Celebrating 100 years of Untold Stories with the opening of new £11.5M Visitor Attractions

From the gun that fired the first British shot of  WWI and  the only surviving British WWII era submarine to modern day conflict in Afghanistan 

Three major new attractions at The National Museum of the Royal Navy will open for the first time on Thursday, 3 April: 

  • HMS ‘Hear My Story’ – opening of the new £4.5M permanent galleries, with a dedicated exhibition, recounting the remarkable experiences of over 1,000 men and women in the Royal Navy over 100 years 
  • ‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’ – the Museum’s new major temporary exhibition devoted to the outbreak of the WWI, charting Britain’s naval history from its triumph in the Anglo-German naval arms race – one of the several intertwined causes of the outbreak of the WWI, illustrating how the Royal Navy was instrumental in the building of the Grand Fleet, to looking at influential personalities such as Sir John Fisher (First Sea Lord and considered one of the most important figures in British Naval history)
  • HMS Alliance – the only surviving British WWII era submarine re-opens following a £7M conservation and restoration project. The public will be able to go on board and meet a submariner to discover what life was like to live and work under the waves. The Alliance experience will also include a film narrated by British Hollywood star Ian McShane 
For the first time in British history, 100 years of naval life will be told by The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) covering a thousand stories from the men and women who served at sea over the last century. 
 
Located within Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home of the Royal Navy, on Thursday 3 April the Museum will launch two new major exhibitions – ‘HMS Hear My Story’ - the new £4.5M permanent Babcock Galleries, as well as its first major temporary exhibition ‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’. The same day will also see the re-launch of HMS Alliance, following a £7M conservation and restoration project – the only surviving WWII era submarine, serving as a memorial to 5,300 submariners, which the public will be able to explore with tours from those who served in the service. 
 
The new galleries and exhibitions, as well as HMS Alliance will join the recently opened Mary Rose Museum as key UK visitor attractions showcasing the very best of the Royal Navy’s heritage through contemporary and interactive experiences for all the family, as well as history aficionados alike to enjoy. 
 
Visitors to The National Museum of the Royal Navy will be able to visit all three new attractions with one ticket. The ticket also grants access to the entire Historic Dockyard, including the Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, Action Stations, Harbour Tours and Explosion and the Museum of Naval Firepower. 
 
 

HMS Hear My Story - the Museum’s new permanent galleries 

One hundred years, 1,000 stories, 1 Royal Navy. For the first time, the exhibition will tell the unknown and undiscovered stories from the ordinary men, women and ships that have shaped the Navy’s astonishing history over the last 100 years. Over a thousand stories will be told, bringing visitors closer than ever before to the real Royal Navy. Highlights will include the 4-inch gun from HMS Lance, which fired the first British shot of the First World War on 5 August 1914, unpublished love letters from a serving Chief Stoker dating back to the First World War, the first public display of Admiral Crutchley’s WW1 Victoria Cross medal, oral testimonies from the sailor survivor from HMS Hood, to the D-Day landings and beyond, as well as the damaged motorbike of a suicide bomber from Afghanistan. 
 

‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’ 

Devoted entirely to the First World War, the collection will reveal for the first-time unknown stories from the Royal Navy in the lead-up to the outbreak, with unique objects and art specifically curated for the exhibition, such as Lieutenant Vere Sidney Harmsworth’s sword that he used in combat. It will chart Britain’s naval history from its triumph in the Anglo-German naval arms race - one of the several intertwined causes of the outbreak of the WWI, to illustrating how the Royal Navy was instrumental in the building of the Grand Fleet. The exhibition will also address influential personalities such as Admiral Sir John Fisher, who transformed the Navy of the Victorian age into a military machine capable of maintaining Britain’s naval supremacy in the First World War. He is considered one of the most important figures in British Naval history. 
 
A rare collection of twentieth century paintings, many on display for the first time, will depict scenes of the Royal Navy in battle and the aftermath of fierce fighting at sea – including ‘The Wounded Lion’ by artist William Wyllie, as well as propaganda posters such as ‘Remember Scarborough’ 
 

HMS Alliance – the only surviving WWII era submarine now ‘patrol ready’ 

Based at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, part of The National Museum of the Royal Navy, HMS Alliance will be ‘patrol ready’ as she opens her hatches following a major £7M conservation and restoration project. 
 
A visit onboard HMS Alliance will begin with a brand new “Alliance” film narrated by British Hollywood star Ian McShane, specially commissioned to support this project highlighting life on board from WWII through the Cold War until the 1970s and serving as a memorial to 5,300 British submariners. 
 
With new dressing, lighting, noises and even smells inside the submarine, as if the crew have just gone ashore, the visitor will take a time journey through every decade of the submarine’s service from the 1940s to the 1970s. Visitors will also be able to peer through the working periscopes to view Portsmouth Harbour, and meet submariners who will tell their own personal stories of working beneath the waves.
 
Lincoln Clarke, Chief Executive of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard said “Portsmouth is the home of the Royal Navy, and it is fitting that we will be commemorating the centenary of the Great War, as well as celebrating 100 years of naval history in our new galleries. The opening of the ‘HMS Hear My Story’ and ‘Racing to War‘ exhibitions, as well as the restoration of HMS Alliance, are testament to the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s dedication to preserving the Royal Navy’s astonishing historical heritage and legacy. This major launch follows last year’s opening of the Mary Rose Museum, which to date has welcomed over 400,000 visitors. We look forward to continuing to welcome visitors from across the world”. 
 
Matthew Sheldon, Head of Strategic Development at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, said “Through the exhibitions ‘HMS Hear My Story’ and ‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’ we’ll be telling 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 will bring the collections alive and into the 21st century for everyone to discover”. 
 
Duncan Redford, Senior Research Fellow at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, said “The Royal Navy’s legacy since 1900 is fascinating, both during war and peace. It has been a privilege to help give a real insight into the lives of the men and women who have served our country throughout the last century. From today, visitors to The National Museum of the Royal Navy and in particular its new temporary exhibition ‘Racing to War’, will be able to discover the real Royal Navy, its prowess in the build-up and during the First World War as well as its thousands of untold stories”. 
 
Chris Munns, Director at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum said, “ A visit onboard HMS Alliance will assault all the senses and really bring to life what it is like to work and live on a submarine.  We are very proud of HMS Alliance and delighted that she has been saved for future generations
 
Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, said “We are delighted to have made a significant contribution to the creation of the new gallery spaces and to the restoration of HMS Alliance. These revitalised attractions will provide enhanced opportunities for learning and help to engage new audiences from throughout the UK and abroad.” 
 
Press contacts:
 
Kallaway PR 
Daniela Marchesi or Tori Dance 
 
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Holly Westwood
 
National Museum of the Royal Navy
Bill Sainsbury
 

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.