Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Alan Titchmarsh explores the Mary Rose Museum and encourages fundraising for the new museum

Alan Titchmarsh talks about some of his favourite artefacts from the Mary Rose Museum and looks to the future of the new museum opening in 2012.

To help fundraise for the new museum visit

The video footage was kindly produced by Solent University.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Staff reflect on their highlights of 2010

Looking towards the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard office at the start of December

As 2010 starts to draw to a close, the staff at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard office have been reflecting on their highlights of the year, both personally and professionally and we wanted to share them with you all!

As an ex- Royal Marine from before the days of GPS, I am a bit of a ‘maps anorak’ and so my personal highlight on site in the past year was when the Mary Rose Trust staged a temporary exhibition - Mapping Portsmouth's Tudor Past, which brought together, for the first time, several important maps from The British Library, UK Hydrographic Office and the Admiralty Library.

All but one of these maps were hand-drawn and works of art in their own right. They provided a unique and fascinating insight into Tudor Portsmouth and the view of their world 500 years ago. It was quite remarkable to be able to compare them to the Portsmouth of today, to note how different parts of the City have developed in different ways, but others not at all where the same buildings and activities are still there. I was also amazed how maps produced free-hand, so long ago and without the benefits of modern technology, could be so accurate and consistent.

To be able to show our visitors artefacts of this quality and rarity is always a real boost for the Historic Dockyard and demonstrates how effective careful partnership working behind the scenes can be. We hope to continue a series of similar, high quality and rare exhibitions in the future.
Robert Bruce - Managing Director

My highlight of the year has, of course, been starting my new position here at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I have loved settling into the PHDL team and, in particular the Advanced Sales Office. I've had lots of little highlights over the last eight months but if I were to pick one in particular, it would have to be successfully welcoming over ninety coach groups to the Victorian Festival of Christmas last month. With planning and team work everything went smoothly.
Emma Abrook - Sales Team Leader

Navy Days 2010 was a personal highlight for me as I really got to stick my teeth into the event and help to organise the re-enactments and entertainment that took place on the Heritage part of the site as well as the large event footprint as a whole. It gave me goose bumps when I saw the visitors enter and it was great to have a walk around and see all what was going on and how it all came together. I got to work with such a wide variety of people from all sources and I learnt so much from it. The personal highlight was sitting on South Railway Jetty at the end of the day with a whole mismatch of people and colleagues and having a pint in the glorious sunshine! :o)
Amy Cosgrave - Events Assistant

A memorable event for me happened in November when Chris Winder dressed as The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz climbed the mast of HMS Warrior in aid of charity; despite being terminally ill himself. The climb was arduous and took a long time; but the sheer joy on Chris’s face at reaching the top of the mast was very moving.
Elaine Arkell - PA to Managing Director

On a personal 'General Marketing' note it is seeing my outdoor campaign plan come to life with HMS Victory on buses (we are still on them 4 months on!), on large 48 sheets at the side of roads and throughout the 'Museum tunnel' that links the V&A Museum and the National History Museum in London. It was also great to see our 'Portsmouth' destination campaign on trains and on train station platforms throughout London.

But on a broader Portsmouth Historic Dockyard note, it has to be stood in the cold with colleagues at our Festival of Christmas weekend in November, with real snow starting to fall for the first time in the events' history. It was a great weekend and the snow made it extra special, my favourite Festival of Christmas so far. Bring on next year's!
Happy 2011 to all.
Holly Langridge - Marketing Executive

My highlight of the year has to be our one-off events with the Royal British Legion which have resulted in widespread press coverage across print, radio and TV, but have also been very moving and worthwhile. There was the Hampshire Poppy Launch in Victory Arena focusing on the Afghan generation but also the March for Honour, with a Navy team marching from HMS Victory to Wootton Bassett to collect a book of remembrance with the other services and then delivering to the Royal Albert Hall on Armistice Day. I was extremely proud to be a part of a very worthwhile cause.

Oh and I can’t forget Navy Days, hard work but immense fun and good to get to work with not only my Navy press colleagues but the outside broadcast team at BFBS Radio!
Melissa Gerbaldi - Press Officer

My highlight has been seeing the success of Navy Days and Festival of Christmas. The marketing plans for both events are quite extensive; involving a lot of hard work so to see the site so busy with lots of people here enjoying themselves was great. (And it is always good to meet and exceed targets!)
Kelly Haswell - Marketing Executive

My highlight of 2010 was the introduction of our exclusive Loyalty Club members events.

In April this year, we introduced our first Loyalty Club event, which was a huge success with great feedback received from our members.

The event took place on board HMS Warrior 1860 where Roger Paine, author of Call the Hands: A Collection of Naval Yarns gave a fascinating and amusing account of life in the Navy and Rum tots were enjoyed by all! The afternoon came to an end with an exclusive tour of the ship and refreshments.

The success of this event was repeated at the Mary Rose Museum in September with a talk by Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, focusing on their Tudor Maps exhibition. Guests were fascinated by the talk and were treated to a tour of the museum and again the feedback was so positive.

It was excellent to be able to offer exclusive opportunities for our Loyalty Club members, to repay their commitment to the site and to get the know them. It also meant that members could meet the people behind the scenes and for them to meet other members too.The next one is already being planned for early 2011!
Zoe Gill - Public Relations Executive

My first highlight of 2010 is returning to work for PHD!

