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‘Back from the dead!’ The amazing survival story of Lifeboat 12

25 September 2015 by Jen

HMS ANTHONY rescuing survivors from lifeboat 12 © IWM (CH 1354)

HMS Anthony rescuing survivors from lifeboat 12 © IWM (CH 1354)

The sinking of the City of Benares is a story with few bright spots.  Horrific loss of life, particularly amongst children, makes for grim research. There are stories from the tragedy that show the full strength of human endurance, two teenage girls clinging on to an upturned lifeboat for 18 hours through the night in freezing waters and managing to survive, a 7 year old boy who survived the night on a raft amongst sleet and hail and choppy seas. One story of endurance however was only realised 8 days after the sinking, when a further 45 survivors were discovered.  Newspaper headlines described them as, ‘back from the dead’.  Read more…

75 years since sinking of ‘Children’s Ship’ City of Benares

14 September 2015 by Jen

Mural showing Michael Rennie, children's escort in the lifeboat with child from the City of Benares. Copyright The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Mural showing Michael Rennie, children’s escort, in the lifeboat with children from the City of Benares. Copyright The Parish Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the loss of the City of Benares, torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic during the Second World War.  What makes her loss stand out amongst the many lost merchant ships however is the 90 children she was carrying.  They were travelling under the government’s CORB (Children’s Overseas Reception Board) scheme to evacuate children away from a Britain facing the Blitz, and the ever growing possibility of invasion, to the safer shores of the Dominions, particularly Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  Read more…

A wee tale from the ‘poop’ deck

21 July 2015 by Jen

Cropped for blog resized

Box of Bromo toilet paper. Accession number 1986.210.194

Part of my job as an Assistant Curator that I’ve absolutely loved is working in the museum stores with our fantastic collections. Sometimes though, due to the vast size of these collections, we come across some rather unexpected items. Such as toilet paper…

This item dates from the late 19th or early 20th century and was a popular brand in its day. The paper inside the box is in individual sheets, rather than the rolls we’re now familiar with, and its texture is not dissimilar to that of a paperback novel… despite it’s claims to being ‘soft and strong’ I suspect most of us would be reluctant to give it a home in our bathrooms today!

So why does the Maritime Museum have this absorbing item? Had collecting standards gone down the pan? Should we be flushed with embarrassment at this seemingly non-maritime object sneaking into our collections?  Read more…

Cunard 175: The ship that started it all

3 July 2015 by Jen

Model of PS Britannia

Model of PS Britannia. Accession number 33.97

If you’ve been in Liverpool over the last couple of months it will have been hard to miss the city’s excitement. Cunard, one of the world’s most famous shipping lines, is celebrating their 175th anniversary right here in their home city and, like everything Cunard does, they’re doing it in style. The Three Queens (Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2) made their magnificent entry to the city on 25 May, but Cunard’s beginnings 175 years ago were on a slightly smaller scale. Read more…

HMT Lancastria: a survivor’s words

17 June 2015 by Jen

Private Tom Wood

Private Tom Wood. Copyright unknown; please contact us if you are the copyright holder of this image, as efforts to trace and obtain permission from the copyright holder have been unsuccessful.

Last week I blogged about the tragic loss of the HMT Lancastria in the Second World War and the commemorative service held at Our Lady and St Nicholas’ church last Saturday.  Used during the service were extracts from a first hand account of the sinking, as told by a survivor in a letter belonging to the Maritime Archives collections. Read more…

HMT Lancastria remembered 75 years on

8 June 2015 by Jen

HMT Lancastria in World War Two.  © IWM (N 375)

HMT Lancastria in World War Two. © IWM (N 375)

Of the many losses suffered by the Royal and Merchant Navies in the Second World War there is one which stands out for the sheer scale of the loss of life involved. The sinking of the HMT Lancastria is one of Britain’s worst Maritime disasters; she sank in less than twenty minutes, following a bombing attack, with the staggering loss of several thousand lives.
Read more…

Be dazzled in half term

27 May 2015 by Jen

Carved ship before painting

A work in progress…

Are you stuck for something to do with the kids this half term?  You could take a trip on the Mersey ferry Snowdrop on 27-31 May, which has been transformed with a fantastic dazzle inspired artwork designed by Sir Peter Blake.  Dazzle was a scheme created in the First World War which saw Allied ships painted in outlandish designs to make them more difficult to target by enemy U-boats. Read more…

Recognition for those who served on WWII Arctic Convoys

18 May 2015 by Jen

Brenda Shackleton holding her Father's Artic Star

Brenda Shackleton holding her Father’s Arctic Star.  Image courtesy of Brenda Shackleton.

Last December I blogged about Brenda Shackleton’s fight for greater recognition of the remarkable story of the Merchant Navy Rescue ships and their vital contribution to the Second World War. Men of the Merchant Navy, including Brenda’s father Bill Hartley, crewed these small coastal vessels following the Allied convoys from 1940 onwards, with the sole purpose of rescuing survivors should any of the ships be torpedoed. It was a dangerous and difficult task but their actions succeeded in saving the lives of 4194 men throughout the Second World War.

The ships on all the convoys suffered high risks and terrible losses but there was one particular convoy route described by Churchill himself as:

“The worst journey in the world.”

Read more…

A Christmas gift from 1914

15 December 2014 by Jen

Offer of WIlliam Galvin's framed tin (2) - blog size

Framed Princes Mary gift received in 1914 by Royal Navy Stoker, William Galvin. In the bottom right of the frame you can see a piece of shrapnel that fell on the deck of his ship the HMS Lion.

Once again, (and, as usual, far sooner than those of us who haven’t finished the shopping yet had expected), we are fast approaching Christmas. A season as much associated with ideas of peace and goodwill as with gift giving and good food. Christmas presents have become an inescapable part of the season, one which many people (or at least those who are very well organised) start to think about a couple of months in advance.

In October 1914 one young girl seems to have been doing exactly that and her Christmas list was certainly more ambitious than most! Princess Mary, the 17 year old daughter of King George V, decided she wanted to send a gift to:

“every sailor afloat and every soldier at the Front”

Read more…

Rescue Ships addition to Battle of the Atlantic gallery

4 December 2014 by Jen

Brenda Shackleton on gallery with new Rescue Ships panel

Brenda Shackleton on gallery with new Rescue Ships panel

Many people are familiar with the important role the shipping convoys played during the Second World War and the dangers they faced to keep Britain supplied. Shipping provided all the oil, half of all the food, and most raw materials required by Britain. By 1939 this was 55 million tons of food and raw materials per year. The convoys were famously escorted by the Royal Navy, who worked hard to offer protection to the vital shipping, but there was another group supporting them whose role is less well known. Read more…

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.