks, serrated blades or dug out canoes.
On closer inspection the imagery reveals themes of, “massacre, burning, looting and persecution of native peoples, with boats piled up with pots and stolen goods. Hands clutch keys, grain and necklaces of trade beads that are in fact, human heads; cadavers hang limply from the end of spurs”.

Punitive Neckpiece was created as part of an on-going collaboration with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. After scouring the vast collection stores, a specific object resonated with Helen – the Benin Tusk, which remains, to this day, shrouded in controversy.

In 1897 the Royal Naval Brigade mounted an expedition to Benin City, a strategic retaliation to avenge the killing of a British Officer who had consciously violated their customs. As a result, Benin was sacked and purged of its cultural identity. Highly prized ivory carvings, rich in spiritual significance, were captured and hoarded by the British Naval Forces. Those that weren’t destroyed were shipped to Britain in their thousands, to later be sold by Queen Victoria's government - an event that marked the establishment of the British colony, Nigeria.

Historic events like the Benin expedition rouse conflicting opinions on an international scale. Therefore, notions of British Empire and colonisation, particularly in a museum context, must receive ample attention. Punitive Neckpiece stages the meeting of numerous perspectives. Helen comments on the irony in Victorian society seeing itself as:

“…decent and philanthropic, as exemplified by their hero David Livingston, yet the voracious empire builders greedily raced to carve up Africa [in light of this] this neckpiece is also a yoke, a head restraint…”

The artwork is made of narrative snapshots where, “…the red at the outer and inner extremities of the neck piece suggest areas of conflict, flash points, disputed boundaries, blood loss and pain. The inner edge of the neck piece is serrated in sharp points, like a blast hole from a shell.”

Furthermore, Helen locks symbolism into the artwork through a calculated colour scheme, “the red, white and blue can be seen as emblematic of blood, sea, peace, the Royal Navy and a target area”. The artwork, with the vigorous rotations of its 19 laser-cut limbs, is charged with dense and frantic imagery.

When worn as a costume piece, Punitive Neckpiece bites the protruding head of its model. The spurs hang precariously from a rigid brace; an artwork that responds to gravity.

In its original context the Benin tusk was the totemic epitome of spirituality, revered as transcendental, it was the African’s mode of cultural preservation; a window to their sacred past. These icons, with their ceremonial images, linked the Oba (Emperor) to his ancestors and Benin to its future. On seeing the photographs of the tusks in situ Helen said, “The configuration is rather like an altar, very powerful and quite intimidating”. Now, in British hands, in a museum context, this irreplaceable object is an “exotic” cultural trophy, set to engage and intrigue visitors.

The seizure of Naval trophies such as the Benin tusk was not uncommon. In fact, to this day, splinters of British colonisation fill museums and galleries, leaving them inundated with similarly displaced cultural remnants. The ethical grounding for possessing such objects faces endless scrutiny and remains the source of extreme controversy in public and private collections. In the same way that the tusk stood as an emblem in Benin, Punitive Neckpiece now stands as an emblem in itself, inviting viewers to encounter, explore and lament the feats of British history.

Punitive Neckpiece also acts a stark and timely reminder of the bleak consequences of territorial ambitions; the same political motivations that shake the world today. Helen’s Punitive Neckpiece can promote new perspectives on the art of collecting, whilst encouraging the re-evaluation our Colonial past, finding new ways to make heritage relevant to visitors.                    

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Community Art Project launched

Bring out the buttons, man the sewing machines and make ready those knitting needles! At the National Museum of the Royal Navy we are re-establishing the Department for Knitted Garments for the Royal Navy! We are starting a community art project which involves getting the Navy and the nation knitting, sewing and felting! The Museum together with the Arts Stop Café’s Guerrilla Knitters, naval personnel and the community aims to create a huge seaside themed ‘yarnscape’ for the Family Area at the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The project was created in response to discovering 1940’s patterns from ‘The Department for Knitted Garments for the Royal Navy’ in the collection along with wool pictures created by sailors in 1850’s, embroidered slippers, naval collection of mascots and even toys made by the sailors themselves for their children. There is a long history of crafts in the Navy and the project is a way of drawing people’s attention to this cultural heritage. One of the aims of the project is to continue this tradition by asking anyone who is currently posted on a ship to knitting or crochet a sea creature for the artwork.

Everyone can get involved

Anyone can be involved in the project no matter their age or location. If you love arts and crafts then get in touch and we will send you a pattern showing you how to make your sea creatures or flower to add to our Portsmouth Seaside ‘yarnscape’. We want the project to reach as far and as wide as possible, so if you have any relatives abroad please pass the patterns on to them to make the project truly global!