My second highlight was at 5:30pm on Monday 29th November after the A Victorian Festival of Christmas de-rig was complete. The site was so spick and span you wouldn't have known that there had been 25,000 people in over 3 days playing in the snow, starting their Christmas shopping, being entertained by all sorts of Victorian characters and visiting all of our wonderful attractions. It was such a huge feeling of achievement and relief for me to know that all that work happened safely and successfully. So on Tuesday 30th November I had a celebratory duvet day!
Terri Hall - Events Executive

My highlight of 2010 from a personal point of view had to be the introduction of a new online ticketing system. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has always sold tickets online, but our customers had to exchange them in our Visitor Centre for one of our standard tickets, meaning there was no real advantage to buying online. Now you can buy tickets from our website, print them at home and get them scanned at each of our attractions, meaning you jump the queues in our Visitor Centre and can get straight on with your visit.
Phil George - IT Controller

A highlight in the account’s team’s year, was when we managed to stump the Auditors by receiving no queries or comments relating to our year end accounts!! Something I have been striving 5 years for!

My own personal highlight was being outside at the Festival of Christmas when it actually snowed!! It certainly brought a touch of magic to the event when all the children around me were gasping with delight.
Chantelle Millington - Finance Manager

It's been a really full year with lots going on and really no one day is the same. My personal highlight though is the way that we have reached out to the local community and our partners in the region to ensure that we play a significant role in 1) the cultural everyday life of our visitors 2) a wider economic role. We've run Dockyard on your Doorstep and the current library card offer to make it even easier for local residents to visit. We've strengthened really good partnerships with the City Council/County Council and other attractions/businesses in ensuring that Portsmouth is a must-see destination. And the team have worked tirelessly in supporting other initiatives through additional project work; secondments and trusteeships to share the vast knowledge and expertise we've built over the years in tourism; customer service; marketing and PR and to challenge them to achieve even more!
Jacquie Shaw - Head of Communications

Well they were our highlights, but what were yours....? We look forward to hearing from you and sharing even more from behind the scenes of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2011!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Nick Butterley - Exhibition Co-Ordinator at the Mary Rose Trust talks about the New Museum

Melissa Gerbaldi - Press Officer at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard chats to Nick Butterley at the Mary Rose Trust...

Now that the building of the new Mary Rose Museum has started, I was intrigued to find out what is going on behind the scenes of the current museum and the vast collection that is being prepared to be displayed for the very first time.

With that in mind I wandered over the Mary Rose Trust offices and looked around where the conservationists, curators and mountmakers live… I then stumbled across a fantastic looking mock-up display with artefacts from the Barber Surgeon’s collection. Seemed too much of an interesting story to miss so I chatted to Nick Butterley the new Exhibition Co-Ordinator to learn more – please watch what he had to say below!

The team at the Mary Rose Trust are keen to keep everyone up-to-date with all the behind scenes work in preparation for the new museum opening in 2012, so please keep following our blog for further stories, images and videos!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Monday, 15 November 2010

Update from Behind the Scenes of the Victorian Festival of Christmas from Terri Hall, Events Co-ordinator

A very Good Afternoon to you all,

Me again – Terri Hall, the Events Executive here at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I do hope you are all well and getting into the festive spirit! We definitely are as our A Victorian Festival of Christmas build is only 1 week away.

The event itself is Friday 26th – Sunday 28th November from 10am – 6pm, but we have a whole week’s work to do building the event before you lovely people come to see it.

Our super Event Management Team, REM, will be rigging such things as Fagin’s Tavern (which is bigger and better this year as it now has a capacity of 600), all the twinkly festoon lighting, real Christmas trees, snowflake flags, of course snow to make the site look extra magical and much, much more.

Since my last blog I have been very busy organising all sorts of elements of the event… like working out the licence to show 3 BBC Beatrix Potter films, I decided to go with The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, The Tale of Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tailor of Gloucester – so make sure you drop into Action Stations auditorium for one of the 2 viewings each day (timing will be shown on the free programme that you will get when you come through Victory Gate).

Also the very friendly licensing ladies were kind enough to let us use 4 Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit illustration / colouring sheets – so don’t forget to drop in and get all arty at Beatrix Potters illustration lesson at the back of Boathouse 7.

Of course I have been honoured to be working closely with Santa, Mrs Santa and their Elf’s, who will all be joining us on board HMS Warrior 1860. I have had to be very good indeed as I need to ensure I get on the “nice list”!

As well as the creative stuff, I’ve also been planning important behind the scenes things like working closely with the Navy, MOD, MGS (Guard Service), MDP (Police), Health and Safety, Base Security, etc as we are lucky enough to have them just next door and they play a vital role in helping us prepare for this event, also ensuring we have enough bins, porter loos, etc on site, liaising with First Bus and Portsmouth City Council regarding the Park and Ride service which will be in operation on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th November, more details can be found at the link below: lots more that I will not bore you with, unless I ever bump into you in the pub in Southsea!

Right, all this talk of what I’ve been up to is making me think of things I still need to get done. So I’m going to scoot for now and I hope to be able to give you little updates during next weeks build week.

Take care until then.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

205th Anniversary of Trafalgar Day


I'm back again with another behind the scenes look at the Historic Dockyard!

This morning myself and Phil George, our IT Controller, attended the annual Trafalgar Day service onboard HMS Victory. This year is the 205th Anniversary of the most decisive naval battle under sail in British history - Admiral Lord Nelson's triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The anniversary also marks the death of the Royal Navy's most revered leader when he was fatally wounded during the action, which ultimately defeated a Franco-Spanish Fleet.

The ceremony was attended by senior naval personnel and invited guests including the Second Sea Lord and Commander-in-Chief Fleet and Cdr M B Paton (RN Retired) who is the Great Grandson of Thomas Goble who during the Battle of Trafalgar filled the post of Nelson's Public Secretary & Secretary of the Fleet.

The service was also attended by local media including ITV Meridian - which is where I fitted in to my day job!

It was incredibly moving as the Last Post was played and the silence commenced as a reminder of all those who died during the battle.

We were lucky enough to film the ceremony to show you:

We also caught up with the Commanding Officer of HMS Victory, Lt Cdr Oscar Whild, yesterday before his important role in the service.

If you are in Portsmouth today then please come and have a look at HMS Victory flying the Colours (Union Jack and White Ensign) and Nelson's signal 'England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty'.

