New exhibition ‘Jolly Roger: A Symbol of Terror and Pride’ set to launch at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

A brand new exhibition retells the epic battle between the Royal Navy and pirates from centuries past will open on 6 April 2019 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Known for its vivid colour and deadly reputation, the Jolly Roger flag features a skull and crossbones design, striking fear in to all that see it. However, the history of its use by the Royal Navy who flew the flag from First World War submarines is lesser known.

The tradition began in 1914 in a response to a comment that submariners should be ‘hung like pirates’ because of their role in sinking civilian ships. The unofficial practice of flying a Jolly Roger on return from wartime patrol took hold and has continued into the 21st century. Over time the basic skull and crossbones design has evolved, supplemented with additional symbols which record what happened during their patrol.  These flags are an imposing visual record of the submarine’s activity as well as striking pieces of folk art.
 
Featured within the exhibition are several examples of these iconic designs including the Jolly Roger of HMS Turbulent, flown on return from patrol in the Gulf. These are displayed alongside artefacts which relate to some of the incidents recorded on the flags. 

The exhibition also seeks to give a wider context to the submarine pirate tradition. An introduction will sketch the history of the Royal Navy and piracy and features a Jolly Roger captured from pirates by the Royal Navy in the 1790s. Wartime propaganda on display challenges our understanding of who is a pirate, revealing how opposing sides in war each view the acts of the other as piracy.  The exhibition concludes with a look at the Royal Navy’s continuing efforts to combat piracy. The new exhibition is set to open on 6 April 2019 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Book online and save 20%.

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands