HMS - Hear My Story

Volunteers- Hear Their Stories!

Do you have an interest in local or naval history, enjoy arts and crafts, a keen researcher or just have a little time to give? Here at the Museum we value and appreciate the commitment our volunteers can offer in assisting with our new galleries. If you want to develop or share your skills then why not become one of our HMS volunteers! Have a look and see what some of our current volunteers are saying and doing...

Fran Wright, Learning and Outreach Volunteer

“Nestled amongst a leafy glade with sunshine pouring through the trees, such was the atmosphere during the Staunton Festival in July. Teens to toddlers, veterans, families and friends were all encouraged to try the free activities on offer which included ‘Guess the Mystery Object’, ‘Identify the Mystery Smell’ and even ‘Create Your Own Flying Fish’!  In complete contrast, during the August Bank Holiday, I found myself surrounded by dancing and energetic music, in the vibrant atmosphere of the Victorious Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. On this occasion, Simon, the ship’s cat, and a water-play boat proved to be extremely popular attractions on our HMS stand in the Families Arena.

 I’m just wondering what they will ask me to do next?

Colin Ewart – Exhibition and Learning Volunteer

It’s been a very interesting 18 months for me as an HMS volunteer after years of retirement idleness. Just tripping around generally wasting time as we oldies do. Not anymore!  It all started with the wondrous CALM collection management database. Nothing calm about it at all! Hundreds (if not thousands) of photographs later I am only (maybe) just beginning to get sight of the end of project No. 1.  And then the Downes Diary project. That was all about research and another rapid learning curve. With much help from the library team, it was great fun. Did I mention the learning days? Now that has been really varied! From getting dressed in a dinner jacket and dickie bow for a film premiers to taking children around the museum and  making tea for hundreds at Armed Forces Day, it’s been great. Victorious Festival anyone?  I’m getting to do lots of things and there is never a dull day as an HMS volunteer. Many thanks to Adele and Deborah for their support.

Bill Walker, Curatorial Volunteer

"HMS- Hear My Story is a simple statement, but the Veterans' stories that I am transcribing tell, without a hint of boasting, of the calm professionalism and heroism that was 'Just part of the job.  Listening to the experiences of a Sick Berth Attendant who dealt with anything from a sprained wrist, Tuberculosis and burst ulcers without a doctor’s assistance and the sailor’s 'watch and watch' routine where four hours sleep lasted just until the alarm bells signalled another bombing attack. Then having to pull a dead friend out of a Gunlayer’s seat to take his place to repel another attack on the way to Malta, showed me how courageous these men were. They didn’t consider themselves heroes, but I think that most people hearing the stories would beg to differ." 




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.