If you can't make it along then have a look at our photos on Facebook:

Until the next time!

Melissa (Press Officer)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Blogs 2 and 3 from behind the scenes at our Victorian Festival of Christmas come from Kelly Haswell and Amy Cosgrave, from marketing to stallholders!

Hi there! My name’s Kelly Haswell and I’m the Marketing Executive for Events at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, so it is my job to make sure that everybody knows about the great events that we hold here!

Work on A Victorian Festival of Christmas is now pretty much ongoing all year round - in fact we have just announced the dates for 2011 (25th – 27th November if you’d like to put the date in your diary!) and we are starting to promote this now to the coach travel and group organisers who plan their itineraries way in advance.

At this year’s Festival of Christmas we will be thinking about the next event and taking photos for next year’s poster, leaflets and adverts. From June we then start to put all this together – it is always a bit strange to be looking at snow pictures in the middle of a heat wave! I work closely on the designs with Terri (our Event Executive) who tells me what she is planning for the event each year and who she thinks this will appeal to and we then try to make the marketing materials reflect these themes and appeal to the right people.

So how do we actually tell people about the event? Well, the marketing plan is now pretty detailed and covers an area up to 2 hours away from Portsmouth. We put together a leaflet which we get out to just about everywhere we can think of, we have the website which we try to promote online and increase visits to, we advertise in loads of magazines, guides and newspapers, we have adverts on air with our radio partner, Wave FM, and in November we’ll have lots of large posters and banners going up throughout the area – you may even see us on the back of a bus!

So look out for A Victorian Festival of Christmas adverts in your area… we always like to know where we’ve been seen! And if you think we’re missing a great magazine to advertise in or a brilliant poster site in your area, please let us know!

Finally don’t forget to sign up to receive our regular e-newsletters where we will keep you informed of what will be happening and we’ll send you the full programme when it is printed in November.

I look forward to seeing you at A Victorian Festival of Christmas!



My name is Amy Cosgrave and I am here to talk about my role within Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I assist Terri Hall our Event’s Executive in all things events and this is my second year working on the Victorian Festival of Christmas which is unbelievably in its 11th consecutive year this year!

I hope you are all as excited as I am about this event taking place at the end of November 2010 and as we are now in the month of October it is growing ever closer!

My job is to organise and arrange the large Victorian Christmas Market which grows year on year with more than 150 traders coming from all over the country to participate in one of the largest Christmas Markets on the South Coast. This year in an exciting new addition we also have Hampshire Fare attending with their large selection of food, drink and crafts all locally sourced from Hampshire Produce.

Arranging and collating all of the different traders, pitch spaces and lots of paperwork is no quick task with exhibitors booking their space way back at the beginning of the year (some even apply during the event itself!) so it is something that comes together over a long period of time. We are always very proud of the traders and exhibitors that come along year after year and support the event to give you guys the opportunity to buy some crackin’ Christmas presents for all your family and friends. Here is a sneaky preview of some the fantastic shopping offer to wet your appetite…

Visit AbiDesigns for some beautiful and unique shoe clips that women would have worn on their shoes in the Victorian times – so jazz up some old heels with these lovely accessories.

Treat Grandma to a little tipple with Celtic Country Wines who will be selling locally sourced wines and liqueurs that make the perfect stocking filler!

Joanne Potter is a local Textile Artist who will be trading in handmade handbags and accessories as well as Christmas Stockings!

Like blueberries? Well visit The Dorset Blueberry Company for a wide selection of all things blueberry! Pies, cookies and jams!

Enjoy a festive mug of mulled wine from the Gluevine cabin or a pint of cider from Olde Joes and pair it with a Traditional Cornish Pasty for a true winter warmer.

Take care of your sister for Christmas with a piece of stunning jewellery from the many varieties of jewellery we have on offer including Natural Stone Jewellery, Joy’s Jems, Jewellery By Mia and add some Tibetan flare to your world by visiting Sacha at her Sunny Days stall!

Finally, don’t forget to decorate the house! Visit Mr and Mrs Santa Claus for a beautiful selection of Christmas decorations that you won’t want to give away as a present!

It is a lot of hard work by many different people to make this event the wonderful success it is and it is so worth it when we see all of you lovely visitors entering through the gate to enjoy your day; So thank you and I look forward to seeing you at A Victorian Festival of Christmas 2010!


Amy. x

Photos above: Kelly Haswell, Marketing Executive, Amy Cosgrave, Events Assistant for A Victorian Festival of Christmas.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Work begins on new Mary Rose Museum

Hello there,

This is my first blog for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, I'm Melissa Gerbaldi, the Press Officer for the site, and I'm looking forward to sharing some of our news with you from behind the scenes...!

On Monday I got kitted out in safety gear and man boots (very attractive!) to go onto the construction site of the new Mary Rose Museum. It was part of a media call to mark the first day of construction on the 28th anniversary of the raising of the Mary Rose, to officially sign the £16.3 million contract with Portsmouth based Warings to build the museum, and to highlight that there is still £4million to raise to ensure our national treasure is preserved for future generations. (If you are interested in helping then is the website for you!)

Joining me in the rubble were reporters from BBC South Today, ITV Meridian, The News, Reuters, Wave 105 and a loyal supporter of the fundraising appeal and freelance journalist - Anne-Marie Causer.

We all watched as King Henry VIII (or more commonly known as Andy Owen, Warings Senior Project Manager!) hopped into the digger to pose for photos alongside John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, and Philippe Jouey, Managing Director of Warings.

Not to be outdone by the TV cameras, myself and Alastair Miles (Mary Rose Trust) grabbed our own little video camera and went into journalism mode to interview John Lippiett ourselves and here is the result!

It was perfect weather for such a celebratory announcement, though I was relieved to swap my safety glasses for sunglasses and huge boots for heels as I headed back down the Historic Dockyard and back to my desk to share the great news and photos with everyone else!

