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Southsea Seaside Yarnscape Unveiled!

Our Southsea Seaside Yarnscape

Our Southsea Seaside Yarnscape Community Art exhibition is now on display at the Victory Gallery. The artwork celebrates not only the history of knitting in the Navy, Portsmouth (the home of the Navy!) but also the talent and creativity of local people.

The NMRN worked with Katrina Henderson from the Art Stop Café and their knitters, to create a yarnscape of Southsea seafront including a knitted pier, Spinnaker Tower and HMS Victory. As part of the project the public were asked to send in knitted fish and creatures from specially created patterns (you can downlad these from our Learning pages of the website). The response from the public was phenomenal; over 1900 knitted creatures were sent into to the Museum. The aim was to make the project reach as far and as wide as the Navy does - we succeeded! Fish and seahorses came from Australia, Florida, Abu-Dhabi and 40 places across the UK. As a result the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) has created a special under the sea wall, which now lives opposite the Yarnscape in the Museum’s Cabin Area.

NMRN Community Engagement Officer, Jo Valentine visited local groups to talk about knitting and embroidery in the Navy along with artefacts.  Men and women took part in the project from ages 8- 92 years old! Many of our fish were made by ex-Wrens, ex-sailors and even Naval personnel onboard HMS Victory's sailors knitted for the project. People also sent us photos of themselves to go along with their artwork. For some people this was the first time they had picked up their knitting needles for over 20 years as they couldn't resist trying out these little fishes!

The project was created in response to discovering 1940’s patterns from ‘The Department for Knitted Garments for the Royal Navy’ in the collection along with wool pictures created by sailors in 1850’s, embroidered slippers, naval collection of mascots and even toys made by the sailors themselves for their children. There is a long history of crafts in the Navy and the project is a way of drawing people’s attention to this cultural heritage.  The public have also knitted balaclavas and other items from the Ministry of Knitted Goods handbook for people to try on in our new 20th and 21st Century Galleries HMSHear My Story opening in 2014.

To visit the Yarnscape come to the Victory Gallery at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and you can see if for free. All of the knitted creatures are on our Facebook page along with other images of the final Yarnscape.

Create your own Yarnscape at home by downloading the knitting patterns from out Resources page


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.