As part of the project the Arts Stop Café’s Guerrilla Knitters will also be going out into the Community with museum staff to encourage schools, WI groups, brownies, church groups, residential homes and people across the area to participate. Free drop in sessions will also be run at the Museum in September and October if you don’t know how to knit or crochet or need a refresher don’t worry as the artists from the Arts Stop café will teach you.

We’re also looking for businesses to sponsor or donate materials and will be pleased to hear from anyone who can give us beads, threads wool, needles or buttons.

The aim is to have a finished piece for the Family Area at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory by January 2013.

If you would like to be involved, know someone who would be interested in making something for the project or have any materials that they can donate please call Jo Valentine, Community Engagement Officer on 02392 727595 or email jo.valentine@nmrn.org.uk and she will send you additional information and the patterns you will need to create your art piece.

Here's a pattern to get you started - downloadable from our website soon - watch this space!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Our New Artist in Residency

Say hello to the National Museum of the Royal Navy's first ever artist in residency - Helen Snell!

Helen has been visiting the host institutions: The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm Museum, Royal Marines Museum and Royal Navy Submarine Museum to stir her artistic imagination!

"With each new visit I get a growing sense of the vast and breathtaking scale of the collections that chart such pivotal and diverse moments in our history. Each visit is a journey in its own right." - Helen

Monday, 14 November 2011

The India of the Future

 Breaking Down Barriers

"their diversities of thought and upbringing were forgotten in the all-important task of helping the Navy in it's time of need..."

As it looked for support during WW2 the Royal Military of Defence searched internationally, offering the women of India new prospects in the work place. Though they were not allowed to go to sea they could become deeply involved in naval life and play a vital role in defeating the enemy. Through confidence, a sense of duty and pride of service these women were able to make a difference, directly confronting issues that still enormously affect us today, those of race and gender equality.   

The Women's Royal Indian Naval Service Photo Album

Chief Officer Cooper is presented with her farewell gift - a photo album from the WRINS

The photographs below are taken from a photo album recently presented to the National Museum of the Royal Navy by Margaret Cooper, who served as Chief Officer and was Deputy Director of the Women's Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS) from 1944-46.

A WRIN from the province of Bengal, one of the many provinces of India working to defeat Japan during World War Two

 The Women's Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS) was formed in 1942, and by 1945 approximately two thirds of women employed by them were Indian nationals. World War Two brought a wealth of opportunity to the women of India, they became a useful and intrinsic part of our Royal defence forces.

WRINS arrange models of ships, escorts and attackers in conformity with the tactical problem set
WRINS took part in discussions, debates and general knowledge tests which proved invaluable in developing the skills and broadening the future outlook of Indian women. They were assigned specialist tasks: top secret decoding (see below), clerical duties, training in gunnery tactics and much more.

WRIN performing top secret task in decoding

The Indian women who served in the WRINS were valued highly in society, after leaving the WRINS they were promised the privilege of being at an advantage amongst all others, and becoming a founder and member of "a progressive post-war India, in a way that few other careers could achieve".

Maintainance work being carried out on a 40 mm Bofors gun

Above: WRINS at work
Below: WRINS attending to a rush of naval communiqués

WRINS Officer Cadets during a tour of the dockyards at Bombay, put informal questions to a Seaman of the Royal Indian Navy
 The WRINS assisted in opening the possibilities of employment to the women of India as they built up a nation in both war and peace. Consisting mostly of young girls, the WRINS massively improved the status of women in India. Women could work away from their families, gaining more professional and social independence.

Second Officer Kalyani Sen
"In India there is still a big prejudice against girls and women working with men...but the women are so keen to get into the Services that they are breaking it down" - Second Officer Kalyani Sen, the first Indian Servicewoman to visit the United Kingdom.  

WRIN at work in Gunnery School: Stripping and cleaning a 20 mm Oerlikon gun
Jobs pertaining to the military service were assigned to women to release men for service in the field. It was initially formed to provide personnel for service in the army, but later on it was expanded to include the naval and air forces in India also.  

"Women of many nationalities, castes and creeds are represented in this young service, and it is particularly interesting and encouraging to those who know the WRINS, to note how well these women and girls with their many diverse opinions and customs, get on together in their every day life and work" - Chief Officer Cooper
WRINS in their traditional sari clothing

"The war is producing a new spirit in India, the India of the future" 
- The Countess of Carlisle, Chief Controller of the WRINS