The full press release can be read on our website here:

Speak again soon!


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Victorian Festival of Christmas - a sneak preview from the organisers. Blog No. 1 from Terri Hall, Events Executive

Hello there,

Tis I again! Terri Hall - I’m the Events Executive here at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Some of you might remember me from such event blogs as Celebration of Steam and Royal Navy Past & Present here at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard! :o)

I hope you are all fine and dandy and looking forward to our next event which is our ever popular A Victorian Festival of Christmas. Can you believe it’s in its 11th consecutive year this year?!

I’ve been doing lots of research and thinking about how the Victorian theme we have is lovely, but I wanted to enhance it. So this year we’ve got a Victorian literature focus! I’ve been reading lots of Victorian stories (great fun) and we’re putting together a programme of some great classics to entertain you, so get ready to step into the pages of some of your favourite Victorian stories…

Walk through “A Christmas Carol Street” where Charles Dickens creation is brought to life in a beautiful snowy street, all the classic characters from Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will be roaming around taking you through their story.

Beatrix Potter will be giving illustration lessons and depending on your artistic finesse you’ll be able to colour in or draw from scratch some of your favour characters.

“Step in Time” with characters from Mary Poppins. Witness genius pavement chalk art, kite flying, a throng of determined suffragettes and I dare you not to want to join in with our crew of jolly chimney sweeps. Plus take a ride on a stunning Gallopers Merry-Go-Round (low additional fee).

Join Fagin and his gang of pick pockets for a beer (or two!) in our larger than ever Fagin’s Tavern bar. But a warning to you – keep an eye your watch and wallet, this lot are a crafty bunch!

Witness Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland brilliant and bazaar Mad Hatters tea party and take a ride on a giant Tea Cup and Saucer (low additional fee).

You’re sure to bump into J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan, the swash buckling pirates and lost boys on board one half of HMS Warrior. Then visit our regal Victorian green Father Christmas on the other half of HMS Warrior within the Cable Deck and receive a yummy treat from his elves.

Skip along to “Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow” within Frances Hodgson’s Secret Garden. Interact with Mary, Mary’s cousin Colin and Dickon’s petting farm.

Plus tons of fantastic Christmas gift stalls to wow your family with wonderful, original presents and treats this festive season.

I have so much more to tell you, but I’ll save it and keep you in suspense until my next blog! In the meantime look out for blogs from my colleagues who are also involved in getting the festival underway as they reveal even more secrets behind the event!

Take care until then.

Buy your tickets before 31st October and receive a 10% discount. Visit:

Father Christmas outside HMS Warrior: Photo courtesy of Courtenay Photographic Ltd

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Latest Blog from HMS Daring

Good Morning Campers,

Sorry but it’s been a little while since I have been able to get on here and tell you about what I’ve been up to. Well, it’s been hectic as usual and right now I’m sat in the Chart House but the ship isn’t moving , in fact DARING is sat in dry dock having a little bit of engineering work done to her. It’s the first time she’s been out of the water since she was launched in 2006. What a sight she is too – have a look at the photo of some of my shipmates ranging her anchor cable into the dock bottom. HUGE!

A brief visit to Den Helder in Holland at the end of June gave us the opportunity to present Daring to the Royal Netherlands Navy and have a Ship’s Company photograph taken in the glorious sunshine. We returned to take our affiliates and families to sea for a Day out in the English Channel. It’s the one opportunity in the year that we get to say thanks to all those who have supported us in some way or another. The day was enjoyed by all, with the Ship’s helicopter even making an appearance. The day wasn’t all fun and games for the Ship’s Fighter controllers were conducting a radar trial with Royal Navy Hawk jets who, after the trial, came in low and fast to wow those watching on the upper deck.

You might have noticed some service personnel on your TV screens whilst the Wimbledon competition was running this year. Daring also sent a couple of her Ship’s Company to help steward the event. One of our guys gave the father of Serena and Venus Williams (Richard) a Daring Baseball cap and he’s photographed here wearing it at the final between Serena and her opponent Vera Zvonareva. Serena went on to win.

So there’s a lot to be done now to get DARING ship shape in time for Navy Days but I’d say we’re on track and I’m looking forward to refloating DARING in the dock as I wasn’t here when she went in!

Navy Days takes place from Friday 30th July - Sunday 1st August. For more information or to buy tickets visit:

Monday, 5 July 2010

Final Armed Forces Day blog....pulling together with wartime spirit due to power cut!

Well… this is my final blog about Armed Forces day, and to be honest I’m not quite sure where to start or how to explain the day but I’ll try.

On Saturday morning on my way to work I overheard someone explaining that Portsmouth had a power cut. I didn’t know then quite what effect this was going to have on the rest of the day. I walked into work with nerves and excitement, only to be met by some very worried faces. The power had cut off on the Friday night and the dockyard had no power. Now out of everything that could go wrong that had been running through my head over the days before, all the double checking I’d done, the last thing I expected was a power cut! No power meant no event right? My heart was pounding as we waited to for any news. We kept ourselves busy and started the set up, but I couldn’t get the thoughts out my head, how disappointed will the public be, will I be, or even worse, the veterans be? How could we let no power stop us remembering and thanking the people that have fought for us. As we all grouped together and got everything ready there was a sense of unity and Britishness.

Finally the news came in that the event could go ahead. I don’t think the word relieved does the feeling I got justice. Now the manic rush to get everything sorted. The field kitchen didn’t need electric, so that could go ahead, the band (bar the electric piano) could play, which meant the lindy hopper dancers would still be able to come. Unfortunately it meant no cups of tea and coffee could be served (just when a cuppa would have gone down nicely!) but we had squash and drinks at the ready. Thanks to the many volunteers we had everything was ready to go.

