Heritage Open Days showcase National Museum of the Royal Navy’s broad appeal in the air, on the seas and under the water.

The highly popular annual Heritage Open Days make a welcome return this September and the National Museum of the Royal Navy is showcasing, for free, some of its unseen treasures in the South East.  
 
From the one hundred year history of the submarine service, the service records of Royal Navy personnel in the First World War, through to a very rare view of HMS Victory’s keel in dry dock, modern-day Polaris weaponry and the chance to board one of only two Navy ships to have survived the First World War, the tours reflect the wide appeal of the Museum’s collection on the sea; under the sea and in the air. 
 
Heritage Open Days is a once-a-year event celebrating the country’s inspirational architecture and culture by offering free access to places that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.  
 
Four of The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s members will be running events this year, the 20th anniversary of Heritage Open Days.
 
On Saturday 13 September, there is a Submariner’s Tour of Fort Blockhouse at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport. HMS Dolphin was the home to the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service for most of the first 100 years of the service from 1904 – 1999. Now known as Fort Blockhouse, a submariner will give a tour of their former base and visit the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) Tower where all submariners had to learn to escape through 100 feet of water.  Also included as part of the tour is the Submarine Memorial Chapel and the opportunity to view the Harold Wylie paintings in the Officer’s Mess.
 
Rare weapon systems and an 11 inch First World War Howitzer artillery gun are amongst the military armaments on show during Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower behind the scenes tours of its Reserve Collection on Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th September. 
 
The impressive array of firepower also includes a Mark 10 anti-submarine mortar weighing in at 26 tonnes of metal and its handling facility, and a Polaris missile, one of only eight released for public display in the 1990s. The tour is led by John Coker MBE, a retired and highly knowledgeable Instruction Officer for Polaris. 
 
The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth (NMRNP) in the Historic Dockyard is giving rare access to M33, the First World War Monitor, one of only two Royal Navy ships to have survived the War; a below the waterline tour of HMS Victory’s keel in dry dock and a behind the scenes tour of the artefacts and archive stores in the Georgian storehouses which house the NMRN. 
 
M33 was built on the orders of Winston Churchill in 1915. The ship is a veteran of the Dardanelles Campaign and of the Russian Civil War. As the National Museum of the Royal Navy develop exciting plans to open the ship in 2015 to coincide with the centenary of Gallipoli, this is the chance to get below decks and see more of this unique, purpose-designed ship.
 
Lying alongside M33 in dry dock is HMS Victory, possibly the world’s most famous warship, which led the British fleet to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  Below the Waterline allows small groups to walk under 3500 tonnes of ship and view Victory’s keel at close range for a completely different perspective of the ship.
 
Both tours for M33 and HMS Victory are FREE but must be booked in advance. They take place on Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th September and there are limited places per tour. No under 14s are permitted on this tour due to health and safety reasons. Sensible, enclosed footwear is to be worn and a hard hat will be provided. Visitors should be warned that this tour involves steep stairs and uneven terrain.
 
Complementing the visit to the historic ships is a Behind the Scenes tour of the artefact and archive stores of National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th only. The tour is led by a curator who will highlight particular gems from the thousands of items kept behind the scenes in the Georgian storehouse. 
 
Further afield in Yeovilton, Somerset, the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum is making  Saturday 13th September a First World War Royal Navy Family History Day, to draw attention to the enlistment papers and service records that are held in archive.
 
During the afternoon there will be 3 free tours of the document stores showcasing the records held at the museum. Spaces are strictly limited for these. 
 
Additionally in the museum on that day (entry fee applies) there will be:
 
Talks in the morning of the 13th which include:
Navigating naval records with sample batches of records and photos from the archive available for viewing. 
the story of the Royal Naval Division – the service records of ratings and officers who served in the RN in the Great War
records held at the Fleet Air Arm 
Guest speakers are William Spencer of the National Archives and Kim Sharman, ex Fleet Air Arm Sea Vixen pilot and champion of the Royal Naval Division.
 
  
Spaces are limited on all the tours featured and many require booking in advance. Normal admission charges apply if visitors wish to go into the museums.  To avoid disappointment, for further information visit the news and events page or telephone: 
 
Royal Navy Submarine Museum 023 9254 5036
Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower 023 9250 5600
Fleet Air Arm Museum 01935 840565
National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth 023 9272 7582
 

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands