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National Museum brings to life unpublished memoir detailing life onboard RML 497 during the Second World War

Les Parkinson wedding photo

Curators at The National Museum of the Royal Navy have uncovered the unpublished memoir, Me by Me: Memoirs of a Nobody, by Royal Navy serviceman Les Parkinson. It has now been brought to life by one of the actors from the museum’s “Dockyard Alive troupe to coincide with the move of Rescue Motor Launch RML 497.

Les Parkinson volunteered to serve with the Royal Navy in 1942 during the Second World War. His unpublished memoir details his life serving in the Royal Navy from 1942, including his training at Portsmouth’s naval base and his posting to RML 497, and subsequent missions with the coastal forces boat including a Royal Marine commando operation.

RML 497 has recently journeyed up to her new home at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool. Her relocation is in anticipation of a conservation programme to get her on permanent display telling the rich naval story of the coastal forces in the North Sea.

Martin Jakeman, who portrays Les said “having the opportunity to bring Les’ memoir to life was a privilege and a moving experience. To read through his life in his own unedited words was an insight into not just the Second World War, but Les’ Second World War and how it affected himself and his friends and loved ones.” 

The first recording includes an introduction to RML 497 from Head of Exhibitions and Collections, Nick Hewitt, before detailing some of Les’ training at the Flotilla in Weymouth, his posting to RML 497 and introduction to the boat and crew and one of their scariest missions which involved supporting the Royal Marines. Les sadly passed away in 1999 in Milton, Ontario after emigrating to Canada in 1969.

Listen to one of our Dockyard Alive team read Les Parkinson's memoirs on Soundcloud. If you would like to support the conservation of RML 497, please visit our Just Giving page. 

Watch video 'RML 497 - A Unique Second World War Survivor'

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