At about half past one I glanced down the dockyards to see swarms of people walking up, this is it I thought, the past few months hard work was about to pay off. As the event got into full swing with the lively music and the dancing, everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves, young and old alike. The arena seemed full of life, and excitement. The rationed food went down well, with many people willing to try the war time recipes, and the field kitchen kept people intrigued. The veterans got the chance to share their experiences with the public, which was the main point of the event, and I got to chat to a few of them as well.
The event was a huge success with over 1000 people coming down, and yes the weather held out for us! Armed forces was all I’d expected and more, and from the comments and feedback we have had everybody seemed to enjoy it, it was certainly bigger and better. Anyway, better go and start planning next years!

Rowannah Martin-Cottee
Events Assistant
National Museum of the Royal Navy

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Week 5 of the 'Weekly Wednesday' blog from Able Seaman Rob Foster, HMS Daring

Boys are Back in Town

We left Portsmouth in April for the inclement shores of Cornwall and the South Coast Exercise Areas. Since then we’ve spent 19 days alongside in other ports (mainly Devonport) and 59 days at sea. Last Friday, 19th July we sailed into our home town of Portsmouth where the familiar sights of Southsea, Gunwharf and well wishers on top of Round Tower greeted us. It certainly feels good to be back in Sunny Pompey. We weren’t in long before leave was granted and we finally got a full weekend to go home. Being a Derby lad I hadn’t had the opportunity to go home for quite some time as it’s just too far away from Plymouth. It was good to get back in the tractor on the farm and get some of mother’s home cooking down my neck – beats those chips and beans I’ve been eating for so long.

Today is Tuesday and whilst we may not be at sea we’re back at it. Preparing the ship for the busy month that lies ahead in the run up to Navy Days 2010. Got to go now though, The Navigator’s looking for those charts I locked away last week...

Find our more about Navy Days at:

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Day in the life... organising Armed Forces Day at the National Museum of the Royal Navy

Second installment by Roxy Martin-Cottee, Creative Apprentice at the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Well hello again! It’s been a while since I wrote my first blog, so I thought I’d better get my head down for a few minutes and let you know what’s been going on behind the scenes.
Saturday the 26th June… it seemed so long away when I first started talking about it. I’ve typed it out so many times I can do it without looking at the keys now! But a sudden realisation has just hit me it’s not that far away at all!

Everything’s set, and now it’s down to pulling the last few things together. We are currently corresponding with the companies who are coming down, checking their requirements, and making sure everything will run smoothly. We recently held a meeting to organize the layout of the event, and where to set up the marquees. Those of you who have been to the Dockyards before will know that the Victory Arena is a big space to fill, even with the 20 odd dancers we will be having! WW2 US military vehicles will be on display at the event along with drivers dressed in period costume who will interact with the public, and answer any questions they have. Our field kitchen has been sorted, and demonstrations will be going on throughout the afternoon.

In the last few days I have been looking at decorations and accessories to give the concrete arena a bright fun and welcoming war time tea atmosphere. This was quite an interesting task I must admit. With our big band and lindy hopper dancing going on there should be a real buzz, but just to make sure it has the right look I have been trying to find ways to cheer it up, flags and bunting seem to match. Mind you with HMS Victory as the backdrop, it would be near on impossible to have a boring look to it wouldn’t it?!

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the first Armed Forces day I have been lucky enough to help organise. With each decision being finalised and item being delivered, I really can’t help feeling its going to be like stepping back in time. And hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to some of the veterans too! All we need now is the weather to be good, but living in England, this may be asking too much! I will write again a couple of days before the event, and will be able to give you plenty more bits of juicy information. Why don’t you come along, it’s free!

Week 4 of the 'Weekly Wednesday' blog from Able Seaman Rob Foster, HMS Daring

In the lead up to Navy Days which is taking place from Friday 30th July – Sunday 1st August at Portsmouth Naval Base (, we will bring you ‘weekly Wednesday’ updates from on board HMS DARING - one of the ships open to public during the event.

Week 6 and the final week of Operational Sea Training. The time is 1200 - Midday. Already we’ve sailed into Plymouth Sound, collected the FOST staff via boat transfer exited the sound in a coordinated departure with German Frigates Koeln and Luebeck, conducted a high speed pilotage of the training ‘Mine-Swept Channel’ (PILOTEX), had a man-overboard exercise (MOBEX) and conducted a replenishment at sea (RAS) with Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Wave Knight. Later today we’ve got another Flying Exercise (FLYEX) with our Lynx Mk 8 Helicopter. and somewhere in between all this I’ve had to pop down and write my quick update. Probably the most exciting was the man-overboard. FOST staff throwing the dummy overboard whilst doing 20 knots and within a mine swept channel! (See photos)

All we need to do now is prepare ourselves and the Ship for FOST’s final inspection tomorrow. We’ll be up against submarine, ship and air attacks. Falcon and Hawk aircraft will test this Destroyer’s ability to defend herself and others from air attack. But we’ll be ready! Tomorrow we’ve got a mission and that mission is to win. The last time Daring did Navy Days was July 2009 in Devonport. Back then she was more a trials ship than anything else. This year she’ll be front and centre in her home port as an extremely capable warship.

More information about Navy Days can be found at:

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Week 3 of the 'Weekly Wednesday' blog from Able Seaman Rob Foster, HMS Daring

In the lead up to Navy Days which is taking place from Friday 30th July – Sunday 1st August at Portsmouth Naval Base (, we will bring you ‘weekly Wednesday’ updates from on board HMS DARING - one of the ships open to public during the event.

The Start of Week 5 at Operational Sea Training and our penultimate week in Devonport commenced Monday morning with the Disaster Relief Exercise (DISTEX). This is an evolution that involves the whole ship.

