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HMS - Hear My Story

Exhibition Highlights

HMS brings you closer than ever before to the real Royal Navy as their heritage is brought together for the first time for this major exhibition.  Through cutting edge interpretation, visitors can see and hear the stories of the Navy in war and in peace. 

Full steam ahead

Matthew Sheldon, Project Director said, ‘Through the exhibitions ‘HMS Hear My Story’ and ‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’ we tell the undiscovered stories from the ordinary men, women and ships which have shaped the Royal Navy’s astonishing history over the century of greatest change. Housed in the country's most significant naval storehouse from the Georgian period, the state-of-the-art interactive displays and exhibitions bring the collections alive and into the 21st century for everyone to discover”. 

HMS Hear My Story is now fully open, after a great deal of hard work and determination to bring the exhibitions alive.  The team have had to deal with many practical issues: What is the best way to get a 4.5 metre long torpedo into the building and then secure it under a glass floor? What is the safest way to suspend a volley of missiles from the ceiling? Who can conserve material as different as the tattered remains of an ensign flown on an Atlantic convoy, a leather flying helmet and delicate works of art? 

The gun which started it all 

The first artefact installed was the ‘4 inch’ gun from the destroyer HMS Lance which fired the very first shot of the war at sea in WW1. When the War started on 4th August 1914, HMS Lance and her sister ship Landrail were performing a ‘sweep’ of the North Sea. The next day the two destroyers encountered the German minelayer Konigin Louise as she was setting mines off the Dutch coast. Lance fired a shell, eventually sinking her, and making the Konigin Louise the first naval casualty of WW1. This semi-automatic quick firing gun - which weighs 3.6 tonnes, measures 5 metres and could fire over 5 miles - has been loaned by the Imperial War Museum to be a key object in the new exhibition.  It makes a focal point in the new glass link building that leads visitors into the new exhibitions.


Sparks across the sea 

Curator Richard Noyce has rebuilt the W/T (Wireless Telegraphy) office from HMS Resource (1923)  after years being well maintained by volunteers at HMS Collingwood, Richard and his team painstakingly dismantled the office to transport it. “It was like a jigsaw” said Richard, “I am really looking forward to getting more people to see it, but also pleased that I don’t have to try and get it working again!” 


Baker. Soldier. ‘Sailor’

The story of Alfred Smith as a baker, a soldier and a ‘sailor’ is told in the different items kindly donated by his family. When the First World War broke out Alfred Frank Smith was a baker in Sussex; to 'do his bit' he joined the local Volunteer Training Regiment - a sort of Home Guard - but then in 1916 he opted to join the Royal Navy and go to sea.

However, instead of joining a ship he became an infantry soldier in the Royal Naval Division and, despite being a married man of 26, he was classified as a Boy Sailor! He was assigned to the 'Hood ' Battalion as a Lewis Gunner and sent to fight in the trenches in France. On the 28th September 1918 he was hit in the chest by a German bullet which lodged itself close to his heart. Luckily the bullet was at the end of its flight and it didn't cause serious damage. It was enough though to take Alfred out of the fight and into a convalescent camp at Blandford in Dorset where, wearing his blue hospital uniform, the local people would take him into their homes for meals. Demobilised in 1919 Alfred bought a Newsagent & Tobacconist shop in Lewis. He had 10 children and died in 1974 with the German bullet still lodged close to his heart.