In the North of Devonport Naval Base is a mock-up village – Old Grimsby which, in our scenario was hit by a hurricane the night before. Daring, exercising in the area was sent by the UK Government to render immediate Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operations (HDRO). Working from the amunitioning buoys in the north of the River over looked by the Tamar bridge we set to work; deploying medical, fire fighting, search and rescue, command, recce and survey, engineering and public relations teams using the ship’s helicopter and sea boats. My Job was to conduct a survey of the local Port with the Navigating Officer. Using the old fashioned technique of swinging a lead line (a length of rope with a weight on the end) I measured the depth of water in various places to make a rudimentary chart of the area and assess the suitability for bringing a larger ship such as Daring alongside. The whole thing was a huge logistical operation and required lots of planning and briefing in the days leading up to the exercise.

Arriving in the hurricane hit island of Tresco we were greeted with devastation and it was our job to “Save Life and Lessen Suffering”. We put out fires, rescued casualties, built shelters, repaired the water plant and cooked food. All just another day at OST for Royal Navy ships which history tells us have a good chance of having to do this kind of thing for real.

For more information on Navy Days, please visit:

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Week 2 of the blog from Able Seaman Rob Foster - HMS DARING

In the lead up to Navy Days which is taking place from Friday 30th July – Sunday 1st August at Portsmouth Naval Base (, we will bring you ‘weekly Wednesday’ updates from on board HMS DARING - one of the ships open to public during the event.

Week 3 of Operational Sea Training – We’ve hit the wall, 3 weeks into the training, half way through and are now on the home straight. This week has been no less busy – already we’ve conducted Naval Gunfire Support practice using the Ship’s 4.5in gun. Firing against a sea target we used Royal Marines spotters to assess the accuracy of the gunfire from an airborne helicopter. One of our shipmates with an eye for photography managed to take a shot of the round leaving the barrel – Awesome!

Here at Flag Officer Sea Training we’re constantly being assessed. Despite Daring’s magazine being able to hold twice as many rounds as any other ship in the fleet we still conduct ‘Emergency Re-supply Drills’ – moving 28 rounds (105Kg each) up two vertical decks to the Gun bay ready for firing. We ‘smashed’ the drill completing it in under 15 minutes.

Meanwhile I was in the charthouse conducting the altogether less ‘steely’ but equally important job of correcting the paper charts and Admiralty Publications. Using the charts I had recently updated from the international amendments received onboard – The Navigating Officer was able to plan his next serial of the week in complete confidence – A stern Replenishment at Sea driving the ship to within 200 yards (1 cable) from the stern of Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker – Wave Knight.

For information about Navy Days 2010, please visit:

For information on HMS DARING, please visit:

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Firsthand accounts of life on board HMS Daring, (open to the public during Navy Days 2010).

In the lead up to Navy Days which is taking place from Friday 30th July – Sunday 1st August at Portsmouth Naval Base, we will bring you ‘weekly Wednesday’ updates from those currently serving on board.

Hello Readers! My name is Rob Foster. I’m an Able Seaman in Her Majesty’s Ship Daring. This is my 3rd ship in the Navy which I’ve served in for 6 years now, I joined Daring in January 2009. The same month she entered her homeport of Portsmouth for the very first time.

Daring is different to the other ships I have had. She is modern for a start, and so much more capable. My branch is ‘warfare specialist’ which involves a lot of time in the Ops Room helping to fight the ship by analaysing radars, listening to communications, watching cameras, tracking air and surface contacts and reporting them to the command. At present however, I’m working for the Navigating Officer – Lieutenant Knott, as the Navigator’s Yeoman. It’s my job to make sure that all the charts are up to date for all the areas the ship may go into. Currently the ship is undergoing Operational Sea Training (OST) which is six weeks long. During this time we basically go through every part of our job until ‘the staff’ (the guys who inspect us) are happy that we can do the job to a good standard and asses we are safe to deploy anywhere in the world. This involves long days of hard work but it’s worth it in the end. We’ve just started week two of OST where up to now we have been doing a lot of flying serials – landing and launching the Ship’s helicopter, Officer or the Watch Manoeuvres – driving in close company with 2 other warships and a RAS (replenishment at sea) this is where we took on fuel from an auxiliary vessel whilst underway at sea.

For information about Navy Days 2010, please visit:

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Day in the life of a 'creative apprentice' at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - Armed Forces Day

Hello, I guess I should probably start with introducing myself! My name is Roxy and I am a creative apprentice at the National Museum of The Royal Navy here in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I’ve been here for about two months now and am thoroughly enjoying it!

Currently I am helping to organise our Armed Forces Day event which will be running on Saturday 26th June. The idea of this event is to give members of the public a chance to talk to veterans from the Second World War and onwards, in a wartime street party setting! The afternoon tea feeling means this is a relaxed event letting people interact and ask questions that they have always wanted to ask. When we have run this event previously it has been a complete success and because of this, this year’s event is going to be bigger and better then ever!

My first task was to find a live band to come and perform at the event. After hours of scrolling through and endless information requests, we have found one that is sure to be excellent! Next I moved onto invitations, there’s no point having an event if you don’t invite anyone after all is there! The people who are definitely attending have a wealth of knowledge about many different aspects of the Navy and wartime home life. The event also gives the public chance to sample food made from rationing recipes, if they are brave enough of course. Reading through the recipes has certainly given me a new found appreciation for the food we have today! We will also have a cook performing demonstrations throughout the day, along with other entertainment to really give a bright vibrant atmosphere.

I am currently speaking to different charitable organisations as some will be present on the day to show what care and support there is out there for veterans. British Red Cross will also be bringing a display to show the valuable work they have done in the past and are still doing to this day.

I don’t want to give too much information away just yet, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you now would it?! But I will keep the blog updated with any new information. As the days disappear and the work load grows so does my anticipation for what really should be a fun filled afternoon! Come along its free!!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Possibly the oldest dog to attend Crufts, sets tongues wagging thanks to the Mary Rose Museum

Simon Clabby, Mary Rose 500 Appeal

Some of you may have seen in the media that earlier in March the Mary Rose 500 Appeal went on tour to Birmingham, taking a member of the ships crew with us. This crew member is special for two reasons. Firstly, she (yes, she, the only definite female on the ship at the time of sinking) was the youngest member of the crew, and secondly, she was a dog!

According to the wear on her teeth she was about 18 months to two years old when the Mary Rose sank on July 19th 1545, and her remains were found in and around the carpenter’s cabin, towards the stern (back end) of the ship. Despite what you may have heard in some of the papers, she wasn’t actually trapped in the door. While some parts of her were found inside the cabin, the door was slightly ajar when discovered, so the movements of the sea, not to mention marine scavengers, would have moved them around, some falling through the door.

While it’s possible that she may have been some sort of mascot, the Mary Rose dog was onboard for one simple reason; rats. Rats in Tudor times were as much, if not more of a problem in dockyards and onboard ships than they are today, and although they were yet to be linked with diseases, they still caused enough damage to food supplies to be considered a pest that needed removing. In later years cats were used for this job, but the Mary Rose was in service during a period when cats were considered unlucky (in fact, the Pope had instructed the Spanish Inquisition to destroy all cats, and at the coronation of Elizabeth I a cat was burnt as a symbolic gesture or driving out evil from the land!) so dogs were used as ratters instead. She seems to have been good at her job, as rat remains from the Mary Rose consist of four bones from the pelvis/tail area!

The sumptuary laws which determined what materials and foods people of different social statuses were allowed forbade the poor from owning purebred animals, so she definitely would have been a mongrel. However, during our time at Crufts, we did get a lot of people, including two vets from the Kennel Club, suggesting she was possible some form of Terrier. Even so, she’s unlikely to have belonged to any modern breed, despite some of the insistences of one or two breeders groups! She shows signs of exostoses, abnormal bone growth on one of the ribs and her left front paw, which can be hereditary. Luckily for her, they’re not that pronounced, but may have caused her some minor discomfort. She also appears to be missing teeth, as there are two tooth sockets absent.

Crufts itself was an incredible experience. I have no idea how many dogs we saw over the four days of the event, but there were all sorts, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, Pitbulls to Poodles, and they all appeared to be enjoying themselves. We had pride of place on the Kennel Club’s stand, right in front of the main entrance from Birmingham International railway station, and the levels of interest from both the public and the other exhibitors were incredible. We met hundreds of people who’d heard about us in the papers, on the radio and via Twitter (including our feed, at, which I was updating as often as time and duty permitted!), and they all had opinions, suggestions and enthusiasm for both the dog and the Appeal. We got to meet Prince Michael of Kent (lovely man!), I got to go on Radio Crufts FM, and we all had our photos taken by the press and public. Sadly we never made it onto More4, who were broadcasting the event, and we didn’t win any rosettes, but at least we could say that our little mongrel, who spent her short life chasing rats around the hold of Henry VIII’s favourite warship, was the oldest (467, or 1881 in dog years!), most well behaved dog at the show. She was certainly the easiest to photograph! (If you visit our Crufts gallery at , you can see some of our photos) Overall, all of us who attended had a great time, and even though it was exhausting, we thoroughly enjoyed it!

We were at Crufts for two reasons. Firstly, it was to show off the dog (which, if you missed it there, will be on display at the Mary Rose Museum from March 26th), and secondly to raise awareness about the Mary Rose 500 Appeal, which is trying to raise money to create a new home for the Mary Rose, her artefacts and, of course, the dog! If you want to join the new crew of the Mary Rose visit for more information on how you can help, or become a fan on facebook ( for updates and events.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

James Daly: Navy Days then and now

After this week’s announcement about Navy Days 2010, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at Navy Days over the years. It’s very much a Portsmouth institution, theres nowhere else where you can see so much of the Royal Navy’s past and present in one place all together. Not only is it a great day out but it’s also a great chance for the Royal Navy to showcase what it does.

Not only does Navy Days tell us about the History of the Royal Navy, it is a part of Naval History itself. They have been taking place for many years - I’ve seen posters advertising Navy Days dating back to the early 20th Century, showing rows of battleships decked out in flags. My Granddad can remember going just after the war, and watching Fairey Swordfish Biplanes attacking ships with bags of flour. I can remember my Gran telling me about going on the US Warships, and the American sailors serving up hot dogs!

I first went to Navy Days in June 1994. It was the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, and there were plenty of interesting Royal Navy and foreign warships in the Harbour, to take part in the International Fleet Review later that week. I can remember going on HMS Ilustrious, and plenty of Destroyers and Minesweepers. I can also remember seeing the US Cruiser USS Normandy, and the wartime liberty ship Jeremiah O’Brien. But what I remember most of all is my dad showing me round the Dockyard that he worked in, explaining how the Docks and caissons worked, and pointing out the parts of the ships that he worked on – ‘oh look, there’s number two weapons shop!’ and ‘that’s number three basin!’ sounds quite impressive when you’re 11!

The last time I went to Navy Days was in 2008. What I remember most from then is the foreign warships – Japanese, Chilean, Danish and French. It was interesting to have a look at HMS Ilustrious again 14 years later, and the Landing Ship RFA Largs Bay was a rare visitor to Portsmouth. And of course theres nothing quite like watching the Royal Marines Band close the day.

I’m looking forward to Navy Days already. I had a sneak peak of HMS Daring last year at the Royal Navy past and present event, and she really is something else. It’s a long time since RFA Argus has been in Portsmouth too. A former merchant vessel that served in the Falklands War before becoming and RFA ship, it will be a rare opportunity to visit a Falklands veteran. Hopefully we can expect to see some foreign warships too.

John Daly, Guest Blogger

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Jack the Painter: Britain’s first Terrorist? In Portsmouth Dockyard?!

Very few people know is that perhaps the first ever terrorist act on British soil took place in Portsmouth Dockyard. In December 1776 James Aitken, a British sympathiser for the American colonies in the war of independence, tried to burn down Portsmouth Dockyard.

A petty criminal, Aitken had travelled to America. After developing sympathy for the American struggle for independence, he travelled to France to suggest a scheme to the American agent in Paris. Aitken had gone to very one of the six Royal Dockyards in England, and had even developed an incendiary device to use. He had even managed to slip into the Dockyard, undetected, and inspect storehouses and make sketches.

On 7 December 1776 Aitken entered the Ropehouse, which ran the width of the yard. After trouble lighting his fuse he rushed out, and made his escape on a cart and then on foot, before looking back and seeing flames.

Hundreds of men fought the blaze, including marines, yard workers and even sailors. The fire was put out with little damage, but near panic reigned. Newspapers across the country reported the fire. Even King George III followed developments closely. The authorities were soon on the trail of Aitken, who had been spotted lurking around the Dockyard.

Aitken had made his way to London, but the contact he had been told to meet by the agent in France was in fact a double agent. After un-successfully trying to burn the Dockyard at Plymouth Aitken was arrested for housebreaking at Odiham in North Hampshire. He was charged with the Dockyard fire and then tried, convicted and hanged in March 1777. His trial at Winchester was a huge public spectacle, and dominated Newspapers and Magazines. Even his execution was a spectacle, Aitken having been hung from the mizzenmast of the Frigate Arethusa. After death his body was hung in irons at Fort Blockhouse, across the Harbour entrance at Gosport.

That ‘Jack the Painter’ chose to target Portsmouth Dockyard shows just what an important site it was in the late 18th Century, during the wars with Revolutionary America and later France. The Yard would have been bustling with the ‘wooden walls’ of the Royal Navy’s warships. Not only was it important militarily, but the Dockyard was also a very public symbol of British power.

But what is also interesting about ‘Jack the Painter’ is that his acts instilled fear much greater than their actual consequences, and in this sense he was the first Terrorist. And it happened here, in Portsmouth Dockyard. What more evidence is needed about just how important the Dockyard was?

James Daly, Guest Blogger

Monday, 4 January 2010

Introducing our latest guest blogger James Daly: The Dockyard: ‘like the writing on a stick of rock’

James Daly: Historian, researcher and writer from Portsmouth, England. He specialises in Military, Maritime, Naval, Local and Family History.

The Dockyard: ‘like the writing on a stick of rock’

There’s something about Portsmouth – the clue is in the name, I guess – that has made it a place where people come to and go from, for hundreds of years of its history. Think about it, how many Portsmouth families can trace back their history in the city to past 1800? Not many, I suspect. Because people come and go so much.

Take my own family for instance. In 1900, my various ancestors were living in Lancashire, Sussex, Ireland and London! Yet by 1914 all of my great-grandparents had somehow found their way to Portsmouth – and for most of them, it was the sea that brought them here.

Two of my great-grandparents came to Portsmouth to join the Royal Navy – both of them became Stokers, in fact. My great-granddad on my Dads side served in Battleships and Submarines for over 20 years, and my great-granddad on my Mum’s side fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

And in the Second World War my great-uncle joined up as a Stoker, serving on the Cruiser HMS Enterprise. Sadly, he died of illness after being torpedoed in the South Atlantic on his way home on the SS Laconia. One Granddad worked for Vospers Shipbuilders in Old Portsmouth before joining the Army in 1942, and my other Granddad worked in the Dockyard as a painter and labourer.

Even after the war the trend carries on. Two of my uncles were shipwrights, and one uncle and my Dad were both electrical fitters. One uncle even moved down to Plymouth to work in the Dockyard there.

I’ve heard some fascinating Dockyard stories. Just before the Falklands War in 1982, the Government announced cuts to the Dockyard, including redundancies. The Defence Secretary, John Nott, visited the Dockyard for talks with Union leaders. Most of the workers gathered around the building to hear the outcome. When the Union men and John Nott emerged, the Union leader barely got past “I would just like to say…” before a missile was launched from the crowd and hit John Nott on the head. A full-scale riot ensued and John Nott had to be smuggled out by the back door.

Another thing my Dad remembers is the sometimes lax attitudes in the ‘yard. At the end of one summer two ‘new’ faces emerged on his section. Asking the charge hand who they were and where they had been, he was told “oh, that’s so and so, they’ve been down the beach all summer”. You wonder how anything got done! But in 1982, the Dockyard managed to get the fleet ready to sail to the Falklands in a matter of days. You get the impression that when things had to be done, they were done and done well. But all the same, it sounds like it was a parallel universe all of its own.

My Dad still has many of his old Dockyard tools – one of the things about serving a Dockyard apprenticeship, is that you get to keep your tools, complete with Government broad-arrow mark on them. Many of them have long outlasted their counterparts from B&Q. He even has his coffin-like toolbox in the shed, with P DALY stencilled on the side. My Dad even can remember cutting the grass with one of my uncles old shipwrights adzes that he found in the shed at my grandparents.

When he’s doing DIY around the house, you can see the apprenticeship training. Everything has to be just so, there’s no rushing. But then you wouldn’t expect anything different from someone who had to spend a month shaving a block of brass to within a tenth of a millimetre during his apprenticeship! You can understand why it had to be done properly, because often men’s lives depended on it.

I’ve often heard it said that many of the tools and materials in the Dockyard mysteriously grew legs and managed to walk out of the gate. At one point, Shipwrights even had it written into their contracts that they could keep off-cuts of wood! I wonder how much of Portsmouth would fall down if you took away all of the wood stolen from the Dockyard over the years…

So the Dockyard really does run through Portsmouth, like the writing on a stick or rock. It’s made the city – and its people – what it is. I cannot help but feel that even though few people work in the Dockyard now, its influence will take many years to disappear.

James Daly, Guest Blogger for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Visit his own 'Daly History Blog' at: